Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, and Major League Baseball will honor the event with a year of celebration and remembrance. To throw out a ceremonial first pitch, so to speak, the Inquisitr now invites you to take a look at Robinson’s impact beyond just baseball.
Baseball As A Vehicle For Change
Writing for MLB.com, Richard Justice noted that the hardships Robinson endured off the field served as larger metaphors for the struggles blacks would have to go through in the civil rights movement. While Robinson’s white teammates stayed in the best hotels in town, Jackie stayed in hotels so hot and dirty he’d have to soak the sheets in ice water just to stay cool. While his teammates ate in the finest restaurants, Robinson would have to walk hours just to find a cab that would take him to a restaurant that would serve him.
Still, his widow, Rachel, would later say that his struggle wasn’t just about his baseball career. It was about the larger picture – his own rights after baseball, the rights of blacks at-large.
“He used baseball as a forum, used it for publicity, as a place where he could get his ideas across. He was in the forefront of thinking about black economic development, black political growth that was needed after the civil rights movement won the right to stay in hotels, ride the buses — Jack was going to the next stage. That’s what Jack was about.”
Born January 31, 1919, Jackie Robinson would have been 100 years old today. The bravest player in history once told us "Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life." pic.twitter.com/VCAm2PSZR4
— Ten Stadiums Ten Days ⚾️ (@StadiumsTen) January 31, 2019
He Got His ‘Take No Guff’ Attitude From His Mother
Robinson was hardly a shirking violet on the field. Though hated by fans and most of his teammates and opponents, Robinson played with a competitive edge that couldn’t be ignored. It’s an attitude he got from his mother, Mallie, wrote Michael Long in the New York Daily News.
The wife of a desperately poor sharecropper at a time when the Ku Klux Klan regularly terrorized black families with impunity, Mallie knew that she’d have to scratch and scrape just for her son to survive childhood. Risking everything, she convinced her husband’s landlord and employer to pay him a better wage, and it worked.
Later in life, accepting an award from the NAACP in 1956, Robinson credited his mother with instilling in him a fighting spirit.
“The love and devotion of my mother, who sacrificed all her life so that her children could have all the things she missed: and the struggle she had trying to keep a poor family going, are things I can never forget.”
Robinson’s Post-Baseball Career
Robinson followed paths taken by many great professional athletes after they playing careers – into the broadcast booth and business – though Robinson, like in his playing career, had to overcome racist barriers to his success. Though ravaged by diabetes and other physical ailments, Robinson served as an analyst for ABC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts, the first African-American to ever do so. Similarly, he served vice president for personnel at Chock Full o’Nuts; the first African-American to serve in that capacity in a major corporation. He also briefly worked in management of minor league teams prior to his death in 1972.
In his own way, Robinson once admitted that despite what he went through, despite the agonies and the successes, it was never about him.
“A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.”