On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson, a black baseball player, stepped onto Ebbets field in Brooklyn as a Brooklyn Dodger, the first black American to join a major league baseball team. Robinson's uniform number was 42.
Robinson was a gifted athlete. He was born to a family of sharecroppers, but ended up going to college at UCLA and lettered in four varsity sports, including baseball. He joined the army in 1942. After he got out of the army, Robinson played in the Negro American League.
Robinson was recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey, to join a Dodgers farm team, eventually being called up to the majors in 1947. When Robinson took the field at Ebbetts Field, sixty-three years ago today, he was the first black person ever to play Major League Baseball. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1947, and MVP and league batting champ in 1949. Robinson was a critical presence on the Dodger team, leading them to playoff spots and to the World Series. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
In 1997, every team in the major leagues officially "retired" uniform number 42, which was the number on Jackie Robinson's uniform.
Even though the Dodgers brought Jackie Robinson into their team, the rest of the country was not so eager to abandon segregation. Robinson faced racist hatred and harassment throughout his career, and often was not allowed to eat in the same restaurants or sleep in the same hotels as his other team members while the Dodgers were on the road. Robinson became a businessman after he left baseball, and supported civil rights his whole life. He died at the age of 53.
(Baseball Hall of Fame)