In honor of baseball’s recent all-star game, as well as the #blacklivesmatter movement, this week focuses on Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. Robinson is famous for breaking down the color barrier in baseball, heralding the end of racial segregation in the big leagues. Robinson had an exceptional career, appearing 6 times in the All-Star game, winning the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award, MVP, appearing in six World Series, and winning one.
Throughout his career, Robinson was the recipient of violence, hatred, and racial slurs. However, he was known for responding with non-violence and speaking out against his haters. At this point in history, baseball was considered to be almost a national religion. Therefore, as Robinson broke down barriers, the entire country was watching. More negro players joined the majors in following years, non-violent sit-ins and protests were inspired, and other institutions began de-segregating. Robinson proved that democracy in America wasn’t a black vs. white issue. He proved it was about equality, regardless of any skin color, age, or gender. In Robinson’s own words: “There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.”
Now, baseball remembers the great impact Robinson had by dubbing April 15 “Jackie Robinson Day.” On this day, every player wears Robinson’s retired number 42, with the idea that “we’ll all wear number 42 so that they can’t tell us apart.”
In light of recent events within our country, Robinson’s calm demeanor throughout hatred is an example we can follow. The great social change that came from Robinson’s entry into baseball was arguably only so impactful because of how Robinson used his position in the spotlight to show that skin color doesn’t make a difference in a person’s abilities, class, or drive to succeed. More than that, all it takes is one person stepping out, and unimaginable change can follow. “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.”