The young Jackie Robinson played four sports and actually started his career playing football.

Jackie Robinson, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia.  He was the youngest of five children in a family of sharecroppers.  His father left the family in 1920, after which they relocated to Pasadena, CA.  Jackie was inspired by his older brothers to pursue his love of sports and while in high school he lettered in football, baseball, track and basketball.

After high school Jackie continued his athletic pursuits at Pasadena Junior College.  After graduating in 1939 he transferred to UCLA.  While there he became the first athlete to letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track.  He dropped out of college in 1941 to take a job with the National Youth Administration and after the NYA lost funding he briefly played football with semi-professional teams the Honolulu Bears and the Los Angeles Bulldogs.  In 1942 he was drafted into the Army and assigned to a segregated Cavalry unit.  After a tumultuous military career he was honorably discharged in November, 1944.

In 1945 he accepted an offer to play professional baseball in the Negro leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs.  He later moved into the minor leagues and then on April 15, 1947 he made his major league debut at age 28 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jackie became the first player since 1880 to break the major league baseball color line.  Six decades of segregating black players to the Negro leagues ended thanks to Jackie Robinson.  He went on to have one of the most celebrated careers in baseball history.  He played in six World Series, including the Dodger’s win in 1955 and was selected to play in six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949 to 1954.  Jackie was named MLB Rookie of the Year in 1947 and in 1949 he became the first black player to be named the National League’s MVP.  He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and in 2004 he became the first professional athlete in any sport to have his number retired when 42 was universally removed across all major league teams.

Besides his contributions to baseball and the civil rights movement, Jackie Robinson became the first black television analyst in the MLB and the first black vice president of a major American corporation.  He was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

 

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