Jackie Robinson: The superhero of baseball

There are a few athletes that get recognition in Black History Month. I have always viewed athletes as real life versions of superheroes. Only through hard work and perseverance can an athlete rise to stardom, and remain there. To make a name for yourself is even harder when you’re the only one of your kind in the game. People like Jesse Owens, Tiger Woods and Serena Williams come to my mind when I think of black athletes who rise above the rest, breaking the racial barriers that hold so many down.

There isn’t a more influential and inspirational black athlete than Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. He became known as the man who broke the color line in the MLB. On April 15, 1947, Robinson signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers. For 60 years before that the MLB refused to give a man who identified as African American, a contract. There were some clever men who identified as Native American or Hispanic to get around this discriminatory norm.

Jackie Robinson breaking this barrier was the earliest form of publicized desegregation. This was 15 years before Martin Luther King Jr. walked on Washington, over a decade before Malcom X’s speech on police brutality, almost 15 years before the brave college students went to the diner and eight years before Rosa sat on the bus.

Robinson knew that joining the “white man’s sport” would lead to backlash. He’d be barred from stadiums, the fans would ridicule him and even members of his team would hate him. That didn’t matter, from high school Robinson knew he wanted to be the best baseball player, and he’d go through hell to get there. He’d have to be smart, taking the same approach Dr. King would in the future, peace and wisdom would get Robinson through the racism to come.

Before he was allowed to sign up for the team Robinson had to promise the manager that he had the fortitude to handle slurs, threats and in the worst case scenario violence, without retaliation. The manager was looking for someone “with guts enough not to fight back.” At this point Robinson could say he was that man. I learned recently that the reservation and strength Robinson showed was all learned, he wasn’t always this way.

A few years before his baseball career, Jackie was an army man. He was court-martialed on numerous occasions for getting into racially charged altercations, one of which included refusing to sit in the back of a bus. However, Robinson realized that “getting the bag,” meant he would need to do the Christian thing and turn the other cheek, which he did countless times.

Turning the cheek didn’t mean cowering away. There were times when Robinson couldn’t lodge with his team. Times where the mayor of a city shut down a stadium so Robinson couldn’t play. Plenty of slurs and insults thrown at him from the bleachers and opposing team dugouts. That never stopped him from putting his best effort into the game.

This led to him being the first ever Rookie of the Year in 1947. The award is now referred to as the “Jackie Robinson Award” named after the legend himself. He’s also the first ever athlete to have their jersey number retired from a sport. Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was such an influential athlete, that there’s a day held in his honor. On Robinson’s birthday, April 15, every baseball player playing that day wears the number 42 to commemorate him.

I believe that because he showed the world how amazing he was at the sport, and how unaffected he was by hate, other future activists like King, or Malcolm X could go out and present with the same courage. Making Jackie Roosevelt Robinson the most influential Black athlete in history and a real life superhero.

Edited by LeSha’ Davis and Aja Carter