On April 15, 1947, a Black man stepped onto Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field to reverse a wrong in pro sports that had lasted 63 years and had been bolstered by racial injustices that permeated the culture of America in all corners.
That day, Jackie Robinson stepped out of the dugout to become the first Black man to play on a Major League Baseball team since catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker wore the uniform of the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884.
Having moved from playing with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues in 1945 to signing with the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1946, he was ready to face the anger, discord and ultimately heroism of playing in a White league that the country wanted to keep segregated.
But the abuse he faced from fans, the other teams and even his own teammates did not deter him. He played 151 games his first season, batted .297 and was MLB’s first ever Rookie of the Year. The next year he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. After that, he became the Brooklyn Dodgers’ most highly paid player, earning a salary of $35,000. In 1955, Robinson played a critical role in helping the Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees to win the World Series. He retired in 1956 with a career average of .311, 1,518 hits and 137 home runs.
“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being,” he was once quoted as saying.
Take a look at our gallery of some of EBONY’s most memorable photos of the Great One.