Jackie Robinson’s Impact Extends beyond the Baseball Field

Updated: April 15, 2017

This very day is cast aside every year in recognition of a true American icon. It is done every single MLB season not simply because Jack Roosevelt Robinson excelled at baseball. Rather, it is on the grounds that Robinson means more to the game. Better yet, his impact is felt beyond our national pastime.

Robinson will be honored at Dodger Stadium on the 70th anniversary of his first big league appearance with a bronze statue of himself. Legends such as Vin Scully will be there. Jackie’s wife, Rachel, will also be there for the ceremony. The statue perfectly encapsulates Jackie’s essence as a player and as a human, for it captures number 42 sliding home in a way only he could do. It speaks to a quality that is difficult to depict. Stealing home takes guts. Surely enough, what he did for the world of sports and for the nation took guts. Thus, the bronze figurine is a fine crossover between the Dodger side of him and who he was as an individual. Although this event is happening later today, the man’s legacy branches beyond Los Angeles Dodgers’ history.

This is precisely why Robinson’s number 42 was retired throughout all of baseball in 1997. Former Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera was the last MLB player to don the number. However, on this day everyone across the majors will be wearing 42 on their backs in accordance with the fairly recent trend. To some it may merely seem like a nice, cordial gesture. It is more than that. Exceedingly more than that. It is a way of keeping the legend’s spirit alive. It awakens of part of us all that otherwise seems impossible to reach. This is important by virtue of the fact that Robinson essentially went through the impossible during his lifetime.

This likewise demonstrated itself when he got called up from the minors. Some of his own Brooklyn Dodgers teammates did not even want him on the ball club. It seems unimaginable, yet it is true. In spite of that, there once came an interval when their manager Leo Durocher stepped in. He staunchly defended Jackie. Durocher said to the rest of the men on the roster that Jackie was going to be repping a Brooklyn uniform whether they liked it or not. Regardless of the color of his skin. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

In his career, he experienced a flurry of racial taunts. Many of which included the appalling n-word. Players intentionally used the spikes of their cleats as a weapon of sorts when Robinson was in their path. Pitchers would oftentimes chuck the ball at the former UCLA Bruin as a sign of malice. Heck, the man even had death threats. A bunch of them. What’s perhaps even scarier to think about is that this all only scratches the surface.

Through it all, Jackie exemplified an amount of grace and fortitude that is unexplainable. Some of it is perhaps because of what Dodgers’ president Branch Rickey once told number 42. It was to “turn the other cheek.” Jackie did just that in his career. It led to a lot of success. He was the NL’s MVP in 1949 and in 1955 he won a World Series title. The first African-American ballplayer in the modern era means a ton more than what the accolades say, though. Robinson’s extreme valiance paved the way for a lot of other talented athletes.

His incalculable courage spurred players such as Roy Campanella, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron to eventually play the game. Without Jackie, baseball fans may have never gotten to see this quartet of Hall of Famers. This is true for many others as well, needless to say.

What is amazing, too, about the man is that “he forced Americans to see things in a way they’d never seen them before,” per Richard Justice of MLB.com. He enabled them to gradually realize that one’s race does not define who they are. That legacy rings true to the present day in ways that just make it impossible to not crack a smile.

In article on ESPN.com, pitcher Chris Archer sheds more light on the Justice quote when asked about what Jackie Robinson Day means to him.

“‘It means everything to me. He is the trailblazer of not only black American players, but of all players of any color of any race outside of Caucasian. My standard quote, regarding Jackson Robinson, is, ‘He took America’s pastime, and he made it to a world pastime.’ You look how the fans from Japan and Asia were during the WBC. You look at how passionate the Puerto Rican fans were. You look how passionate the Dominican fans were. Jackie Robinson started all of that.’”

Such an answer from Archer is wonderful to hear provided that it completely aligns with the primary goal Jackie created for himself in his journey on earth. It is beautiful to get a load of since it denotes a ripple effect of sorts. Robinson once said that “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Suffice to say, Jackie’s life has definitely fit that description very well. The world today is still not entirely harmonious. There is still a lot of work left to be done. A lot. No doubt about it. Racism, for example, still exists as crazy as that sounds at first blush. Disunity still reverberates in the air as undesirable as that is. Yet, without Mister Robinson, things would surely be different. He legitimately made the world a better place despite facing obstacles no human being should ever have to endure. Yet he did because he cared.

With that being said, thank you Jackie. Thank you for being a real, bona fide game-changer. Thank you for everything.

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