Did you know that baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was an Army officer who served in World War II? Each year on April 15 Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, and this year is the 75th anniversary of the day Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. We thought we’d honor him here for his courage in excelling as a player in the face of racism and for his service to our nation.
Who is Jackie Robinson?
When was Jackie Robinson born? Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on Jan. 31, 1919, in Cairo, Ga. His father was a sharecropper who left the family in 1920, so his mom and five siblings moved to Pasadena, Calif., where she worked several jobs to support the family. Robinson excelled in high school and college sports at Pasadena Community College and the University of California at Los Angeles.
When was Jackie Robinson drafted? Robinson was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit at Fort Riley, Kan., where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was assigned to the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion on Fort Hood, Texas.
Taking a stand. In July 1944, Robinson refused to move to the back of an Army bus. The driver called MPs, and Robinson was arrested and court martialed. He was acquitted, but the process meant Robinson was unable to ship overseas with his unit. The 761st Tank Battalion saw heavy combat in Europe with Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army.
Jackie Robinson's Baseball Career
Instead, Robinson served as a coach for Army athletics until receiving an honorable discharge in 1944. He began playing baseball for Missouri’s Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. On April 15, 1947, Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers—ending 80 years of baseball segregation. He went on to become the MLB Rookie of the Year in 1947, a six-time All Star and a World Series Champion in 1955. In 1972, the Los Angeles Dodgers retired his jersey number, 42. In 1997, No. 42 was retired from all of MLB—the only player to receive this honor. Robinson was the first black player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
In 2004, the MLB established April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day to honor the day he became the first African American in the 20th century to play in the American or National League. Players, coaches and managers today honor his legacy by wearing No. 42.