On April 10, 1947, one of the most monumental events in sports history and in American history took place – Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, signing Jackie Robinson to a major league contract. Five days later, Robinson made his debut as the first black Major League Baseball player to enter a 20th-century major league game. Robinson had previously been a standout at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and was the first to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. He was forced to leave UCLA due to financial difficulties and eventually enlisted in the army. After his days in the army, Robinson made a name for himself in the Negro Leagues and then in the minor leagues, before the groundbreaking day of April 10, 1947, would come.
During Robinson’s 1947 rookie season, he won the first-ever MLB Rookie of the Year award. He led the NL in stolen bases with 29 while collecting 175 hits, 125 runs, and 12 home runs, batting .297. He helped lead the 1947 Dodgers to the World Series, but they came up short against the New York Yankees in seven games. Nonetheless, Robinson epitomized extraordinary courage and restraint during his rookie year in his dealings with all of the prejudice and discrimination that he faced – paving the way for essentially every other notable black major league athlete to eventually follow suit. Robinson would continue his remarkable career with the Dodgers, winning the National League MVP in 1949, a World Series title in 1955, and earning a Hall of Fame induction in 1962.
After Robinson passed away, he was recognized as a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. Since 1997, Robinson’s uniform number with the Dodgers, 42, has been retired collectively throughout the entire MLB. In 2004, the league established the annual April 15 Jackie Robinson Day in commemoration of Robinson’s Dodger debut. As of 2009, every single player, manager, and coach throughout the MLB traditionally wears the No. 42 on Jackie Robinson day. After all of the brutal prejudice and discrimination that Robinson had to endure back in 1947, he is today universally considered one of the most inspiring sports heroes and Americans in history.