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A tribute to Jackie Robinson

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A Jackie Robinson presentation in the temporary First-Year Center in the Occhiato University Center at Colorado State University – Pueblo was held Feb. 18. There were at least 40 people in attendance. Some were athletes, professors and those who just wanted to know more about Jackie Robinson.

Robinson’s number 42 hung every couple of inches from each other on the wall as if Robinson’s number was retired in the room. Popcorn, water and hot dogs were served.

The presentation opened with a video. The video lasted over two minutes and the song, “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” by Woodrow Buddy Johnson and Count Basie.

During the presentation, the viewers learned of two African-Americans who were the first to play sports before the 1900s and facts and photos of other African-American baseball players were shown. As well as people who took part in the development of Major League Baseball.

The audience learned about where Robinson was born, his college accomplishments and his military duties before making baseball his profession.

Robinson was born in Cairo, Ga. on Jan. 31, 1919. He attended UCLA and participated in: football, basketball, baseball and track & field.

He served in the military for two years but did not fight in World War II because he was honorably discharged.

In 1945, Robinson played shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs. His batting average was .387. He tried out for the Boston Red Sox, but they were not interested. The Red Sox were the last to integrate in 1959.

Upon signing the contract, Robinson agreed to $600 per month, a $3,500 signing bonus, to play great baseball and not to retaliate against those who were discriminative.

In 1946, Robinson played for Brooklyn’s Triple A team, the Montreal Royals. There, Robinson led the team in hitting and fielding percentage and helped his team win the Minor League World Series.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson ended 60 years of segregation in Major League Baseball and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In his rookie year, Robinson made $5,000. During this time, Robinson was being discriminated against by not only the fans, but the rival teams as well.

By the end of his career, Robinson’s accomplishments included: playing a total of 151 games (10 years with the Dodgers), a batting average of .311, leading the National League in stolen bases with 29, winning the Rookie of the Year award, playing in the 1947 World Series, earning Most Valuable Player in 1949, playing on six World Series teams, helping his team win the 1955 World Series. He currently holds the record for stealing home with 19, and was elected to the All-Star team six times.

He was the first African-American to be elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and his number was retired in 1972 by the Dodgers.

By the time Robinson retired, 13 of the 16 MLB teams had integrated. Those that didn’t integrate included the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Red Sox.

Robinson played a role as a major civil rights activist throughout his career. He served on the board of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) until 1967.

On Oct. 24, 1972, Robinson, who quietly suffered from diabetes died from a heart attack at the age of 53.

On April 15, 1997, Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number 42 in all stadiums. On and around April 15 every year, Major League Baseball players are encouraged to wear the number 42 in retrospect of Robinson’s career.