Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s recent birthday, the start of black of history month and a recent article on http://www.ESPN.com I’ve decided to write about the legendary Jackie Robinson. He was born Jack Roosevelt Robinson in Cairo, Georgia on Jan. 31, 1919. Robinson was the youngest of the five children of Jerry and Mallie Robinson. His hometown as a child was Pasadena, California.His athletic ability was first showcased in college, when he attended UCLA. Robinson lettered in four sports, football, his strongest, baseball, basketball and track. At this time, he was considered by many across the country to be the finest athlete in the United States.Robinson served in the Army up until 1945, when he joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Negro Leagues.He made history in late 1945 when he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the daunting color barrier in baseball. Although he was not the first black player in the big leagues – there were many black players in the league before the 19th century – he arrogantly fought against the current trend of discrimination of the time. Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947 – this was the first full season Robinson played for the Dodgers. In 1949, he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Throughout his career with the Dodgers, he helped them win six pennants and one World Series. He retired from baseball in 1957 with a very respectable career average of .311.His contributions to baseball and beyond were more than just his numbers though. He was an icon to a generation of young black athletes who looked up to him as if he were more than human – he surely possessed qualities that would make people stop and look twice.One person who saw Robinson travel through his hometown of Mobile, Alabama was the eventually all-time homer run leader, Henry “Hank” Aaron. Robinson’s mere passing through – along with a brief speech – inspired him to change his life by pursuing a career of playing baseball. “They say certain people are bigger than life, but Jackie Robinson is the only man I’ve known who truly was,” Aaron said in an article he wrote about Robinson back in June 1999. Was it not for the courage and determination of Robinson, many other potential Major League players, like Aaron, would not have even considered playing baseball. All Stars such as Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ichiro Suzuki would not have had the opportunity to display their talent. Now, there is no need for a seperate league – everyone plays on the same level where the best players are recognized by their outstanding ability. Like every other great player before him, Robinson’s number was retired seven years ago. Yankee’s reliever Mariano Rivera currently wears the number 42 jersey, but once he retires, the number won’t be worn again by any other player in the major leagues. Or will it?An interesting idea was proposed that instead of removing his number from the game, it should be put on a player that embodies all that Robinson stood for – courage, dignity, excellence, respect, sportsmanship and sacrifice. This would keep his ambitions and accomplishments at the forefront of the public’s memory, not in a glass case in Cooperstown. Each year a different player would be graced with this honor. Such an award would give incentive to players to excel in both the athletic and social aspect of the game. Although there are two most valuable player awards and Cy Young awards – for best pitcher – respectively, there would only be one player in the league who would wear the number 42. More competition would lead players to work harder for the award, only benefitting the league’s prestige.Amazingly enough, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2003. Since George Washington received the first Congressional Gold Medal in 1776, Congress has bestowed the honor on some 300 people, including Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Rosa Parks. Robinson has used his gift for the game and turned it into something more – a forum for all of America to engage in a conversation that would leave a lasting impact on almost every facet of our society. His outspoken leadership on issues of civil and human rights continued throughout his years as a corporate executive, civil servant, and major figure in national politics. This man has contributed his life’s work for the benefit and good of not only sports, but humanity as well. And to think, his guidance counselor in high school listed his probable future employment as a gardener.Tice can be reached at ctice@campustimes.org.



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