Get to Know Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson

By Glen Sparks

“Above anything else, I hate to lose.” – Jackie Robinson

  • Born Jan. 31, 1919, in Cairo, Ga., Jack Roosevelt Robinson grew up in Pasadena, Calif. He played football, basketball, baseball and ran track at UCLA.
  • Robinson’s middle name is in honor of Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, who died less than a month before Jackie was born.
  • Robinson made the Negro League All-Star team in 1945 as a member of the Kansas City Monarchs. He formally signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization on Nov. 1, 1945. In 1946, as a member of the Montreal Royals minor league club, Robinson was named International League MVP.
  • In his big-league debut season of 1947, Robinson scored a career-high 125 runs and batted .297 with a .383 on-base percentage. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award.
  • Robinson led the N.L. in batting average (.342) and stolen bases (37), both career highs, in his MVP year of 1949. That season, he also set career highs in hits (203) and RBI (124).
  • Robinson finished first in the N.L. in on-base percentage (.440) in 1952. From 1949 through 1954, he got on base more than 40 percent of the time in every season. He drew 740 walks in his career and struck out just 291 times.

“Jackie Robinson was the best athlete ever to play Major League Baseball.” – Ralph Kiner

  • Robinson led the league in Wins above Replacement (WAR) for position players in 1949 (9.6), 1951 (9.7) and 1952 (8.5).
  • In 1952, Robinson finished first among position players in defensive WAR (2.4). He finished in the top six in that category six times in his career.
  • Robinson made the All-Star team every year from 1949 through 1954.
  • Initially a first baseman (197 games) with the Dodgers, Robinson later played second base (748), shortstop (one game, Sept. 22, 1953. Pee Wee Reese needed a day off.), third base (256 games) and outfield (162 games, mostly in left).
  • Robinson retired following the 1956 season. He had 137 home runs, 734 RBI, a .311 batting average and a .409 on-base percentage.

“(Jackie Robinson) was the only player I ever saw in a rundown who could be safe more often than out. He ran as if his head was on a swizzle, back and forth, back and forth, until he could get out of it.” – Bobby Bragan

  • The Baseball Writers Association of America voted Robinson into the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year on the ballot.
  • Active in various civil rights efforts after his retirement, Robinson also suffered from health problems, including diabetes. He died Oct. 24, 1972. He was only 53 years old.
  • Baseball retired Robinson’s No. 42 before the start of the 1997 season. Players who already were wearing the number could keep it. Mariano Rivera, the great New York Yankee reliever, was the last player to wear 42 as an everyday number. He retired after the 2013 season.
  • Every April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day in baseball. All players may wear No. 42.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

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