The film "42" was released yesterday in movie theaters across the U.S. It tells the story of Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey and the legendary Jackie Robinson. Robinson, the first black baseball player in the MLB, began as a first baseman in April 1947. The Dodgers effectively ended racial segregation that had made black players play the sport on separate leagues. But it wasn’t easy, and "42" sheds light on the struggle Robinson faced, and the risk Rickey took in making him part of the team. In honor of not only the film, but Jackie Robinson himself, here are 10 facts about the beloved baseball star who changed sports forever.
1. Jackie Robinson played in six different World Series games. He also helped his team, the Dodgers, win the 1955 World Championship, was named the MLB Rookie of the Year in 1947, and was selected for six consecutive All-Star games. In 1949, he became the first black player to be named the National League MVP Award.
2. Robinson was the "first" in many areas. Aside from being the first black MLB player, he was the first black television analyst for MLN, the first black vice president of a major American corporation (Chock Full O’ Nuts), and the first black athlete to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also the first person at UCLA, where he attended college, to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.
3. In addition to his spectacular career, Robinson made significant contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. He helped with the advancement of other black athletes. In fact, he publicly called out the New York Yankees in 1952 for not yet having invited black players on their team.
4. His middle name is Roosevelt, after Theodore Roosevelt. Jackie’s first name is actually Jack.
5. It was Jackie’s older brother, Matthew, who inspired him to pursue his love for athletics. Matthew Robinson won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Olympics, placing just behind Jesse Owens.
6. Jackie Robinson was 28 when he started his baseball career. That’s considered an "advanced" age to begin a baseball career. Not that it stopped him from going on to become one of the most beloved players of all time.
7. When he joined the Dodgers, he ushered in a new style of baseball. Previously, much of the technique in baseball relied on raw power-hitting. Robinson’s technique, however, combined hitting ability and speed.
8. Over the course of his career, Robinson stole 197 bases. Of those, 19 were steals of home. He scored more than 100 runs in six out of 10 of his seasons, boasted a career batting average of .311, and excelled in every position he played. At the end of his career, he’d played 2,000 innings at third base, and 1,175 innings in outfield.
9. Jackie Robinson’s uniform number, 42, was universally retired in 1997. The retirement of Robinson’s number extends across all major league teams. It was the first time something like this had happened.
10. Robinson’s efforts on and off the field were so monumental that MLB created a tradition called "Jackie Robinson Day. " The day was created on April 15, 2004, the 57th anniversary of his first game. Each year since then, every player on every team wears #42 on April 15.