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On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson took to the field as the first-baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson was the first Black player to play Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Since 2004, baseball has honored Robinson’s legacy by celebrating April 15 as “Jackie Robinson Day.”

Robinson was an experienced athlete, having played for the Kansas City Monarchs (part of the Negro leagues) and MLB minor-league teams. Although Robinson was not the best player from the Negro Leagues (most historians agree that was legendary catcher Josh Gibson), he was well-respected, and his even temper impressed Dodgers’ president Branch Rickey. Rickey was looking for a Black player with “guts enough not to fight back” against the racist treatment that was sure to come.

Robinson and Larry Doby, a Black athlete hired by Cleveland just 11 weeks after Robinson, endured racist taunts from fans, opposing players, and even teammates. They played spectacularly despite the discrimination. Robinson would go on to be the first recipient of the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and win the National League’s Most Valuable Player (NL MVP) Award in 1949.

discrimination
Noun

treatment based on a group to which a person belongs, not the person himself.

fantastic
Adjective

excellent or very good.

legacy
Noun

material, ideas, or history passed down or communicated by a person or community from the past.

legendary
Adjective

famous, heroic, or celebrated.

Negro leagues
Noun

(1885-1960) American baseball teams and competitions with African American players.

racist
Adjective

community or government policy of denying certain rights to people based on their ancestry, usually signified by skin color.

rookie
Noun

athlete playing his or her first professional season.

spectacular
Adjective

dramatic and impressive.

taunt
Verb

to mock or provoke by teasing.

temper
Noun

state of mind and emotions.

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