Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson, here swinging for the fences in 1954, integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. The day he took the field, April 15, is now recognized as "Jackie Robinson Day."
Photograph by LOOK magazine, courtesy Library of Congress

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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 African American 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 an African American player with “guts enough not to fight back” against the racist treatment that was sure to come.
     
    Robinson and Larry Doby, an African American athlete hired by the Cleveland Indians just 11 weeks after Robinson, endured racist taunts from fans, opposing players, and even teammates. They played spectacularly despite the discrimination, with Robinson being the first Rookie of the Year in 1947 and Player of the Year in 1949.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    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.