Jackie Robinson: Breaking the Racial Barriers
On July 23, 1962, in the charming village of Cooperstown, New York, four new members were inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. As they gathered around the wooden platform, the fans reminisced about America’s national pastime. Edd Roush and Bill McKechnie, sixty-eight and seventy-four years old respectively, were two of the inductees that day (Robinson 142). They were old-timers chosen by the veterans’ committee. Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson, both forty-two, were youngsters by comparison. According to the rules of the Hall of Fame, a player must be retired for five years before he can be considered for induction. Both Feller and Robinson were elected in the first year they were eligible (141).
As Robinson received his plaque to take his place among the greats in the Hall of Fame, he said, “I’ve been riding on cloud number nine since the election, and I don’t think I’ll ever come down. Today everything is complete“ (Robinson 142). After the induction ceremony, an exhibition game between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees was to take place at Doubleday Field, where the sport had its beginnings. A sudden thunderstorm delayed the game, and after an hours wait it was cancelled. At this same time, picketers in the streets of Harlem were carrying signs saying, “Jackie, we love you as a ballplayer, but not as a spokesman for the Negro race“ (143).
Just two days earlier at a banquet in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, many people had paid $25 a plate to show their admiration for Jackie as both a ballplayer and a representative of the Negro race as well. Some of the most distinguished figures in the nation were present this day and their praise was loud and long (Mann 187). Jackie had accepted without hesitation a challenge to break a prevailing color barrier in the national sport of America with complete knowledge of how much depended on him. Few men had ever faced such competitive odds when becoming a player in organized baseball. Despite criticism and opposition, Jack Roosevelt Robinson had truly come a long way from his poor beginnings as the grandson of slaves in Cairo, Georgia, to breaking the racial barriers in major league baseball by becoming its first black athlete and achieving hall of fame status.
Jackie Robinson’s childhood was a struggle in family and financial matters. He was born on January 31, 1919, on a peonage that was one step away from the slavery into which his grandparents had been born (Mann 53). Only six months after Jackie was born his father deserted the family. This led to several hardships. The family lived on a sharecropper’s farm until the plantation owner used the father’s leave as an excuse to keep the whole crop the family had raised and to evict the widow and her children (54). Jackie’s mother gathered her young ones about her with bitter feelings and found work as a domestic servant.
About a year later, Robinson’s uncle...