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Sports Hero: Jackie Robinson MAG
It was 1947, the war was over. America began turning back to baseball, as usual. Several of the league's top-flight stars had been sent off to war and were now returning triumphantly, ready to play ball.
But a new wave of thinking was in the mind of Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey, a man who changed, forever, the game of baseball. He felt that black men had fought, and in a big way had helped America's victory over Japan in World War II, so why couldn't they play baseball with a white man?
Rickey knew the selection of the first black would be a most tedious and delicate search. Not only must he find a great athlete, but he must be a man who could restrain himself when taunts and soda pop bottles were thrown at him.
Rickey found Jackie Robinson, a former U.C.L.A. track, basketball, baseball and football mega-star who surely would have gone pro in football or baseball had he been white.
Rickey called him into his office. Jackie asked, "Mr. Rickey, do you want a ball player who's afraid to fight back?" Rickey responded, "I want a player with guts enough not to fight back."
Jackie agreed to this condition and played with the Dodgers Minor League club in Montreal. There he played awesome baseball and soon was called up to the Majors in Brooklyn.
Several Dodgers' players refused to play with him, for they were from the deep South and had been bigots all their lives. Rickey threatened to fine them if they didn't play and keep their mouths shut. So, they went back to the playing fields.
Soon, the very men who had hated Jackie, loved him, for not only was he a fine ball player, but a great competitor. Under conditions as treacherous as those that ever confronted an athlete, Jackie Robinson became National League Rookie of the Year in 1947.
He made defensive stops around the diamond previously thought impossible. He was immortalized for stealing home in 1947 in the World Series against the Yankees, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest moments in World Series history.
When he retired in the mid-1950s, he had a career batting average of .311, which is extremely high since he started playing pro ball at age 27. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Coopers-town, New York in 1962 and since that time thousands of blacks have been competitive baseball and basketball players. In 1988, 78% of the N.B.A. was black.
Jackie changed the face of sports forever. He should be a hero to all whose oppor-tunities have been taken away because they were different. n