“You want a guy that comes to play. But (Robinson) didn’t just come to play. He came to beat you. He came to stuff the damn bat right up your ass.” – Leo Durocher, Jackie Robinson’s first manager.
Whether you’re a dedicated everyday gym-goer or a “Weekend Warrior”, we all need a little motivation to get active on the weekend. You need something to beat that work-week exhaustion.
Something that will get you out of bed and into the gym: a piece of motivation that will leave you with no choice but to get active. So here you go.
This week’s Weekend Warrior goes down as one of the most important people in American history. This is the story of American hero, baseball Hall of Fame’er, and champion of civil rights, Mr. Jackie Robinson.
Baseball’s “Great Experiment”
Raised by a share-cropping single mother alongside his 4 siblings, Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. Here, he and his family were the only black family on their block.
Subject to racial prejudice, they had no choice but to look out for each other and stay tight-knit.
Driven and determined at an early age, Jackie excelled in every sport he played. This earned him entrance into UCLA where he was the 1st athlete, of any race, to earn a varsity letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.
Though he became an All-American football player, Jackie was forced to drop out of college and enlist in the army.
During his time in the Army, Robinson faced a situation much like that of civil rights icon, Rosa Parks. While on a military bus, he was asked to move to the back. Not willing, Robinson refused the order and was court-martial-ed for it.
Losing this fight against racial discrimination, he was discharged and forced to leave the army.
From here, he went on to join the “Negro Baseball League”. After traveling the Midwest for one year with the Kansas City Monarchs, an opportunity to play in the Major League arose.
In 1947, a time when African Americans were forced to play in their own league separate from whites, Robinson was offered a spot on the Brooklyn Dodgers, an all-white professional team.
Proposed by the Dodgers president, Branch Rickey, bringing an African American player into an all-white league would go down as baseball’s “Great Experiment”.
This was no minor affair. By suiting up as a Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play alongside white players since the league became segregated in 1889, breaking the color-barrier.
His entrance into the league was met with a slew of slander from news publications. The New York Daily News rated his chances of doing well in the league 1000 to 1. The Sporting News predicted he would be a C-list player.
Upon joining the team, Robinson was met with a petition against him playing by a group of his southern teammates to be. This mini-coupe was short lived and denied by the team’s staff.
Despite these objections, Robinson’s rookie season was a success, showing the league a swiftness it had never seen before. He led the league with 29 stolen bases and had the second highest number of runs scored with 125. He also led the league in sacrifice hits and even had 12 home runs.
But his first season didn’t always run so smooth. When the dodgers traveled to Cincinnati, Jackie received death threats that left him understandably rattled during the game.
In a courageous display of support for the time-period, one of Jackie’s teammates, “Pee Wee” Reese walked over to Jackie on the field and put his arm around his shoulder, letting the stadium know the Dodgers had his back.
His season went on with harassment from opposing teams dugouts and even attempts to injure him within games. This came in the form of pitchers deliberately throwing balls at his head.
Perhaps his worst experience with discrimination in the league was playing against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ben Chapman, the team’s manager, stood on the sideline throwing racial slurs and derogatory comments at Robinson, who was at bat. Robinson, who was determined to show white audiences that he could keep his composure and professionalism in-tact, did not fight back.
The incident was so cruel that Robinson’s teammate, Eddie Stanky, one of the original opposers of Robinson playing, ran out onto the field telling Chapman to pick on someone who could fight back.
This display of brotherhood served as a turning point in baseball’s collective conscious, changing many of the minds of Robinson’s racist opposition.
Unscathed, Robinson continued to perform. He led the Dodgers to win the National League pennant. In the world series against the Yankees, Robinson took the series to 7 games, making it a classic fight in which the Dodgers honorably fell short.
At the end of the season, Jackie was awarded for his bravery and stand-out performance. He won the first ever Rookie of The Year Award in 1947. In addition, he came in 5th place for the league’s MVP award.
Take Home Message
Ultimately, baseball’s “Great Experiment” worked. Despite the hardships and racist attacks that he faced, Jackie Robinson successfully broke the color barrier and did so by outperforming most players in the league. He went on to have one of the most successful careers in baseball history.
So what do you think? Do you have it in you to get up and get active today? What’s holding you back? Think about the ways you can improve your routine and your life and strive to be more like Jackie.