On January 31, 1919 one of the most (if not the most) important athletes of the twentieth century was born. His name, of course, was Jackie Robinson.
Robinson famously broke the color barrier in major league baseball after being signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers but both before and after that achievement, he did much to advance the cause of civil rights and desegregation.
Growing up in Los Angeles Jackie’s athletic prowess was evident from an early age.
After transferring from Pasadena Junior College to play at UCLA, he was the first athlete there to ever reach varsity letterman status in four different sports (baseball, basketball, football and track). He was also one of only four African American players on the football team. Because of segregation this actually made UCLA one of the most diverse football programs in the county at the time.
Interestingly, Robinson’s ‘worst’ sport was baseball where he hit just .097 in his only season. One wonders how good a football player he could have been as a professional had he stuck with that instead.
Once his pro baseball career was over Robinson went on to be the first African American baseball announcer and also became the first black vice president of a major corporation, helping to establish the Freedom National Bank, based out of Harlem, N.Y.
Twelve years after his death in 1972 Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his acheivements.
It was a remarkable life, to be sure. One that has left an indelible mark on history.
So on this special day, the day of his birth, we just want to say for all you did, thanks Jackie.