CHICAGO -- Jerry Reinsdorf was 11 years old when he went with buddies to see his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers on an April day in 1947 and witnessed the major league debut of Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field.
"Years later, I was so proud that Jackie Robinson played for my team," Reinsdorf said. "But when I was at that game, I didn't realize how momentous it was because I went to school with a lot of black kids. What I saw two years later had more of an impact on me."
It was then, while changing trains in San Antonio on a trip with his mother, brother and sister to visit an aunt in Mexico City that the 13-year-old saw signs that read "Colored" water fountain and "White" restroom.
"I had never seen anything like that," Reinsdorf said. "It actually stunned me and obviously affected me. I never understood why the color of a person's skin should mean anything. I just always felt it was your brain, not the color of your skin."
Some 60 years later, the chairman of the White Sox and Bulls is regularly recognized as one of the leading examples in sports in the areas of minority hiring and programs dedicated to helping inner-city youth. Last June, Reinsdorf was one of 13 recipients of the 2011 Jefferson Awards, considered the Nobel Prize for public service, and in August was given the Barnes and Thornburg Jackie Robinson Award for diversity in the workplace.