On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in baseball and paving the way for all minority athletes. A four-sport star at UCLA, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League after two years of military service. His talent and demeanor attracted the attention of Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey, who was determined to put an end to the unwritten segregation rule in the majors, and he was signed to a minor league contract in 1945.
After a successful stint in the minors, Robinson was promoted to the majors in 1947. In his debut with the Dodgers, Robinson played first base and went 0 for 3 and scored a run in Brooklyn's 5-3 win over the Boston Braves in front of a crowd of 26,623 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Despite experiencing racism from opposing teams, fans and even some teammates in his first several seasons, Robinson won the first Rookie of the Year award and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1949. In 1955, he helped lead the Dodgers to a World Series title over the New York Yankees. His success prompted other teams to integrate, with every team doing so by 1959. After retiring from the sport in 1956, Robinson became the first African-American inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and he remained passionate about civil rights causes and baseball until his death in 1972 at the age of 53.
Robinson remains one of the most revered figures in sports and his legacy will be honored today with Jackie Robinson Day, an annual Major League Baseball celebration that started in 2004. His legendary No. 42 has been retired by all teams, but every player will wear the number today in his memory. The Yankees are scheduled to hold a special celebration featuring the families of Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela before their game against the Chicago Cubs.