from 42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of
Jackie Robinson, American Hero
written by Doreen Rappaport
Candlewick Press, 2017
There’s always one kid who is last to get picked to be on a team. When it came to choosing sides in sports, that kid was me. Kickball, field hockey, dodgeball, you name it, and I was last. I was okay with that, pretty much. I knew sports were not my best thing at school. I liked spelling bees and grammar challenges, but that’s a different story.
As bad as I was at sports, Jackie Robinson was good. He set records in basketball, track, football, and even tennis in Junior High, High School, and Pasadena Junior College. At UCLA he competed in baseball, basketball, football, and track and field where he was a four-sport star.
Jackie met his future wife, Rachel Isum, at UCLA where she was studying nursing. They were married after she graduated, just one year before Jackie broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
After his honorable discharge from the Army in 1944, Jackie continued playing sports, but until April 15, 1947, American Major League Baseball was segregated. As good as he was, as an outstanding athlete and as an outstanding person, he was shunned because of the color of his skin. When he played for the Kansas City Monarchs, a team in the American Negro League, Jackie caught the attention of Branch Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He said of Jackie, “There was never a man in the game who could put mind and muscle together quicker and with better judgment than (Jackie) Robinson.”
Ricky approached Jackie with a deal: They would integrate American baseball by putting Jackie on the Dodger’s team, but Jackie would have to accept the taunts, slurs, and outright abuse Ricky knew Jackie would have to face if he accepted the offer. The abuse was so awful that at one point, Jackie wanted to quit baseball. But he stayed, much to his credit and much to the support of his wife, Rachel.
Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day every year on April 15. It commemorates the date in 1947 when Jackie made history in Major League Baseball with his debut game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1997, the League retired Jackie’s number, 42, throughout the Majors, and since 2009, all on-field personnel honor his legacy by wearing 42 during scheduled games.
As stated on jackierobinson.org, “Since her husband’s premature death, Mrs. Robinson has used her ability and his legacy to further the causes they so ardently supported.” Together with Jackie, they provided young, black people with housing and opportunities through education. They were tireless in their social action.
Rachel has also won many accolades in her own name. After earning a Master’s Degree in psychiatric nursing, she became a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Social and Community Psychiatry. She was a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Social and Community Psychiatry, then became Director of Nursing for the Connecticut Mental Health Center and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Yale University.
A year after Jackie’s untimely death from a heart attack and complications of diabetes, Rachel created the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a non-profit that provides college scholarships and leadership training. Through the Foundation, she’s able to continue encouraging young people and continue her social action work.
In 1996, she wrote a biography of her famous husband called Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. She has been awarded many achievement awards and eight honorary doctorate degrees from prestigious colleges and universities.
A week from today, July 26, 2022, the Jackie Robinson Museum will open in New York City. Here's a list of the festivities featuring live music, a documentary screening, and a celebrity panel discussion.
The museum’s three-fold mission:
“To educate visitors about Jackie Robinson, the athlete, activist,
patriot, entrepreneur, and family man.
To inspire those interested in the history of social change and
the prescription for greater progress.
To challenge people of all ages to pursue a life of achievement
will be achieved through 20,000 square feet of permanent and changing exhibits, artifacts, historical images and over 450 hours of broadcast quality video footage.
Over 1,000 supporters, both large and small donors, have helped The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) and Mrs. Robinson’s campaign raise over $34 million.
By opening the museum, the JRF “will [continue to] educate and inspire the general public around the ideals embodied in the life of its namesake.”
And today is Rachel Robinson’s 100th birthday. Happy Birthday, Rachel Robinson! Many happy returns!
-—Be curious! (and play ball)