Baseball and Jackie Robinson


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Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson

The Baseball Hall of Fame

Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility. (A player must be retired from baseball for five years to be considered.) His forceful spirit inspired both his playing on the field and his civil rights work afterwards. Some young militants criticized Robinson's ties to Republicans, while Robinson in turn criticized the NAACP for failing to include younger voices. As described in his 1972 autobiography, I Never Had It Made, Jackie Robinson became disillusioned with the continued lack of opportunity for blacks. In the 1970s, Robinson's health began to deteriorate rapidly. (He had learned in 1957 that he had diabetes.)

On October 15, 1972, Robinson attended a World Series game that included a commemoration for the 25th Anniversary of breaking the color line. In his televised speech, Robinson again pushed baseball to employ blacks in more capacities: "I'd like to live to see a black manager, I'd like to live to see the day when there's a black man coaching at third base" (from Rachel Robinson's Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait, p. 216) Nine days later, on October 24, 1972, Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. The first black baseball manager, Frank Robinson, was hired in 1975 by the Cleveland Indians.

Cover Image from Program for Dinner Honoring Jackie Robinson

descriptive record icon Cover from program for Southern Christian Leadership Conference Hall of Fame dinner honoring Jackie Robinson, July 20, 1962, Waldorf-Astoria, New York City.
(Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Arthur Mann Papers. Reproduced with permission from the SCLC.)