Generally, people associate the fifteenth of April with having to cut a great, big check to Uncle Sam after staying up all night with a calculator (or, today, a copy of TurboTax or something similar) battling with receipts and forms about their taxes. However, in the world of Major League Baseball, this day has a great deal more significance.
It was on this date in 1947 that Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson took the field at second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in front of 26,623 spectators, breaking the color barrier that had existed in Major League Baseball for the entirety of its history. Robinson had an tough transition to the Major Leagues for numerous reasons, not the least of which was the fact that there were players in his own clubhouse that were refusing to play along side of Robinson. However, Leo Durocher, the Dodgers' manager at the time, took a firm side with Robinson when he issued his players the following ultimatum:
"I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f***ing zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded."
Robinson was not only an amazing individual on the field. . .in that '47 season, he won baseball's first ever Rookie of the Year Award, and two years after that was the first black player to win the Most Valuable Player Award. . .but he accomplished much outside of the diamond as well. He was a star in both track and football at UCLA, and after college he was drafted into the Army and commissioned as a second lieutenant at a time when it was very hard for black service members to reach that plateau. After that, and prior to getting back into baseball, he was the athletic director at Sam Huston College in Austin, Texas.
But Robinson's legacy is inextricably tied to Major League Baseball, and his shattering of the color barrier on this date, 64 years ago. Today, every player across the Major League will wear the number 42, the number that was retired league-wide in his honor back in 1997.
64 years ago today, the world of professional sports was forever change by a man with more heart and courage than many of us could possibly ever fathom. When you're watching your favorite team on the field today. . .or on any other day, for that matter. . .please keep that in mind.
"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me. . .all I ask is that you respect me as a human being." - Jackie Robinson