This edition of Collectin’ Tex features a special tribute to Jackie Robinson- from Chuck Vanderbilt @collectinTex on Twitter.
A Birthday Worth Celebrating
Jackie Robinson was born into a family of Georgia sharecroppers in 1919 during a lethal combination Spanish flu and smallpox epidemics. Before Robinson was old enough to walk, his father abandoned his mother, his four siblings, and Jackie. The Robinson family relocated to southern California where Jackie attended John Muir High School and played varsity football, basketball, baseball, and track.
Jackie went on to attend Pasadena Junior College and eventually UCLA. While pursuing higher education, Robinson’s athletic abilities continued to shine on all fields. Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor and United States’ involvement in World War II. Drafted into a segregated Army unit, Robinson was eventually stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. While stationed in Texas, an incident occurred that may have saved Jackie’s life. As he boarded a military bus, Robinson was instructed to sit in the back. Robinson refused to comply, which led to his arrest and a court martial hearing where false charges compounded the situation. However, a military panel acquitted Robinson on all charges. While the nature of the trial was indeed a racially charged attack against Robinson, it prevented him from serving in action overseas during the war.
Robinson was then relocated to Kentucky after his trial and shortly there after he received an honorable discharge. When Robinson’s military service concluded, he accepted the role as athletic director for Sam Huston College in Austin. While Jackie was in Austin, he received a letter from the Kansas City Monarchs that invited him to come play baseball for $400 a month. Robinson took them up on the offer and once he arrived Robinson continued his excellence on the field earning a spot on the 1945 All-Star team.
In just two years time, Jackie would break the color barrier by making his major league debut as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The life of Jackie Robinson is a testament to perseverance. There are many moments throughout his life where he was lucky to survive, much less succeed in the face of adversity. The Spanish flu, smallpox, World War II, and fervent racism couldn’t stop Jackie. The simple fact is, his unwavering determination has made, not only the game of baseball, but all of us better.