February 01, 2015 22:41 UTC

Life Story of Jackie Robinson, the First Black Player in Major League Baseball

Welcome to PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English on the Voice of America. Today Shirley Griffith and Rich Kleinfeldt tell about a man who changed professional baseball in the United States.  Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was the first black man to play in modern major league baseball.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

After World War Two, many Americans still believed that people of different races should not mix.  In some parts of the country, blacks and whites lived in separate areas and went to separate schools.  Blacks who tried to change the system risked being beaten or killed.

Blacks were not permitted to play on professional baseball teams or in any other major league sport.  No black man had played for a major league baseball team since Eighteen-Eighty-Four.  In that year, American baseball organizations agreed to bar blacks.  That began changing when Jackie Robinson played his first game for New York's Brooklyn Dodgers on April Fifteenth, Nineteen-Forty-Seven.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO: 

Jackie Robinson grew up in a family of five children in Pasadena, California, near Los Angeles.  His father had left.  His mother did not earn much money, so Jackie Robinson learned to make his own way in life.  It was in California that Jackie Robinson first learned the ugliness of racial hatred.  White families who did not want to live near them repeatedly tried to force them to move away. 

Jackie Robinson established himself early as an athlete.  He was a star player while attending the University of California at Los Angeles.

Jackie won honors in baseball, basketball, football and track. He was named to the All-American football team.  He was considered the best athlete on America's west coast. 

Jackie Robinson left college early because of financial problems. He joined the United States Army in Nineteen-Forty-One, during the second World War.  He became a lieutenant after boxing champion Joe Louis pushed for Robinson to be trained as an officer.  However, after three years, Robinson was dismissed from the army because he objected to a racial order.  He refused to move to the back of a bus. 

VOICE ONE:

In Nineteen-Forty-Five, there were not many jobs open to a black man, even someone who had attended college.  Robinson wanted to play professional baseball.  Blacks, however, were not permitted to play in the major leagues.  So, he decided to play with the Negro Baseball League.  The Negro League teams were started in the Nineteen-Twenties to give black people a place to play baseball.

Many of the best baseball players in the United States played in the Negro Leagues before white professional teams began accepting black players.  The skills and records of black ball players were as good as major league white players.  It was a hard life for Negro League players.  They took long trips by bus.  They changed clothes in farmhouses and shared bath water with teammates.  Many eating places did not serve food to blacks.  They had to eat outside or on the road.  And they were not permitted to sleep at hotels for whites.  Many players slept on the bus. 

VOICE TWO: 

Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs.  It was one of the most famous baseball teams in the Negro League.  But, he was unhappy in the Negro League because of the difficult life there.  In a statement from the book “The History of Baseball, Nineteen-Oh-Seven,” actor Ossie Davis expresses hope for change in the sport.

OSSIE DAVIS: "Baseball should be taken seriously by the colored player -- and in this effort of his great ability will open the avenue in the near future wherein he may walk hand in hand with the opposite race in the greatest of all American games -- baseball."

(MUSIC) 

VOICE ONE:

In Nineteen-Forty-Five, Jackie Robinson signed an agreement with Branch Rickey to play for the Dodgers.  Rickey was president of the team.  He wanted to find a black player who could deal with the insults and racial pressure he would face in the league.  He wanted a black player who would show restraint at all times. Rickey thought Jackie Robinson was good enough as a player and strong enough as a person to succeed.  He made Robinson promise that he would never show his anger on the baseball field.  Jackie Robinson accepted that condition. He said: 

JACKIE ROBINSON: "I knew that I was going to be somewhat out front and perhaps, I would have to take a lot of abuse. I knew that this was bigger than any one individual and I would have to do whatever I possibly could to control myself."

VOICE TWO: 

Some observers said that Jackie Robinson was not the best player in the Negro Leagues.  Others said that he was chosen for his communications skills and educational level and because he was an established sports star. 

VOICE TWO: 

David Faulkner wrote a book about Robinson's life.  It is called “Great Time Coming: The Life of Jackie Robinson from Baseball to Birmingham.”  In it, he talks about the end of racial divisions in baseball. 

DAVID FAULKNER: "For many years, there had been an active campaign against segregated baseball led by Negro newspaper editors and, strangely enough, by the Communist party, which from the middle Nineteen-Thirties on, had actively campaigned against segregated baseball.  There were a number of pending bills in different legislatures challenging fair employment practices.  By Nineteen-Forty-Five, there was a lot of heat in a lot of different areas -- professional baseball was certainly feeling that.  Robinson in a sense was the right person at the right time." 

VOICE ONE: 

Shortly after Jackie Robinson signed the agreement with the Dodgers, he married Rachel Isum.  They had three children.  It was important to Branch Rickey that Jackie Robinson be married.   He thought that the public would accept Robinson more quickly if he was married.  He thought that it would lessen the fears of white men that white women would find Robinson desirable.

(MUSIC) 

VOICE TWO: 

In Nineteen-Forty-Six, Jackie Robinson began playing for the Dodgers' minor league Canadian team, the Montreal Royals.  During that time, Branch Rickey tested Robinson's ability to deal with racial pressure he would face in the major league.

In Nineteen-Forty-Seven, Jackie Robinson became the first black to play modern major league baseball.  He played for the Dodger's major league team, New York's Brooklyn Dodgers.  In doing so, the pressure increased.  He received death threats on and off the field.  During games, pitchers threw the ball at his head. Several teams threatened not to play against the Dodgers.  And, some of his own team members tried to have him banned from the team.

It was not easy for Robinson on road trips, either.  He was never permitted to stay at the same hotels or eat in the same places as his white team members. 

VOICE ONE:

Jackie Robinson had difficulty on and off the baseball field, but he did not let that interfere with his game.  He was a great player and leader, winning the National League's Most Valuable Player award in Nineteen-Forty-Nine.  He also led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six league championships and to baseball's World Series Championship in Nineteen-Fifty-Five.

Jackie Robinson helped show that blacks and whites could live, work and play together.  He became a national hero to both black and white Americans because of his skill, bravery and restraint. Robinson's success opened the door for other black athletes to play on all-white professional teams.   Soon, other blacks began to appear on major-league teams. By the end of the Nineteen-Fifties, every major league team had black and Hispanic players.

VOICE TWO:

Jackie Robinson retired from baseball in Nineteen-Fifty-Six at the age of thirty-seven.  He became a businessman, a political activist and a strong supporter of civil rights.  In Nineteen-Sixty-Two, Jackie Robinson was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, an honor given only to baseball's best players.  He died in Nineteen-Seventy-Two.  He was fifty-three years old.

(MUSIC) 

ANNOUNCER: 

This Special English program was written by Cynthia Kirk.  It was produced and directed by Lawan Davis.  The announcers were Shirley Griffith and Rich Kleinfeldt.

I’m Mary Tillotson.  Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • south korean women

    Video South Korea Wants Japan to Apologize to WWII Sex Slaves

    Every week, protesters gather in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They want Japan to apologize for forcing thousands of Korean women to have sex with Japanese soldiers during World War II. And they want Japan to make payments to the women for the physical and emotional harm the suffered. More

  • A Syrian girl stands on top of her tent to remove the snow from it at a refugee camp in Zahleh, Bekaa Valley, east Lebanon, Jan. 8, 2015.

    Video Winter Weather Worsens Conditions for Syrian Refugees

    A strong winter storm struck the Middle East in the middle of January. The storm has been called one of the strongest to hit the area in 10 years. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were affected by the cold and snow.Many of the refugees live in temporary shelters, largely unprotected from the cold. More

  • Westport is a city in Grays Harbor County, Washington, United States.  Westport is located on a peninsula on the south side of the entrance to Grays Harbor from the Pacific Ocean.

    Audio US West Coast City Using New Tsunami Refuge

    Tsunamis are unexpected huge ocean waves. Earthquakes are often the cause of tsunamis. And that can interfere with escape. One coastal town in Washington State is copying a method used in Japan to survive tsunamis. Westport, Washington, is building the first U.S. vertical tsunami shelter. More

  • NASA's Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres.   (Image - NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Video NASA Spacecraft, Dawn, Close to Reaching a 'Dwarf Planet'

    Dawn is set to reach the dwarf planet Ceres in March. Scientists will use the spacecraft to gather clues about whether the distant, ice-covered object may have once had conditions to support life as we know it. Dawn, which left Earth seven years ago, will also explore another small planet, Vesta. More

  • Students learning computer skills on a mobile bus in Nairobi, Kenya

    Video Mobile Computer Lab Helps Thousands in Nairobi Slum

    A non-profit group is working to give Kenya’s poorest citizens access to information and technology. The Craft Silicon Foundation provides people who live in Kawangware a computer lab and computer training classes on a mobile bus. The bus has 12 computers powered by the sun through solar panels. More

Featured Stories

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, joins U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., during a get out the vote rally.

    Audio Why Do So Few US Women Hold Top Jobs?

    A new study by the Pew Research Center found that the public says women are just as qualified as men to hold top positions in business and politics. But women are still not equally represented in those top jobs. Most Americans think they will see a woman president in their lifetimes. More

  • AFC Championship Football

    Superbowl Sunday: The Patriots, the Seahawks and Katy Perry, Too

    The National Football League championship game is hugely popular with sports fans and television advertisers. Tens of millions of people watch the game for the competitive play and for the funny commercials broadcast throughout. Many also enjoy the halftime show. This year Katy Perry will entertain. More

  • NYC subway art

    Video New York's 'Underground Museum' Pleases Passersby

    For the past thirty years, artists have been asked to create works of art for New York’s huge subway and train system. The works often relate to city life or to the neighborhood of a station. Some people call it New York’s “underground art museum," with over 250 pieces of original artwork. More

  • agridrone

    Video French Farmers Are Using Drones to Examine Their Crops

    It used to be mostly the military that used small, unpiloted aircraft, called “drones.” The little planes were very costly. But as they have dropped in price more people have begun to use them. Rescue workers and farmers are among the new users. The drones save money and time. More

  • Video Is There a Better Way to Track Passenger Planes?

    New technology could help to more closely follow passenger airplanes, and find them when they crash; international group to meet next month to discuss changes. Airline industry leaders and regulators want to improve airplane safety. They want better, more dependable tracking devices. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs