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14 Quotes That Reveal the Legacy of Jackie Robinson

On April 15, 1947, spectators at Ebbets Field — then home to the Brooklyn Dodgers — witnessed history in the making. Among the ranks of the Dodgers was a 28-year-old rookie named Jackie Robinson, the first Black baseball player to play in the American major leagues.

When Robinson stepped out onto Ebbets Field that day, he broke baseball’s “color line,” the long-existing but unofficial form of racial segregation that excluded players of Black African descent from Major League Baseball and its affiliated minor leagues. It was a historic day, but Robinson wasn’t there just to break racial barriers — he was there to win.

That same year, Robinson led the league in stolen bases and was named Rookie of the Year. Just two years later, he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He went on to lead the Dodgers to six league championships and one World Series victory. As legendary manager Leo Durocher once said, “This guy didn’t just come to play. This guy comes to beat you.”

Robinson, however, was up against more than just the opposing team. He had to overcome racist abuse from opposing players, spectators and, initially, from his own teammates. Robinson’s experience with discrimination — combined with his resolute nature and rising status in baseball — drove him to become an important voice in the civil rights movement. He made appearances with Martin Luther King Jr., and politician and civil rights activist John Lewis said Robinson “gave the Black community a sense of hope, a sense of pride.”

Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and, after his death in 1972, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also left us with many wise and inspiring quotes, whether talking about baseball, personal integrity, or the ongoing pursuit of a free and just society.

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.

In order for America to be 100% strong — economically, defensively, and morally — we cannot afford the waste of having second- and third-class citizens.

Plenty of times I wanted to haul off when somebody insulted me for the color of my skin, but I had to hold to myself. I knew I was kind of an experiment. The whole thing was bigger than me.

When I am playing baseball, I give it all that I have on the ball field. When the ball game is over, I certainly don’t take it home. My little girl who is sitting out there wouldn’t know the difference between a third strike and a foul ball.

I believe in the goodness of a free society. And I believe that society can remain good only as long as we are willing to fight for it — and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist.

The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity.

If I had to choose between baseball's Hall of Fame and first-class citizenship, I would say first-class citizenship to all of my people.

I’m grateful for all the breaks and honors and opportunities I’ve had, but I always believe I won’t have it made until the humblest Black kid in the most remote backwoods of America has it made.

It kills me to lose. If I'm a troublemaker, and I don't think that my temper makes me one, then it's because I can't stand losing. That's the way I am about winning. All I ever wanted to do was finish first.

Many people resented my impatience and honesty, but I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect.

The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and baseball was even with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it.

There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.

I do believe that what I was able to attain came to be because we put behind us ( no matter how slowly) the dogmas of the past to discover the truth of today, and perhaps the greatness of tomorrow.

Photo credit:  IanDagnall Computing/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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