Jackie Robinson was the man who was handpicked by Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers to start the process of integrating the major leagues of baseball. Until (and after) 1947, the year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of major league baseball, men with non-white skin were forced to play for baseball leagues such as The Negro National League and the Eastern Colored League. Black and Cuban men were not allowed to play on the all-white teams of the so called "major leagues". Branch Rickey wanted a man who would have both the courage and the talent to persevere over what he knew would be considerable resistance to the integration. He was looking for "a ball player with guts enough NOT to fight back" Rickey said. He chose Jackie Robinson, a four-sport college star at UCLA and the star of the Kansas City Monarchs.
Jackie Robinson pledged to do just that...to turn the other cheek. His courage forced the doors of the league open to people of color from all over the Western Hemisphere. But it wasn't easy. The first year Jackie played with the Dodgers abuse poured down on him regularly, both from the stands and from the opposing dugouts. Fans shouted racial insults and threw garbage at Robinson. One afternoon in Cincinnati's Crosley Field where the Dodgers faced the Reds, it got particularly intense. Jackie Robinson stood alone, his hands on his hips, trying not to show his emotion. The crowd booed and shouted at Robinson. After a few moments Robinson was joined by another man, who put his arm around Jackie's shoulder. Pee Wee Reese, a Kentucky native and captain of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers stood beside Robinson in a symbolic gesture of support from one teammate to another. It was a show of solidarity with a man facing the greatest pressure and test of character imaginable. Those who were there say the crowd was silenced. At the end of that season, Jackie Robinson was named Rookie of the Year.
Jackie Robinson spent 10 seasons with Brooklyn. In that time he achieved a .311 batting average and hit over .300 six times. He played on six pennant winners. He was the National League batting champion and most valuable player in 1949 when the batted .342. His base path daring, his false start taunting of pitchers, and his clutch hitting made him the unquestioned leader of the Dodgers. In 1962, his first year of eligibility, Jackie Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame, an honor granted only to a handful of players. Jackie Robinson proved himself to be one of the best.