Robinson Day means so much to many

Fred Jeter | 4/18/2024, 6 p.m.
Jackie Robinson Day honors the courageous and wondrously talented man who broke baseball’s color barrier.

Jackie Robinson Day honors the courageous and wondrously talented man who broke baseball’s color barrier.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson (then a 28-year-old rookie) broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers and become the first Black player of the modern era.

From the 1880s until Robinson’s arrival at Ebbets Field, a “gentleman’s agreement” among owners had boycotted athletes of color.

Along with April 15, here are some other key dates regarding the once-in-a-generation athlete and civil rights icon:

Jan. 31, 1919 – Born in Cairo, Ga. as the son of sharecroppers.

1920 – Moved with his mother and four siblings to Pasadena, Calif.

1935 – Enrolled as a freshman at John Muir Technical High in Pasadena, where he was a multi-sports (including tennis) sensation.

1938 – At Pasadena Junior College, he starred in multiple sports while setting the all-time JUCO record for the long jump, 25 feet, 6½ inches (previously held by his brother Mack).

1939 – Enrolled at UCLA and became the school’s first four-sport (baseball, basketball, football, track) athlete.

1940 – Won the NCAA long-jump title with leap of 24 feet and 10-1/4 inches.

1941 – Met his future wife, Rachel Isum.

1942 – Drafted by the U.S. Army and assigned to segregated Fort Riley, Kan. Another soldier there was boxing champ Joe Louis.

1945 – Signed with the Kansas City Monarchs of Negro National League.

1946 – Signed a historic contract with Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey, becoming the sport’s first black athlete since the 1880s.

1946 – Made his pro debut against all-white team in Dodgers’ exhibition in Daytona Beach, Fla.; he wasn’t allowed to stay in same hotel as teammates.

1946 – Played a full season with Montreal Royals (Dodgers top farm club) of the International League.

1947 – Joined the Dodgers (wearing No. 42), earning rookie of year honors while helping Brooklyn win National League title.

1947 and 1949 – Became the National League stolen base leader.

1948 – Won NL MVP.

1951 – Brooklyn became “Black America’s Team,” as Robinson is joined by two future Hall of Famers – pitcher Don Newcombe and catcher Roy Campanella.

Whit Graves led the way locally

Whit A. Graves was the Jackie Robinson of Richmond.

A right-handed pitcher and native Richmonder, Graves in 1953 became the first Black player for a Richmond pro team.

Graves posted a 6-12 record with a 6.34 earned run average in 159 innings for the 1953 Richmond Colts, a member of the Class B Piedmont League.

The Colts played at Mooers Field and were loosely affiliated, from time to time, with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics.

In 1954, Graves pitched for the Colonial Heights-Petersburg Colts at Shepherd Stadium.

Following retirement, Graves became a forklift operator for Philip Morris. He died in 1997 at age 70 and is buried in Maury Cemetery.

1955 – Helped Dodgers defeat the Yankees in the World Series.

1956 – Retired from baseball with a .313 average, 141 homers, 761 RBI, 200 stolen bases and six All-Star appearances.

1962 – Named to Baseball Hall of Fame.

Oct. 24, 1972 – Died in Stamford, Conn., at age 53.

2004 – Major League Baseball honored Robinson by retiring his No. 42 jersey across all teams. Every April 15, every player, coach and umpire wears No. 42 with pride.

2013 – The Movie “42” appears in theaters with Chadwick Boseman as Robinson. Audiences polled by CinemaScore graded the movie an “A-plus.”