Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Nate from Princeton, IN. Nate Wonders, “Who was Jackie Robinson? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Nate!

Are you a fan of baseball? If so, you know that the major leagues are filled with talented players from all walks of life. Teams include people of different races and nationalities. Sadly, though, that was not always the case.

Years ago, athletes of different races had to play in separate leagues. This lasted until 1947. That was the year an African American man broke the color barrier in baseball. That man was Jackie Robinson.

Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919. He was the youngest of five children. Robinson and his siblings were raised by their single mother. The family did not have much money. But Robinson was able to attend Pasadena Junior College. There, he shone in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.

Robinson was a great athlete. He moved on to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). There, he became the first athlete ever to earn a varsity letter in four sports. But financial hardship forced him to leave UCLA before graduating.

Robinson moved to Hawaii to play semi-professional football. His season was cut short, though. The United States had entered World War II. From 1942 to 1944, he served in the U.S. Army. An incident at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1944 would foretell the important role in history Robinson would eventually play.

At Fort Hood, a bus driver demanded that Robinson give up his seat. He was told to move to the back of a segregated bus. Robinson refused. As a result, was arrested. Later, he was acquitted of the charges after the public learned of the injustice.

Robinson’s courage to stand up for himself was an important first step. He would have a long fight for civil rights. After leaving the Army in 1944, he played professional baseball.

At the time, professional baseball was segregated. That meant white and black players played in separate leagues. Still, Robinson excelled as always. Soon, he was chosen by Branch Rickey to join the all-white Montreal Royals. This was a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. That day, he became the first African American player to play in the major leagues.

Many people were ready for integration in major league sports. But many others were not. Robinson had many hard times as he faced racism. This came from baseball fans, other teams, and even some of his own teammates. He persevered through it all, though. Robinson became an inspiration to millions of people.

In addition to being an inspiration to the civil rights movement, Robinson was a great baseball player. He won Rookie of the Year in his first season. He went on to win Most Valuable Player in 1949. Over the course of his decade with the Dodgers, he maintained a .311 batting average. He even led the Dodgers to victory in the 1955 World Series.

Robinson’s success in the major leagues paved the way for other African American athletes. After retiring from baseball, he continued to work for civil rights and other important social causes.

In 1962, Robinson became the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1972, the Dodgers retired his uniform number: 42. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired the uniform number 42 across all major league teams. This was the first time that had happened in any sport. Today, baseball still honors Jackie Robinson every April 15. That day, every player on every team wears #42 on “Jackie Robinson Day.”

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

You may want to stretch and do a few jumping jacks before heading to Wonderopolis. Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day promises to be quite a challenge!