Jackie Robinson: More Than Baseball

By: Nathan Chandler
Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Jackie Robinson is known for breaking professional baseball's color barrier, but his feats off the diamond far outweighed his sports accomplishments. He blasted homes runs -- and discrimination. How much do you know about this big-hearted and courageous man of action?

Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play for a major league baseball team.

Robinson wasn’t the very first black man in baseball. That honor went to William White (seriously!), who played one pro game in 1879. But Robinson broke all sorts of color barriers during his pro career.

For which professional team did Robinson play?

The Brooklyn Dodgers took a risk by hiring the first black player in decades. Their gamble more than paid off.

Robinson was an amazing athlete. He mostly played which position?

Robinson was a renowned second baseman. He played for 10 seasons.

Before Robinson's career began with the Dodgers, where did black players play baseball?

Baseball was strictly segregated. White players played in the major leagues, and black players played in the Negro leagues and had done so since the 1880s.

In 1942, as World War II raged, Robinson was drafted into which branch of the military?

He was drafted into a segregated Army unit. He was never deployed to a combat zone, but he was definitely in for a fight.

Robinson boarded a U.S. Army bus. The driver ordered him to ride in the back of the vehicle. How did Robinson respond?

Knowing full well his words might cause trouble, Robinson refused to budge, and he ultimately faced a court-martial but was acquitted. He performed this act of disobedience more than a decade before Rosa Parks gained fame for her bus action that sparked the civil rights movement.

In 1947 Robison played his first MLB season. How did he perform?

Robinson was a force that year. He batted .297 and hit 175 hits. He won Rookie of the Year.

How old was Robinson when he made his first major league appearance?

He was 28 years old when he stepped onto the diamond in front of more than 25,000 fans, about half of whom were estimated to be black.

Before his time with the Dodgers, Robinson played in the Negro Leagues. For which team did he play?

He played for a single season (1945) for the Kansas City Monarchs. At the same time, he participated in tryouts for several major league teams.

The Dodgers agreed to a contract with Robinson under which condition?

The Dodgers wanted his baseball talents but were afraid that Robinson would crack under the strain of racial tensions and cause a public uproar. Robinson had to agree not to lash out at whites who tormented him.

Robinson's performance was consistently excellent. How many years in a row was he named an All-Star?

He wasn't just good -- he was a player who elevated everyone around him. He was named an All-Star six whopping years in a row.

In 1949 Robinson set his personal best for hits in a single season. How many hits did he record?

In 1949 Robinson had 593 at-bats and 203 hits. His batting average was an incredible .342.

Before bringing him to Brooklyn, the Dodgers sent Robinson to their AAA team, the Montreal Royals, in Quebec. How was Robinson greeted by fans?

Canadian fans were stoked to have Robinson on their team. They cheered for him every game. Sadly, when the team traveled to other cities, Robinson was often greeted by slurs or threats of violence.

What was Robinson's salary in his first year with the Dodgers?

His first-year salary was $5,000, equivalent to about $54,000 today. His performance that year quickly caused his pay to rise.

In 1952, just his fifth year with the Dodgers, what was Robinson's salary?

OK, so at $40,000, it's not the astronomical amount that today's players make. But he was still fabulously wealthy -- that $40,000 would be worth more than $360,000 today.

Before the Dodgers hired him, Jackie Robinson was easily the best player in the Negro Leagues.

To the chagrin of some Negro League players, Robinson actually wasn't even the best player in their league. Many thought Josh Gibson was more deserving of being the first black player to make an MLB roster.

How did Robinson tend to respond to discrimination and racism?

Robinson, like all black Americans, was sick of discrimination and tired of being treated like a second-class citizen. He was often angry but didn't resort to violence, a fact that won him a huge following.

What did some white Dodgers players threaten to do when Robinson joined the team?

Some of the Dodgers players were upset by Robinson's presence in the locker room, and they threatened to stop playing so long as he was on the team. In response, the team's managers threatened to fire them.

In 10 seasons with Robinson, how many times did the Dodgers win the pennant race?

Robinson led the team to the pennant six times in his 10 seasons. The white players who wanted him off of their team were suddenly riding his coattails to fame and riches.

With Robinson leading the way, the Dodgers made the World Series six times. How many times did they win the championship?

Robinson helped the team make it to six World Series. The team won just once, though, in 1955.

Robinson was particularly noted for his ability to do what?

He was fast -- really, really fast -- a fact that helped him become a prolific base stealer. He even managed to steal home 19 times.

At one point or another, Robinson played every position on the field for the Dodgers.

He didn't play every position (such as catcher and pitcher), but it might have seemed like it. Robinson played every base, shortstop and in the outfield, too. But he made a real name for himself at second base.

As a result of Robinson's employment by the Dodgers, members of the St. Louis Cardinals planned to do what?

Many opposing players were angered by Robinson's presence in the league. Some Cardinals players wanted to start a strike, but when the plot became public, the league struck back and threatened to suspend anyone who participated.

During the 1951 season, Robinson had more double-plays than other National League second baseman. How many did he have?

With Robinson on second base, no hit was safe. He made 137 double plays that season, a testament to his incredible physical abilities and decision-making.

Robinson was often the target of racially-motivated slurs hurled by opposing players. How did his own teammates respond to the abuse Robinson endured?

Opposing players often enjoyed yelling awful things at baseball's first black players. Robinson's teammates would have none of it. They rallied around him.

In 1997 MLB honored Robinson by retiring his number throughout the league. What was his iconic number?

Robinson made the No. 42 legendary in baseball. No player will ever wear his number again.

In the late 1960s, Robinson took up which cause?

One of Robinson's sons returned from the Vietnam War with terrible substance abuse problems and wound up dead at age 24. The awful experience made Robinson a devoted anti-drug campaigner.

How did Robinson die?

In 1972, at the tender age of 53, Robinson died of a heart attack. He left behind his wife, Rachel, with whom he had three children.

What was Robinson's career batting average?

He was much better than your typical baseball player -- his average was .311. He also stole 197 bases.

What did Robinson do immediately after ending his pro baseball career after the 1956 season?

Robinson went on to all sorts of other successful activities in his life. His first was to become a vice president of Chock Full o' Nuts, a famous coffee brand, making him one of America's first black executives.

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