Since Major League Baseball's formation in 1903, no player has meant more to the sport — or to athletics in general — than Jackie Robinson. A gifted athlete with an indomitable spirit, Robinson broke professional baseball's color barrier en route to a World Series title and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But what of his life beyond the diamond? Despite being beloved and revered by so many, the truth about Jackie Robinson's full life has remained relatively unknown — until now.
Searching for opportunities
Born in Georgia as the youngest of five siblings, Jack Roosevelt Robinson didn't have much in the way of opportunity growing up. His parents were poor sharecroppers, and it being the early 1920s, opportunities for people of color were few and far between. So his family moved to Pasadena, California, in 1920. A few years later, Jackie joined a street gang.
His one shot
But Jackie's family — especially his brother, future Olympic silver medalist Mack Robinson — didn't want to see him go down the wrong path. What Jackie needed was something constructive to focus on, and if he loved anything, it was athletics. What's more, Jackie was good. Seeing his younger sibling's immense physical gifts, Mack encouraged Jackie to follow his passion for sports.
A force to be reckoned with
Jackie shined as an athlete at John Muir High School, excelling at basketball, football, track, and, of course, baseball. He even played tennis, winning the Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament in 1936. He stood out on any team, not because of his skin color, but because of his innate talent as an athlete. By the time he got to college, Jackie was a force to be reckoned with.
Skilled at every sport
If anyone feared that Jackie's skills wouldn't measure up to the more experienced athletes when he got to college, these fears were quickly put to bed when he stepped onto the field. His athletic dominance continued into junior college and his time at UCLA, as he won the 1940 NCAA championship in the long jump while also earning varsity letters in basketball, football, and baseball. And when opportunity finally knocked, Jackie opened the door — but not for a career in baseball.