Sixty-eight years ago today on October 23, 1945, Branch Rickey announced that Jackie Robinson had signed a contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It paved the way for the integration of baseball and gave Robinson the opportunity to become the first black player in the major leagues.
Rickey has been given much credit for signing Robinson that day, and it is well-deserved for his fortitude and foresight of things to come. But it was Jackie Robinson’s decision, not Branch Rickey’s, that integrated baseball.
Robinson had to sign on the dotted line.
One can only imagine what advice Robinson had been given or what was going through his mind before he made the decision to sign. He and his wife Rachel must have resolved that he would succeed no matter the cost, and his brave hand signed the contract.
Robinson’s decision may have been the most historical event in the history of the game. It certainly was one of the most significant – perhaps it was one of the most significant events in the history of our country, too.
He took on a great responsibility, one that was an opportunity for success but was also a peril for failure. Robinson took a great leap of faith and accepted that responsibility.
On April 15, 1947, he would take the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first of his race to play in a major league game. His career would last through the 1956 season; he was on Dodgers teams which played spring exhibition games at Sulphur Dell between 1953 – 1956, too.
Most importantly, during his illustrious career Robinson succeeded in proving a new concept: persons of different skin colors could participate together in America’s favorite pastime. Because of Jackie Robinson’s resolve, Americans began to learn that they could also participate together in everyday life.
It took a will and a signature – and Robinson and all of us, were on our way.