Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947 and went on to stardom and a place in the Hall of Fame, died today, apparently of a heart attack.
The 53-year-old Robinson, who had suffered a mild heart attack in 1968, was stricken early this morning at his 14-room home in New York.
Police, summoned by his wife, used oxygen in an attempt to revive him and then rushed him to Stamford Hospital. He was dead on arrival.
Robinson’s baseball career was filled with controversy and it did not stop when he retired in 1957 to take an executive post with a restaurant chain. He later became caught up in political disputes with more militant sections of the black community who assailed his Republican Party affiliations.
But Robinson was first of all an athlete, and that is how he wrote his way into history.
Amid scorn and criticism from some following the announcement he would be the first black in the major leagues, Robinson did his talking on the playing field.
He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 after spending a year with Montreal and leading the International League in hitting.
He made his first appearance in the National League as Brooklyn’s first baseman in a game against the Boston Braves. He played most of his career at second base.
Robinson was a sensation in his first year, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Two years later, his .342 batting average earned him the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
Branch Rickey, the man who brought Robinson into the major league, told the rookie: “I need more than a great ball player. I need a man who can turn the other cheek. If I get a firebrand who blows his top and comes up swinging after a collision at second base, it could set the cause back 20 years.”
Robinson was the man. He endured abuse and a loosely organized attempt to keep him out of the game.
Robinson quite the game in 1957 in a dispute over his trade to the New York Giants.
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.