Jackie Robinson’s Legacy Celebrated Year-Round in Cooperstown

Story of Baseball’s ‘Great Experiment’ Told Through Exhibits and Programs Dedicated to Pioneering Dodgers’ Hero

April 15, 2014
Hall of Fame Jackie Robinson burst onto the scene in 1947, breaking baseball's color barrier. (NBHOF Library)

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) On the diamond, it was a day like many others. The Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman went 0-for-3 with a run scored in his team’s 5-3 win over the Boston Braves on April 15, 1947. 

But the moment Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field that day, baseball – and America – were forever changed. 

As Major League Baseball pauses today to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day – marking the 67th anniversary of Robinson’s big league debut – the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum remembers Jackie and his legacy. Robinson burst on to the scene in 1947, breaking baseball's color barrier and bringing the Negro Leagues’ electrifying style of play to the majors. He quickly became baseball’s top drawing card and a symbol of hope to millions of Americans. 

The Museum will present programs throughout this week in tribute to Jackie Robinson Day, including: 

Tuesday, April 15 at 11 a.m.

A Curator Spotlight tour of the Museum’s Pride and Passion exhibit, where visitors of all ages will have the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Negro Leagues. 

Tuesday, April 15 and Thursday, April 17 at 1:30 p.m.; Friday at 2 p.m.

A screening of Legendary Entertainment’s biopic “42”, the award-winning depiction of the life story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Born Jan. 31, 1919 in Cairo, Ga., Robinson played in the Negro Leagues before Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey signed him in the fall of 1945. After one season in the minor leagues, Robinson was summoned to Brooklyn and led the Dodgers to six pennants in his 10 seasons, along with the 1955 World Series title over the New York Yankees. He dominated games on the base paths, stealing home 19 times while riling opposing pitchers with his daring base running style. Robinson was named National League MVP in 1949, leading the loop in hitting (.342) and steals (37), while driving in 124 runs. 

Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962 his first year eligible and he was inducted on July 23, 1962 along with Bob Feller, Bill McKechnie and Edd Roush. His remarks to the crowd in Cooperstown that day reflected his pride and passion for the game. Robinson was introduced by Commissioner Ford C. Frick:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Frick. First let me say how much of a thrill it is to be coming into the Hall of Fame with Bob Feller, Mr. McKechnie, and Mr. Roush. I want to also let you know that I feel quite inadequate here this afternoon, or this morning. But I think a lot of this has been eliminated, because today, it seems that everything is complete. 

First of all, I want you to know that this honor that was brought upon me here could not have happened without the great work and the advice and guidance that I’ve had from three of the most wonderful people that I know. And if any of them weren’t here today, I know that this day could not be complete. But, they’re all here and I just hope you don’t mind if I just pay a word of thanks and a tribute to my advisor and a wonderful friend, a man who I consider a father, Mr. Branch Rickey. 

And my mother, who taught me so much of the important things early in life. I appreciate no end, my mother Mrs. Robinson. And lastly, ladies and gentlemen, my wife, who has been such a wonderful inspiration to me. And the person who has guided and advised me throughout our entire marriage. I couldn’t have been here today without her help. 

And then I...and I must thank the baseball writers…I never thought at all that I would have this wonderful honor coming to me so early in my lifetime. And to have the writers to elect me on the first time is a thrill that I shall never forget. We have been up in cloud nine since the election.  I don’t ever think I’ll come down.  But I want to thank all of the people throughout this country who were just so wonderful during those trying days. I appreciate it at no end and it’s the greatest honor any person could have and I only hope that I’ll be able to live up to this tremendously fine honor. It’s something that I think those of us who are fortunate again, must use in order to help others. Because it’s such a tremendous honor that we should be able to go out and do things to help. I’m just grateful and I’m sorry I’ve taken so long, but I just wanted you to know that I appreciate it so much.  Thank you.”

Robinson’s original Hall of Fame plaque text – which reflected his request to be considered for the Hall of Fame based only on what he accomplished on the field – read as follows: 

On June 25, 2008, the Hall of Fame unveiled a new Hall of Fame plaque for Robinson in Cooperstown. Rachel Robinson, the widow of the 1962 Hall of Fame inductee, and their daughter, Sharon, were present for the event. The new plaque replaced the original plaque and acknowledges Robinson’s pioneering career: