Rachel Robinson Named Buck O’Neil Award Winner

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors has selected Rachel Robinson as the 2017 recipient of the John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. Robinson becomes the fourth winner of the Buck O’Neil Award, which was established in 2007 to honor an individual whose efforts broadened the game’s appeal and whose character, integrity and dignity is comparable to the late O’Neil, who passed away in 2006 after eight decades of contributions to the game. O’Neil was honored as the first recipient of the Award in 2008. Long-time executive Roland Hemond was honored with the second Buck O’Neil Award in 2011, followed by Joe Garagiola in 2014.

The Award will be presented to Robinson in Cooperstown at the Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 29, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2017. Working with her husband, Jackie Robinson, during their 26-year marriage and after his passing in 1972, Rachel Robinson created the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation, founded to build and manage housing for people of moderate and low incomes. A year later, she formed the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides college scholarships and leadership training, and headed the Foundation’s Board of Directors until stepping down in 1996. A career nurse who worked as a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Social and Community Psychiatry, Robinson has received honorary doctorates from nearly a dozen colleges and universities.

“Rachel Robinson has worked tirelessly to raise the level of equality not only in baseball, but throughout society,” said Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark. “Through her grace, dignity and unsurpassed spirit, she continues to show the value, decency and importance of inclusiveness. She personifies the strength and character of Buck O’Neil, and on behalf of our Board of Directors, we are very happy and honored to bestow upon her this prestigious award.”

The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Board of the Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at its discretion, though not more frequently than every three years. A permanent, life-size bronze statue of O’Neil is located at the Hall of Fame on the Museum’s first floor and serves as the home for the Award. The statue of O’Neil was created by nationally renowned sculptor Williams Behrends.

“I am honored that the Hall of Fame has invited me to receive the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Robinson. “Buck O’Neil was such a champion of baseball – and the Hall of Fame does an extraordinary job of recognizing individuals who have committed their lives to the great game. I commend Jane Forbes Clark and Jeff Idelson for their leadership and extend my gratitude to the Board of Directors for recognizing me in this way.”

The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Board of the Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at its discretion, though not more frequently than every three years. A permanent, life-size bronze statue of O’Neil is located at the Hall of Fame on the Museum’s first floor and serves as the home for the Award. The statue of O’Neil was created by nationally renowned sculptor Williams Behrends.

“I am honored that the Hall of Fame has invited me to receive the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Robinson. “Buck O’Neil was such a champion of baseball – and the Hall of Fame does an extraordinary job of recognizing individuals who have committed their lives to this great game. I commend Jane Forbes Clark and Jeff Idelson for their leadership and extend my gratitude to the Board of Directors for recognizing me in this way.”

Jackie and Rachel Robinson were married for 26 years. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Born Rachel Annetta Isum on July 19, 1922 in Los Angeles, Calif, Rachel married Jackie on Feb. 10, 1946, as Jackie was preparing for his first season in organized baseball. As a pillar of support through the challenging years that followed, Rachel provided Jackie the mental and spiritual encouragement needed to overcome the obstacles of being the first African American to appear in a modern Major League Baseball game with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Jackie won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he and Rachel built their family with the birth of sons Jack Jr. and David and daughter Sharon.

Following Jackie’s retirement from the playing field in 1956, Rachel earned a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from New York University. She became the director of nursing for the Connecticut Mental Health Center and an assistant professor of nursing at Yale University.

In 1996, Robinson authored Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait, published by Abrams. She endorsed the retirement of Jackie’s No. 42 throughout Major League Baseball in 1997, and in 2008 supported the recasting of her husband’s Hall of Fame plaque to reflect his pioneering efforts in baseball.

The Buck O’Neil Award is open to nominations from the public to the Hall of Fame, at any time, through written submissions. The next O’Neil Award is eligible to be presented in 2020. Nominations should detail how the proposed candidate carries O’Neil’s extraordinary traits. Letters of nomination should be submitted to: Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, 25 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326. Only submissions received by mail will be considered.

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