#Shortstops: Rachel’s legacy

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Kallan Jackson

John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil was a legend of the Negro Leagues who went on to become the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball.

Throughout his life, O’Neil continued to uphold the legacy of the Negro Leagues through interviews and documentaries, which culminated in his participation in the creation of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Both on and off the field, O’Neil exemplified the highest echelon of humanity through his contributions and character.

How fitting then that the recipients of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award be held to the same standard.

This award is given not more often than once every three years and honors “an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil.”

With the inaugural award going to O’Neil himself in 2008, there are currently five recipients. The fourth and sole female recipient thus far, is the incomparable Rachel Robinson, widow of Hall of Famer Jack “Jackie” Robinson.

Throughout her life, Rachel Robinson has been a researcher, activist, professor and registered nurse – as well as the recipient of the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (2007) and Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award (2017). Robinson authored the biography Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. Furthermore, she is the founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which is dedicated to upholding the legacy of her late husband.

This dedication was no better exhibited than when Robinson participated in the recasting of her husband’s Hall of Fame plaque in 2008.

When he became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1962, Jackie asked that the writers only consider his achievements on the field when considering his candidacy. As a result, a part of Jack’s legacy was missing from his plaque’s caption. Breaking the color barrier in 1947 when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

But with the approval of Rachel Robinson, the plaque was recast to recognize Jackie’s pioneering efforts to integrate the National Pastime. Now all who visit the Museum and look upon Robinson’s plaque see his vital contribution permanently etched into the highest honor a player can achieve.

“Jack Roosevelt Robinson, a player of extraordinary ability renowned for his electrifying style of play. Over 10 seasons hit .311, scored more than 100 runs six times, named to six All-Star teams and led Brooklyn to six pennants and its only World Series title, in 1955. The 1947 Rookie of the Year, and the 1949 N.L. MVP when he hit a league-best .342 with 37 steals. Led second basemen in double plays four times and stole home 19 times. Displayed tremendous courage and poise in 1947 when he integrated the modern major leagues in the face of intense adversity.”

Both Robinsons are left an incredible impact on the game. In their case, we do not remember a great woman behind a great man, but rather two magnificent people standing beside each another, immortalized in history.

Kallan Jackson was the 2019 library research intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series