The great American pastime of baseball has had its share of amazing athletes that not only dazzled fans with their play, but revolutionized the sport with their personality, charisma, and courage. Babe Ruth, with his charm as well as his bat, gave baseball a personality, Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, gave baseball a tough image, and Joe DiMaggio, with his 56 game hitting streak captivated the entire country. In a similar way, Jackie Robinson added diversity to the game of baseball by breaking the color barrier. However, in his case, the story is much different.
When Babe Ruth was on route to hitting 60 home runs, nearly all the baseball world supported him. When Joe DiMaggio got hit after hit, the country stood still with anticipation. The case of Jackie Robinson is much different, in that very few wanted diversity; no one wanted a black man on the same playing field as white players. Robinson, then, overcame his own record without, for the most part, the benefit of country approval, fan support, or even his own team s support. With extreme courage, a tough personality, and a will to be a major league baseball player, he changed the sport of baseball forever, making him a significant figure in American sports history.
Jackie Robinson’s professional career was shaped in every way by the society he lived in. He not only had to worry about his ability to play, he had to worry about the racism that followed him off the field. He received death threats throughout his career; not just to himself, but his family as well. During most road trips he was often not able to stay in the same hotels his team stayed in, also, finding a meal was sometimes difficult when there were only white restaurants around. Many major league stadiums were filled with hostile fans opposed to his presence, and although they were sometimes the minority Robinson would have to deal with disparaging remarks, and sometimes actions, toward his race on a daily basis.
In one case, while in Syracuse as a Montreal Royal, an opposing player actually threw a black cat on the field and said Hey Jackie, there s your cousin (153). Other times, during his minor league stint, games had to be cancelled or rescheduled because the opposing team refused to let a black man play ball with whites. Many players on opposing teams had trouble accepting Robinson and would give a cheap shot if they could, or, if they were a pitcher, would throw at him. As a baseball player, it is hard enough to play well at the major league level without having the deck stacked against you. Robinson had to deal with this at every level. He had to overcome prejudice to become accepted, which is something he eventually managed to do.
Robinson ‘s impact on society went far beyond the baseball field. Starting out as a token, he had utterly complicated [the white man s] sense of the nature of black people, how they thought and felt, their dignity and their courage. No black American man had ever shone so brightly for so long as the epitome not only of stoic endurance but also of intelligence, bravery, physical power, and grit Neither blacks nor whites would be quit the same thereafter in America (186-87). Robinson, then, truly changed the ideal of a black man in America, and along with that, the direction of segregation.
The feats that Robinson accomplished in the face of adversity leads us to an easy explanation of the type of personality that accompanied him. He had extreme courage, for only a courageous person would endure, and even welcome, the career long challenges he was faced with. He had confidence in himself as a person and as an athlete. His “enormous faith” of his physical ability was the result of years of success on every level of competition.