Jackie Robinson, The Color Barrier, and Jazz

Today marks perhaps the most important anniversary in baseball history.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to suit up and play for a Major League Baseball team, breaking the color barrier as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson, despite overwhelming resistance and racial prejudice from many fans, opposing teams, and even teammates, ended up becoming one of the most beloved figures in the history of the game. Robinson was a Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player recipient, was an All-Star several times, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, his number 42 was retired across all major league teams. Today and tomorrow (thanks in large part to the efforts of Seattle Mariner Ken Griffey Jr.), all players from all teams will wear the number 42 as their jersey number.

Jackie Robinson was also known for his involvement in civil rights. Inspired by the March on Washington, Jackie and his wife Rachel Robinson organized a jazz concert in 1963 on the lawn of their home in Connecticut to raise bail money for jailed civil rights protesters, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The first concert boasted jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Dizzy Gillespie, and became an annual tradition. For many jazz musicians, it was a huge honor to play for the man who broke the baseball color barrier.

Jackie Robinson died in 1972, and the jazz concert became a annual fundraiser for the Jackie Robinson Foundation, becoming extremely popular. A college scholarship organization the JRF was designed to  provide four-year college grants as well as extensive mentoring and leadership development training to academically gifted minority students.  The Foundation, currently celebrating its 35th anniversary, has supported over 1,200 Scholars who have maintained a 97% graduation rate, more than twice the national average for minority students.

In 2006, the event moved to the west coast and became known as Jazz on the Grass, most recently taking place at the home of Oz and Lynn Scott in Sherman Oaks, California. Some of the most recent musicians who have donated their talents include Kenny Rankin and Brian Bromberg.

So today, baseball players and fans can thank Jackie for opening the door for so many great African American players to enhance the game of professional baseball. And years after his death, jazz musicians continue to show their gratitude, by performing and helping raise money for causes that continue to open new doors every day.

2 comments on “Jackie Robinson, The Color Barrier, and Jazz

  1. Steven A. Janda

    Today is the sixty-third anniversary of the debut of Jackie Robinson. Last year on April 15, 2009, Ken Griffey, Jr. hit the Emerald Home Run on the 144th memorial of Abraham Lincoln and the 557th birthday of Leonardo da Vinci. Seventeen years prior on the same day Griffey hit home run number 62 and then 17 days later he hit home run 63 on the day da Vinci died. He was the only player on record to hit home runs on those days with no home runs in between. It was the 127th year memorial of Lincoln. Ten years later on the 137th memorial of Lincoln, Mike Cameron the same occurrence in his home runs except Mike he four home runs on the day da Vinci died. The 127/137 parallel is an identical match to the ages of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis when she passed away. Mysteriously, Jackie Robinson had 137 career home runs. Abraham was 135 when his father Terah died. Last year on June 23, 2009, Griffey made history again and hit the 5000th home run of the Mariners. Five thousand years prior Lamech, the father of Noah, was 135 years old. He lived to age 777. When Griffey hit the 5000th home run of the Mariners against the Padres, the Padres recorded 777 players in their history through 2009. Griffey’s first two home runs in 2009 were 612 and 613 adding up to 1225, which matches 12-25 (Christmas Day). Through the 2009 season, all players born on Christmas Day combined in MLB history for 777 home runs. The 777th home run was on the 127th day of the year in 2009. The second 777 occurrence was on the 135th day of the year in 2009, and the third was on the 137th day of the year in 2009. A cluster of seven 777 home runs were hit which total by month and day, 5000. There were two others which eclipse the 800 threshold by the end of the year. The attendance in MLB on those two dates was 776,000. You can read more at TheEmeraldHomeRun.blogspot.com. The book is forthcoming.

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