In the early 20th century, sports in America were segregated by people’s skin color. For example, black and white baseball players did not play with or against each other. They had their own separate leagues and organizations. White fans did not attend black baseball games and black fans did not go to white baseball games. There were also no black players allowed on professional baseball teams in America’s biggest professional baseball organization, the MLB.
In 1947, however, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American professional baseball player. The manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a Major League baseball team, hired Robinson to become a member of the team. His decision was very controversial at the time. Some of the white players on the team said they would not play with Robinson. The Dodgers’ manager replied that he would trade or fire anyone on the team who refused to play.
Some players on other teams were also angry about playing against an African-American player. A few newspaper reporters wrote that the St. Louis Cardinals would refuse to play against the Dodgers. However, they did play against the Dodgers on May 6, 1947. The Cardinals lost the game 7-6. Players on other teams taunted Robinson and made racist comments towards him. However, this abuse only ended up uniting the Dodgers team. Robinsons’ fellow players rallied behind him in support. Even players who did not initially support Robinson at the beginning of the season were friendly towards him by the end of it.
Robinson was also a terrific baseball player and showed that black and white players could play with each other. Over the years, black players were slowly integrated into Major League Baseball. By 1960, black players had won the Rookie of the Year award nine times. Hispanic players were also gradually accepted into American professional baseball. When Robinson retired from baseball in 1957, players of different colors were a more common sight on the baseball diamond.