On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Dodgers had opened the 1947 season at home against the Boston Braves, and 26,623 fans attended the game at Ebbets Field. Robinson went 0-for-3 in his debut, won 5-3 by the Dodgers. He made the game’s first putout, receiving a throw from third base rookie Spider Jorgensen to retire Boston leadoff hitter Dick Culler.
Despite the inauspicious debut, Robinson would play in 151 games. He hit .297 and won the first Rookie of the Year Award. He led the National League in stolen bases with 29 and collected 175 hits as the Dodgers reached the World Series.
Robinson was the first black player in the major leagues since Moses Fleet Walker played 42 games for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884. It was Walker’s only year in the majors, and no black had been on a major-league roster until Robinson debuted in 1947.
Robinson would play 10 seasons, mostly at second base. He finished with a career average of .311. He played in six World Series for the Dodgers and retired after the 1956 season. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Twenty years ago today, baseball retired Robinson’s No. 42, in a dramatic announcement madeat Shea Stadium in New York by Commissioner Bud Selig, who was flanked by Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson; and President Bill Clinton.