Sports History: Jackie Robinson Makes His Debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. (PHOTO COURTESY: J. R. Eyerman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

It was on this date 73 years ago (April 15, 1947) when Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming just the second African American to play professional baseball since catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker suited up for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association in 1884.

The 28-year-old infielder, who was a native of Georgia and credited for breaking the color barrier, had his contract purchased just five days ahead of the Dodgers’ season-opener after spending the previous year with the team’s minor league affiliate the Montreal Royals.

Robinson and the Royals enjoyed a very successful 1946 campaign, winning 100 games while capturing the Governor’s Cup for beating the Syracuse Chiefs in five contests.

In his debut with the Dodgers, Robinson recorded one run and one walk in three plate appearances while Pete Reiser led Brooklyn with three runs on two hits. Eddie Stanky also scored a run against Boston while drawing one walk.

Robinson, who was named the 1947 MLB Rookie of the Year, would conclude his initial season by producing 125 runs, 175 hits, 31 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs, and 48 RBI in 590 plate appearances. He led the National League with 29 stolen bases in 1947 while helping Brooklyn reach the World Series. Unfortunately, Brookly lost the World Series in seven games to the New York Yankees, but Robinson and the Dodgers would win the Fall Classic eight years later.

The 1955 World Series victory against the Yankees would be the only championship Robinson would celebrate as he would retire the following season after leading Brooklyn back to the Fall Classic against New York.

Years after his 10-year career with the Dodgers ended, the MLB permanently retired his No. 42 before former commissioner Bud Selig announced that April 15th would be known as “Jackie Robinson Day.” The first official “Jackie Robinson Day” was held in 2004 with every player wearing the No. 42.

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