On October 15, 1972, Jackie Robinson attended a World Series game that included a commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his breaking the color line. In his televised speech, Robinson again pushed the baseball league to employ African Americans in more capacities: “I’d like to live to see a black manager, I’d like to live to see the day when there’s a black man coaching at third base.” When Robinson stepped onto the field, it was his second appearance at a Major League Baseball game since ending a self-imposed boycott of baseball that he had begun in protest of the sport’s poor record in hiring minorities for managerial and front-office positions. Nine days later, on October 24, 1972, Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. The first black baseball manager, Frank Robinson, was hired three years later by the Cleveland Indians.
Robinson’s Major League career began on April 15, 1947, when he played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Following his retirement from baseball after the 1956 season, Robinson became director of personnel for the Chock Full o’ Nuts corporation, the New York City restaurant chain, from 1957 to 1964. He also was active with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In December 1956, the NAACP awarded Robinson the Spingarn Medal, which it confers annually for the highest achievement by an African American. Robinson chaired the NAACP’s million-dollar Freedom Fund Drive in 1957 and was a member of the board of directors until 1967.
Many other groups also honored Robinson. In July 1962, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) held a testimonial dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Although SCLC president Martin Luther King was not able to attend, King’s speech recognized the positive impact of Robinson’s achievements beyond baseball.
- The collection By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s draws on manuscripts, books, photographs, and ephemera from the Library’s collections to tell Robinson’s story and the story of the history of the sport. View the special presentation Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson to see these artifacts of America’s national pastime. See the collection’s related resources to read more about Jackie Robinson’s life and this era of baseball as well as the special presentation Early Baseball Pictures, 1860s to 1920s to find pictures and stories of the game.
- The Library’s Manuscript Division is a repository for the Jackie Robinson Papers. While materials from this collection have not been digitized, it is possible to view the finding aid online to discover what is included. Some of these materials may be viewed by visiting the Manuscript Division in person.
- Browse the collection Baseball Cards to see baseball greats pictured in this collection of 2,100 early baseball cards.
- Search across the Library’s collections using the term baseball to find more images and stories about the great American pastime. See, for example, the photograph The Brooklyn Baseball Club in the collection Panoramic Photographs.
- The following resources have been developed for classroom use:
- Baseball Across a Changing Nation (Primary Source Set)
- Baseball, Race Relations and Jackie Robinson (Lesson Plan)
- Search Today in History on baseball to find other features including the April 15, 1947 debut of Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
- Explore the online exhibit, Baseball Americana, to learn more about the history of “America’s favorite pastime”.