The number 42 is the only number officially retired in Major League Baseball and is forever synonymous with Jackie Robinson. Today, it is found on the back of every MLB player’s jersey.
Friday marks 75 years since Robinson became the first Black player to play in Major League Baseball.
Despite immense backlash to his signing to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson made an immediate impact on the field. He became an MVP and added a World Series ring to his many accolades, but it was his push for societal change that made him legendary.
Robinson’s son, David, said his father quickly became a fierce defender of Black America.
“We loved the struggle. We loved being able to fight against oppression. We had to do that and I hope that our younger generation can pick up that attitude,” David told CBS News special correspondent James Brown.
David Robinson says his dad would be proud of the progress that has been made.
“In 1947 we saw our weaknesses, our failures, our stupidity to brand any aspect, any element, any people within society as being inferior or unable to contribute and I think he would be talking about utilizing the strengths that came out of that success,” David said.
Jackie Robinson’s story is something Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knows personally—his father was the first Black student to attend his all-white school.
He gathers his team and local high school athletes around the Robinson statue at Dodger Stadium to remind them of the sacrifices he made.
“None of us would be here if it weren’t for him and it’s not just a Black-white thing. There’s Asians. There are Latin Americans now, there’s women in the game, so it’s something that was really impactful for our entire country,” Roberts said.
Roberts joins many around the league who feel there’s still more work to be done to increase the number of Black players in the league.
“Major League Baseball has lost market share with Black athletes to football, to basketball and other sports. I do think that we need to have not only Black players but men of color leading organizations, whether it be on the field, or in the front offices too,” Roberts said.