(reposted from History.com) By 1900, the unwritten color line barring Black players from white teams in professional baseball was strictly enforced. Jackie Robinson, a sharecropper’s son from Georgia, joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League in 1945 after a stint in the U.S. Army (he earned an honorable discharge after facing a court-martial for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus). His play caught the attention of Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had been considering bringing an end to segregation in baseball. Rickey signed Robinson to a Dodgers farm team that same year and two years later moved him up, making Robinson the first African American player to play on a major league team.
Robinson played his first game with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947; he led the National League in stolen bases that season, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Over the next nine years, Robinson compiled a .311 batting average and led the Dodgers to six league championships and one World Series victory. Despite his success on the field, however, he encountered hostility from both fans and other players. Members of the St. Louis Cardinals even threatened to strike if Robinson played; baseball commissioner Ford Frick settled the question by threatening to suspend any player who went on strike.
After Robinson’s historic breakthrough, baseball was steadily integrated, with professional basketball and tennis following suit in 1950. His groundbreaking achievement transcended sports, and as soon as he signed the contract with Rickey, Robinson became one of the most visible African Americans in the country, and a figure that Black people could look to as a source of pride, inspiration and hope. As his success and fame grew, Robinson began speaking out publicly for Black equality. In 1949, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee to discuss the appeal of Communism to Black Americans, surprising them with a ferocious condemnation of the racial discrimination embodied by the Jim Crow segregation laws of the South: “The white public should start toward real understanding by appreciating that every single Negro who is worth his salt is going to resent any kind of slurs and discrimination because of his race, and he’s going to use every bit of intelligence…to stop it…”
(from Atlas Obscura) THOUGH HALL OF FAME BASEBALL star Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, he spent his formative years in Pasadena, attending John Muir High School and Pasadena Junior College in the city. And while Jackie’s exploits as the man who broke baseball’s color barrier are understandably more well-known, his brother Mack also made sports history during the 1936 Olympic Games, taking the Silver Medal in the 200 meter sprint, behind teammate Jesse Owens.
This memorial then, pays tribute to both of the Robinson brothers. Jackie looks towards Brooklyn, NY, to symbolize the destiny waiting for him 2,800 miles to the east. His elder brother Mack, who returned home to little fanfare and a city job which was later taken from him in retaliation for black residents going to court to force the desegregation of municipal pools, faces towards City Hall, reflecting his complicated relationship with his home town.