Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 1947: Jackie Opens The Door

     On April 15, 1947, with 25,623 Dodgers fan in attendance at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to join the ranks of Major League Baseball. In his first regular season contest Robinson went 0 for 3, but did work the count for a walk which led to a run in the 5-3 Opening Day victory over the Braves. The numbers on the scorecard did not matter as much as the long lasting impact that Robinson would have on sports and society as a whole. Robinson endured and overcame racism on his way to becoming a legend. He averaged .311 over his ten years in the big leagues, won the batting title and the National League MVP in 1949, and became World Series Champion in 1955.

     Robinson helped open a door that had been closed for more than 60 years, and countless great players have been able to walk through that door. One of those players was Bob Gibson. Gibson made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals on April 15, 1959; 12 years to the day that Robinson made his major league debut. The 23-year-old Gibson was facing Robinson's former club that had relocated to Los Angeles. Gibson came in relief at the Coliseum in L.A. and gave up a home run to 3rd baseman Jim Baxes. That would give him the distinction of being the first future Hall of Famer to serve up a long ball to the first batter he faced. The Cardinals fell to the Dodgers 5-0 in that contest, however, a storied career  had just begun. Like Robinson, Gibson would become a legend.

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