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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Robinson's Character Paved Way To Success

LOS ANGELES -- How hard was it, to be Jack Roosevelt Robinson in 1947?


Here, according to various printed sources, is how one afternoon started that year when Robinson became the first black player in the major leagues.


"Hey ... I need a shoe shine!''


"Hey ... why don't you go back to the cotton fields where you belong?''


"They're waiting for you in the jungles, black boy!''


"Hey, snowflake, which one of the white boys' wives are you dating tonight?''


On May 9, fifty years ago, Robinson warmed up expressionless, pretending not to hear the taunts coming from the Philadelphia Phillies' dugout. He knew it would go on that way on his journeys through the National League that year.


He never answered in kind.


He had promised Dodger owner Branch Rickey that he would not fight back, no matter what the provocation.


He played, expressionless, and kept a tight lid on the anger that boiled up inside, which is exactly why Jackie Robinson was the first black man this century to wear a major league baseball uniform.


Robinson's promotion to the major leagues was not based solely on his baseball talent, which was considerable. He had been hand-picked. His ability to play baseball, Rickey believed, was exceeded by his strength of character.


Of all the black players good enough to play in the big leagues, Robinson, Rickey believed, had the temperament to best endure the unendurable.


A clear indication of that is that not once did Robinson charge the mound that season, despite uncountable brushback and knockdown pitches. He was hit by pitches nine times in 1947.


He was a Dodger, but he was made to feel like a pariah.


On that first Philadelphia visit in 1947, when the Dodgers arrived with Robinson at their normal hotel, they were told, "All the rooms are taken."


In Cincinnati, management of The Netherlands Plaza hotel told the Dodgers that Robinson could stay, provided he ate his meals in his room and stayed out of the swimming pool.


Despite racial insults and knowing that in at least one city, Cincinnati, death threats compelled police to search buildings near the ballpark for snipers, Robinson had a remarkable 1947 season.


Playing in 151 games at first base, he batted .297 -- 19th in the league -- with 175 hits and 12 home runs. He led the league with 29 steals -- he stole home three times -- and drove in 48 runs. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year.


In the 1947 Dodger-New York Yankee World Series, Robinson hit .259, stole two bases and scored three times.


While Robinson was enduring the foulest kind of racial epithets on the field, he was also the sport's biggest drawing card since Babe Ruth.


Another Robinson biographer, Barry Denenberg, quoted one baseball writer: "Jackie's nimble, Jackie's quick ... Jackie's making turnstiles click.''


Owners, then, were making big money.


And Robinson?


The Dodgers paid him $5,000 that year.