He had a litany of firsts in his career: He was the first Black television analyst in Major League Baseball, and the first Black vice president of a major American corporation. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem. In the world of baseball, Robinson played a prominent role in ending racial segregation in professional baseball. Prior to Robinson playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, African-American players were restricted to the Negro Leagues for 60 years.
Robinson was born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia, into a family of sharecroppers. His family moved to California and Robinson attended UCLA, where he became the school's first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. After a stint in the Negro Leagues and Minor League Baseball, Robinson went on to his illustrious career in the Major Leagues. In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, Robinson encouraged voters to consider only his on-field qualifications, rather than his cultural impact on the game. He was elected on the first ballot, becoming the first Black player inducted into the Cooperstown museum on July 23, 1962.
Robinson died in 1972 of a heart attack at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of 53.
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(Photo: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)