(Photo: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
The Georgia native was an athletic quadruple threat, and as a student at the University of California Los Angeles, he lettered in baseball, football, basketball and track. After leaving the Army as a lieutenant, he signed with the Montreal Royals of the International League in 1946. After helping the team win the "Little World Series," he was promoted that same year to play for the Dodgers.
Although he was reportedly "thrilled" to be in the majors, it wasn't an easy transition. Robinson had to deal with opposition from major league owners, their players and even members of his own team. Among the many atrocities he faced was an incident during which the Philadelphia team bombarded him with racial slurs and pantomimed shooting at him.
Ironically, the racist attacks helped the white Dodgers form a bond with Robinson. And the dignity with which he handled himself in situations that would have crushed lesser men enabled Americans to open up their hearts and minds. In 1947, Robinson was named the second most admirable American, coming in second to crooner/actor Bing Crosby. He also won the Baseball Writers' Association of America's first Rookie of the Year Award.
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