Dusty Baker, Chuck D and Billie Jean King are some of those who reflect on Jackie Robinson’s influence

“He helped me to rise, from misery and despair to hope, with the muscles of my arms and the meaning in his life.” — Rev. Jesse Jackson, his eulogy about Jackie Robinson, Oct. 27, 1972

He moves cautiously and needs help.

His speech can sometimes be halting.

He is a fighter against Parkinson's disease. However, he is also incredibly curious, insightful, open-minded, and inspirational.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, now 80, is half a century since his powerful eulogy to Jackie Robinson. On ESPN's request it is now a quarter-century since Jackson visited Riverside Church in New York to relive the emotion and poignance of his homage.

We visited the Rainbow PUSH Coalition president and founder at the Chicago headquarters in February to meet him. He was also one of a dozen participants to an ESPN series of firsthand reflections that led up to the 75th anniversary Robinson's breaking of the Major League Baseball color barrier on April 15, 1947. From social justice champions to music legends to greats and emerging athletes, each “Jackie to Me” storyThis is their personal view of Robinson's meaning to them and to society.

Jackson states, “Jackie was caught up in a racist headwind. Jackson disproved the notion of black inferiority.

Civil rights history was made with the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregated schools. Rosa Parks refused to be put on a Montgomery, Ala. bus, and Martin Luther King Jr. rose to prominence.

Jackson says Robinson's success and courage were the result of his “he setting the pace for race and time immemorial.” He made it more acceptable for Blacks to speak with authority.

“Dr. King identified very strongly with him and he with Dr. King.”



Ruby Bridges said Jackie Robinson was the first black student to successfully integrate a public elementary school.

Ruby Bridges says that Jackie Robinson is, in my opinion, the father of the civil right movement.

Bridges's life, as a civil-rights activist and icon, dates back to 1960 when Bridges was just six years old. She became the first Black student in an elementary school in New Orleans. The U.S. scene was immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting. The scene of Bridges being led to his front door by Marshals, away from anti-integration protesters was captured by Norman Rockwell's painting.

Bridges, who was already a recipient from Bill Clinton's Presidential Citizens Medal, visited the White House in 2011, where he met the first Black president of the United States.

Barack Obama hugged Bridges as they stood in front of Rockwell's portrayion. Bridges said she could see at least 10-12 people in tears. She thought, “This wasn't about me or him.” It was about all the sacrifices, Jackie Robinson's and Dr. King's, Rosa Parks’, and those three young men (civil right workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner), who were murdered in Mississippi.

“It didn’t hit me until that moment. It was then that I understood how historic and important this meant to so many people. It was an incredible experience.”



Oscar Robertson relates personal stories about Jackie Robinson, and discusses how he influenced the fight for racial equity.

Robinson's experiences were not only painful, but also dangerous for Black athletes.

Oscar Robertson, a great basketball player, was amazed as a kid to see Robinson in action in Cincinnati. He went to an all-black Indianapolis highschool and won two state titles. Robertson says that he was once threatened over the phone that if he played against an all-white opponent, he would be shot.

Robertson claims that Robinson's experience was not the same as his, but he had to deal with separate and unjust accommodations from his University of Cincinnati team while on the road. He recalls one such trip to Houston when the Shamrock Hilton was used by the team.

Robertson says, “And the coach came up and he just said, ‘Hey, you cannot stay here.'” “I'm 17 years old. I thought he meant the entire team couldn't stay there. He replied, “No, not, they don't want to you in this hotel.”

“They had Texas Southern University, so I stayed there in my cot with myself. I thought about the situation all afternoon. The closer I got the game, the more upset it made me.

“I kept it inside myself. I didn’t say anything to anyone. I got dressed and went on the court. I went to the center court and stayed there. I didn’t take a single shot. I was booed and thrown things at people, which is what happened. Robertson says, “I don’t know why I did this, but it was something that I did.” “It was something I felt inside. To be honest.



Willie O'Ree is the Jackie Robinson of hockey. He talks about his childhood advice and the difficulties he faced.

Willie O'Ree is known as the “Jackie Robinson” of hockey because he was the first Black player to play in the National Hockey League.

The Fredericton, New Brunswick native says, “I fought because it was necessary, not because of my desire to.” “I've never fought due to racial comments or racial insults.

“Players on my opponent wanted to see how I looked…back then, nobody wore helmets or faces shields, and these opposition players were always shooting at my head.”

O'Ree claims that he didn't know he was an NHL pioneer when he first broke in. But he did have a different burden. O'Ree kept it a secret that he hadn't regained his vision with his right eye after a junior hockey accident.

O'Ree said, “The fear of getting hurt in my good eyes was the worst thing.” “But I forgot, I just forgot that I was blind, so I went out and just played. “I said, “If I get hurt, I get hurt, but I have never deviated form my game.”

O'Ree, as a teenager, thought that his game was baseball. He and his youth team met Robinson during a 1949 trip to Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. Robinson recalls being surprised that Robinson was interested in hockey. He advised O'Ree not to lose focus and to work hard at his chosen sport.

O'Ree became aware of racism and bigotry while he was a participant in the 1956 Milwaukee Braves camp. In Georgia, he decided to devote his attention to Canada's favorite pastime. Robinson was introduced to O'Ree again in 1962 at a NAACP event held in Los Angeles. To his surprise, the retired Dodger recognized him as he had been from '49.

O'Ree (86) says that he isn't sure what happened to photos from Robinson's two meetings, but he does have a framed photo of the baseball pioneer on his wall.

Robinson's '47 call-up was not as well-known as O'Ree's 1958 unheralded one. There were known attempts to undermine it. Dodgers teammates created a petition to keep him out of the team. In fact, there was a report from '47 that St. Louis Cardinals player considered a boycott.

In 1997, an ESPN documentary called “Breaking the Line” revealed that Robinson's former National League opponents were interviewing Robinson. They said that Robinson was voting on whether or not to hold an opening-day strike. The secret plans to walk out only came unravelling at the very last moment.

Rachel Robinson's widow stated that Robinson received death threats and all manner of warning letters. All of the things that make you scared can't be taken in, so you start to ignore them or push them away. When the letters became more specific about what they would do to him, I began turning them in to my team.

Jack would be described as a raceman. He was very preoccupied with the fate of his race and the plight it faced. It was very important to help the progress of the race. This preoccupation sometimes was more important that what was happening to him.

Robinson was mocked by some opposing players for bringing watermelon, black cats and other insidious items into their dugouts. In 1997, the program reported that Robinson was more hit by pitches than any other player during the entire 1947 season.



Jackie Robinson's oldest son David, shares his lessons from his father.

Robinson's son David said that his father suffered from psychological and physical pains on and off the field. He found strength by remembering his roots.

He grew up without a father. He wanted to be a support for his mother who was a sharecropper. She then went on to become a domestic worker, which meant that money was scarce in the household.

As a child, he was able to observe his grandmother, a slave born, and learn about her history as an oppressed citizen. He knew that he wanted a family-level impact on this. He was able to make an impact on the national level because that was an extension to his mission to liberate his family from oppression.

He felt that all he had to go through was not a hardship compared to what had been done in his family. He realized that, however brutal and vicious the opposition was, it was far more than what he had to endure.



Dusty Baker discusses Jackie Robinson's impact on his managerial career.

Dusty Baker learned from former Dodgers teammates, such as Joe Black, Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam, what Robinson had to overcome, back when Baker was an L.A. fielder in the late 1970s. Baker was a Braves outfielder in the late 1970s, and had seen his Atlanta Braves colleague Hank Aaron endure unending hatred as they tried to surpass Babe Ruth’s home run record.

Baker was a manager of the Chicago Cubs and received threatening hatemail. It reminded him of Aaron and Robinson.

Baker says that the FBI visited Baker as part of their Hate Crimes Division because they believed they had sent anthrax to me. “And then, my wife was afraid that I would go out on my own. My life was in danger.

“I feel like Jackie prepared me for it and Hank Aaron.”

Baker was introduced to Robinson's experiences and his responses when he was young. He would often get into fights. According to Baker, his father, who was his coach, invariably cited Robinson as an example of behavior. Johnnie B. Baker Sr. was not the only one who incited Robinson as an example of how to behave. “Dusty,” Baker Jr. said that he became tired of hearing the same thing over and over again from Johnnie B. Baker Sr. but he began to admire Robinson just like his father.

Both Bakers were military veterans, as was Robinson. Robinson was court-martialed and later acquitted following a dispute over charges against him for refusing to ride in Texas' back seat of a bus.



Bobby Bradford speaks about his Jazz composition, “Stealin' home”, which is a tribute to Jackie Robinson.

Bobby Bradford, jazz composer, teacher and musician, was also a Marine man. He believes Robinson is a hero because he defeated hate and thrived under impossible pressure.

The Baseball Reliquary is an organization that celebrates culture and art through the prisms of baseball. Bradford contacted Bradford about creating a musical tribute to Robinson's 100th Birthday in 2019. His reaction was overwhelming.

Bradford, now at 87, and a Pomona College professor in 2021, says that “Number one” was “Thank you Jesus.” This is my first and most likely the last commission. Although I have written a lot of music, I've never been approached by anyone about a specific commission.

The CD Bradford and Friends recorded the suite he created to honor Robinson. The title of the CD is “Stealin’ Home”, and the first cut, “Lieutenant Jackie.”



Chuck D, of Public Enemy, shares the influence Jackie Robinson had on his career.

Robinson, a giant of hip hop, credits his determination and defiance for providing the foundation for some of his innovative work.

Chuck D, the leader and co-founder at Public Enemy, said that he tried to capture the immense burden and historical suffering reflected in Robinson’s pivot from his early Dodger years — when his agreement to Branch Rickey meant that he had to turn the other side and keep his bubbling emotions contained — to be able to unleash his true intensity on and off the field.

Chuck D said, “If Jackie Robinson was to slide into a base, I would draw a bunch of semi-images like slave ships, all that stuff, and also follow his slide like a nation.

Robinson's first line in “Welcome to the Terrordome”, which he wrote, was “I got so many trouble on my mind.” I refuse not to lose.”

Chuck D inherited a love of Robinson and baseball from his father. For him, the Dodgers were and still are the best, as were many Black families in the era. Chuck D was 12 when Robinson died. He says that his death brought him closer to the game.

“It was as if the president had died. It was a moment that was witnessed by everyone and was broadcast on the television. Baseball was my favorite sport to follow. I don't mean to be a snob. This is a major player in baseball. Although I am a huge baseball fan, this was like a stamp. Baseball's the most popular sport.

Robinson shared a conversation in his final days with his son. This conversation has a lot to teach everyone, says David Robinson.

“Three days prior to his death, he called. It was around two in the afternoon. He was at work when he suggested that we take the day off to go to the races. I loved to go to the races. He enjoyed golf, but also liked going to the races.

“I said, ‘Dad, I'm swamped. I can't get out.' Three days after his death, I can see that I felt that I should have gone to hear some words from a father who knew his health was declining and that he would soon be leaving us. My words to all grandkids, sons, and daughters:'spend time. Learn from. Be with your elders. And look back at their goals.

His son said, “We are all Jackie Robinson's kids.” He and his wife have lived in Tanzania for over 40 years. They raised their 10 children there and also run a coffee plant. He's also the director for The Jackie Robinson Foundation.

“We can accept the greatness of others in our society, and say that “I too can and WILL be a challenger and builder for a better world.” This is the most important thing about a lifetime. It doesn't matter what the batting average or bank account are compared to what an individual can do to help his family, his race and society globally.



Billie Jean King describes how Jackie Robinson influenced and influenced her fight to be equal and inclusive.

Billie Jean King is a tennis legend who has dedicated her life to fighting for equality and women's rights for all. King was just three when Robinson broke the racial barrier in MLB.

King says Jackie Robinson was an inspiration to him as a child, and later as an adult. He inspired me to continue fighting prejudice and keep going,” King said.

King said that she was inspired by Robinson's persistence and won the 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis championship over Bobby Riggs.

“It helps me sometimes to just sit back and think, ‘What about Jackie Robinson?’”

King is now part-owner of Dodgers and says that she loves seeing 42 of his numbers on display, as well as Rachel Robinson's unwavering efforts to continue his legacy.

Rachel Robinson called Jesse Jackson on October 24, 1972 at 3:00 AM, just after her husband's 53rd birthday. Jackson was a close friend of the Robinsons for almost ten years, and she wanted him to preach at her husband's funeral.

Jackson states, “I hurt a lot, but I only remember writing the sermon out, over-and-over.” “Every time I couldn't sit down, I'd just start to cry.

“And I thought about his contribution to the movement for social justice… The challenge was that I loved Jackie so much. He was a hero to me.

“I was afraid to death. All the major preachers lined up to hear who was going on which part of the program. Jackie Robinson's funeral is a huge preacher deal.

Jackson's eulogy could not be filmed because cameras were not allowed at the service. Also, complete audio recordings or texts are not possible. But he said:

“Pain and misery are all you have left. Jackie is saved. He can be left alone by his enemies. While his body will be resting, his spirit, his mind, and his impact on human progress are forever. This mind, this mission could not be contained by a tomb…

“This body can be held down by no grave.” It belongs to the ages and we are all better because it is the temple of God. The man with convictions, man with a mission, passed it.

Jeff Ausiello, a senior manager at ESPN, and Lauren Stowell were co-producers of “Jackie to Me”, a film Willie Weinbaum produced with Stowell. series of television storiesThis report was contributed by.

Leave a Comment