42 Facts About Jackie Robinson

Keystone, Getty Images
Keystone, Getty Images

On January 31, 1919, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. Twenty-eight years later, he broke the baseball color line and became the first African American to play on a major sports team. Here are 42 facts to celebrate the legendary athlete.

1. Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia but raised in California.

Jack "Jackie" Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. Shortly after his birth, his family moved and settled in Pasadena, California.

2. He was named after Teddy Roosevelt.

Oval shaped portrait of a American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) as a young boy sitting on a chair, circa 1925
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

President Theodore Roosevelt, who died 25 days before Robinson was born, was the inspiration for his middle name.

3. He was the youngest of five children.

Jackie was the youngest of five children—Edgar, Frank, Matthew “Mack,” and Willa Mae—and grew up in relative poverty in a well-off community in Pasadena.

4. In high school, he played on a team with other future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bob Lemon.

Robinson attended John Muir High School, where he was placed on the Pomona Annual Baseball Tournament All-Star Team with fellow future Baseball Hall of Famers Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox and Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians.

5. He was an accomplished tennis player, too.

He was also an accomplished tennis player, winning the junior boys singles championship in the Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament.

6. His brother was a Silver medal-winning Olympic athlete.

The Robinson family
Getty Images

Jackie’s brother Mack was an adept athlete and a splendid sprinter. He won a Silver Medal in the 200 meters behind Jesse Owens during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

7. He served in the Army during World War II.

In 1942, Jackie Robinson was drafted into the Army. He was assigned to a segregated Army Cavalry unit in Fort Riley, Kansas.

8. He was stationed with boxing champion Joe Louis during World War II.

While in the Army, Robinson became friends with boxing champion Joe Louis when the heavyweight, who was stationed at Fort Riley at the time, used his celebrity to protest the delayed entry of black soldiers in an Office Candidate School (OCS). As a result, Robinson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1943.

9. He never saw combat during the war because he was arrested and court-martialed for refusing to move to the back of an unsegregated bus.

After an incident where he refused to sit in the back of an unsegregated bus, military police arrested Robinson at the request of a duty officer, who later requested Robinson be court-martialed. At the time of the proceedings, Robinson was prohibited from being deployed overseas to the World War II battlefronts. He never saw combat during the war.

10. He was eventually given an honorable discharge.

American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) (Back row, 4th from right), wearing a military uniform, stands with members of his family outside of a house, possibly in Georgia, c. 1942
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Robinson was acquitted and then assigned to Camp Breckinridge in Kentucky, where he worked as an Army athletics coach until he was given an honorable discharge in 1944. During his time at the camp, Robinson was encouraged to tryout for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro National League.

11. He played in the 1945 Negro League All-Star Game.

In 1945, Robinson signed a contract to play for the Kansas City Monarchs. He was paid $400 a month (about $5100 today) to play shortstop and eventually was placed in the Negro League All-Star Game that year.

12. He married his college sweetheart.

Robinson married Rachel Islum—whom he had met in 1941 during his senior year at UCLA—in 1946. They had their first son, Jackie Robinson Jr., that November. The Robinsons had two more children: a daughter, Sharon, and another son, David.

13. He played in the Montreal Royals' minor league.

Robinson played Minor League Baseball for the Montreal Royals in 1946, until he was called up to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues in 1947.

14. He made his MLB debut at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.

American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) grounds a ball at first place while warming up for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Ebbets Field, NYC, 1950s
Hulton|Archive/Getty Images

He made his Major League Baseball debut on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. He became the first African-American baseball player in Major League history.

15. He was 1947's Rookie of the Year.

He also won Rookie of the Year in 1947 with a batting average of .297, 175 hits, 12 home runs, and 48 runs batted in.

16. He was close friends with Larry Doby, who was the first African-American baseball player in the American League.

Jackie Robinson had a close friendship with Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, who was the first African-American baseball player in the American League. The two men broke the color barrier in baseball in the same year and would talk to each other on the telephone to share their experiences with racism during the season.

17. Robinson's Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese was one of his greatest champions.

Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese defended Robinson against violent and nasty racial slurs during his rookie season. Reese famously put his arm around him and said, “You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them,” as a response to fans shouting racial slurs at Robinson.

18. Robinson "hit for the cycle" on August 29, 1948.

On August 29, 1948, in a 12-7 win against the St. Louis Cardinals, Robinson “hit for the cycle” with a home run, a triple, a double, and then a single in the same game.

19. He stole a lot of bases.

American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) during his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 28th August 1949
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Robinson was the National League Batting and Stolen Bases Champion with a batting average of .342 and 37 stolen bases in 1949.

20. He was a regular All-Star.

He was also a six time All-Star between the years 1949 to 1954.

21. He testified in front of the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities.

In 1949, Robinson was called to testify before the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). He was subpoenaed because of comments made about him by prominent African-American actor Paul Robson. At first, Robinson was hesitant to testify, but then was ultimately compelled to do so because he feared not doing so would hurt his baseball career.

22. He was the National League's MVP in 1949.

The National League’s Most Valuable Player Award went to Robinson in 1949, after his first appearance in the MLB All-Star Game. Robinson later took his team to the World Series, but would lose against the New York Yankees.

23. He played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story.

Postage stamp featuring Jackie Robinson
Krylova/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Jackie Robinson played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, a biopic about his life released in 1950. Academy Award-nominated female actor Ruby Dee played Robinson’s wife Rachel “Rae” Isum Robinson.

24. In the off-season, he traveled the south on a vaudeville tour.

During the off-season, Robinson went on a vaudeville and speaking tour of the South, where he would answer pre-set questions about his life. He actually made more money on these tours than he did on his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

25. He played in six World Series.

Robinson played in six World Series, but only won one in 1955 against the New York Yankees in a seven game series. Robinson didn’t play in 49 games that season and missed Game 7; Don Hoak played third base in Robinson’s place.

26. He quit baseball to take a job with Chock Full O' Nuts.

At 37, Robinson retired from Major League Baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 due to the visible effects of diabetes. Unbeknownst to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson took a position with the American coffee company Chock Full O’ Nuts and agreed to quit baseball.

27. He was the first African-American vice president of a major American corporation.

Undated photo of US baseball star Jackie Robinson as he signs a then-record contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers
STR/AFP/Getty Images

From 1957 to 1964, Jackie Robinson served as the vice president of personnel for Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee. He was the first African-American vice president of a major American corporation.

28. He was a political independent who ended up switching party affiliations in the 1960s.

Robinson was a political independent, but had very conservative views on the Vietnam War. He also supported Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential election against John F. Kennedy, although Robinson admired Kennedy’s stance on civil rights once he was elected. He was later dismayed with Republicans for not supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and soon after became a Democrat.

29. He was the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1962, Jackie Robinson was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. He was the first African American inducted at the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and Museum.

30. He was a towering figure of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jackie Robinson with his son at the Civil Rights March on Washington DC in 1963
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Jackie Robinson was always seen as a large figure in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said Robinson was “a legend and symbol in his own time” who “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.”

31. He co-founded Harlem's Freedom National Bank.

In 1964, Robinson co-founded the Freedom National Bank—a black owned and operated bank in Harlem, New York—with businessman Dunbar McLaurin. Robinson was the commercial bank’s first Chairman of the Board. His wife later served as Chairman until 1990 when the bank closed.

32. He was television's first African-American sports analyst.

Robinson was also the first African-American TV sports analyst. He broadcasted for ABC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts in 1965. Robinson later worked as a part-time commentator for the Montreal Expos in 1972.

33. The Dodgers retired his uniform number in 1972.

Portrait of members of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team pose in the dugout, 1954
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired Jackie Robinson’s uniform number 42, as well as Sandy Koufax’s number 32 and Roy Campanella’s number 39.

34. He passed away at the age of 53.

Robinson died of a heart attack on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut, at age 53.

35. Robinson's widow, Rachel, started the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973.

In 1973, Robinson’s widow, Rachel, started the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a non-profit organization that gives college scholarships to minorities. The Foundation also preserves the legacy of Jackie Robinson as a baseball player and a civil rights pioneer.

36. Robinson's Brooklyn home was declared a landmark in 1976.

The house in Brooklyn, New York, where Jackie Robinson lived while he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976.

37. There's an asteroid named after him.

On March 1, 1981, American astronomer Schelte John “Bobby” Bus discovered an asteroid at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Bus named the asteroid “4319 Jackierobinson,” after his favorite baseball player.

38. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Jackie Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award given to a civilian for their contributions to world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors—on March 26, 1984.

39. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

More than 20 years after he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President George W. Bush also posthumously awarded Jackie Robinson with the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest honor the legislative branch can bestow on a civilian and must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of members in the House and the Senate—for his contributions to American history. He became the second baseball player to receive this accolade after Pittsburgh Pirates Right-Fielder Roberto Clemente in 1973.

40. Robinson's number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball.

Getty Images

You won't see any baseball players wearing the number 42: In 1997, Robinson’s number was retired throughout Major League Baseball. This was the first and only time a jersey number had been retired throughout an entire professional sports league.

41. He's a member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

In 1999, Robinson was added to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team along with Cal Ripken Jr., Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Ty Cobb. Fans chose the final selections from a list compiled of the 100 greatest Major League Baseball players from the past century.

42. April 15th is now Jackie Robinson Day.

April 15, 2004, became Jackie Robinson Day and all uniformed players in Major League Baseball were required to wear number 42 on their jerseys to honor Robinson’s memory and legacy to the sport.

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2013.

Amazon Customers Are Swearing by a $102 Mattress

Linenspa
Linenspa

Before you go out and spend hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars on a new mattress, you may want to turn to Amazon. According to Esquire, one of the most comfortable mattresses on the market isn’t from Tempur-Pedic, Casper, or IKEA. It’s a budget mattress you can buy on Amazon for as little as $102.

Linenspa's 8-inch memory foam and innerspring hybrid mattress has more than 24,000 customer reviews on Amazon, and 72 percent of those buyers gave it five stars. The springs are topped by memory foam and a quilted top layer that make it, according to one customer, a “happy medium of both firm and plush.”

Linenspa

Perhaps because of its cheap price point, many people write that they first purchased it for their children or their guest room, only to find that it far exceeded their comfort expectations. One reviewer who bought it for a guest room wrote that “it is honestly more comfortable than the expensive mattress we bought for our room.” Pretty impressive for a bed that costs less than some sheet sets.

Getting a good night's sleep is vital for your health and happiness, so do yourself a favor and make sure your snooze is as comfortable as possible.

The mattress starts at $102 for a twin and goes up to $200 for a king. Check it out on Amazon.

[h/t Esquire]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

8 Facts About "Rowdy" Roddy Piper

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images
Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

It takes a strong personality to stand out in a sport full of them, but Roderick George Toombs, otherwise known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (1954-2015), managed to sustain a career as one of the most colorful characters in the history of professional wrestling. For more on “Hot Rod,” including his martial arts background and his unlikely turn as a big-screen hero, keep reading.

1. Roddy Piper was a very accomplished bagpipe player.

Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 17, 1954, the future “Rowdy” Roddy Piper earned his nickname early in life. According to Piper, he was “too much” for his parents to handle and wound up leaving home at the age of 13. Piper lived in youth hostels and hitchhiked. Despite his nomadic lifestyle, he was an accomplished bagpipe player and claimed he played in the Rose Bowl at age 12 before being nationally recognized for his abilities on the instrument at age 14.

It was the bagpipes that led to Piper’s career in wrestling. Playing with a band one night at the Winnipeg Arena when he was still a teenager, Piper—who was also an amateur wrestler and boxer—volunteered to step in for a wrestler who didn’t show up for a scheduled bout against Larry Henning. Piper came to the ring in a kilt and was announced as “Roddy the Piper.” Though the bout lasted just 10 seconds, he had found his calling.

2. Roddy Piper once wrestled a bear.

Before Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (later World Wrestling Entertainment) organized pro wrestling in the United States, various regional organizations would do whatever they could to garner attention and fans. While performing in Fresno, California, a young Piper got an offer to wrestle “The Bear.” Piper believed this was one of wrestling’s theatrical nicknames. It wasn’t. The promoter, Roy Scheiers, wanted Piper to grapple with a real Kodiak bear that had been declawed. Though Piper was expected to try and pin the bear, the animal maintained a dominant position until its handler used a tranquilizer to end the match. Piper later discovered a friend had smeared honey in his trunks to make the bear more aggressive.

3. Roddy Piper was a black belt in judo.

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka look on as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper battles WWE Superstar Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 25 in 2009.Bill Olive/Getty Images

When Piper moved to California in 1973, he wrestled frequently at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. The promoter for the territory was Mike LeBell, who had a half-brother, Gene LeBell, a renowned martial artist who practiced judo. Piper and Gene LeBell became friends. LeBell taught him judo and eventually awarded Piper a black belt in the art.

4. Roddy Piper suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of wrestling.

While wrestling may sometimes be dismissed as fake, injuries are a very real and common occurrence for its athletes. In 1983, Piper agreed to wrestle a “dog collar match” with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. In the bout, the men would be connected via a chain attached to their respective neck collars. When one wrestler had enough slack on the chain, he would use it to assault his opponent. Having the chain smashed into his head broke Piper’s left eardrum and cost him a 50 percent loss of hearing in that ear. Owing to the nature of wrestling tours, Piper and Valentine wrestled the same dog collar match dozens of times over the next two months.

5. Roddy Piper did not get along with Mr. T.

When McMahon had consolidated a number of wrestling territories in the 1980s, his next move was to create a large-scale event with a lot of hype behind it. WrestleMania debuted in 1985 and featured Hulk Hogan and Mr. T taking on Paul Orndorff and Piper in the main event. Mr. T was a celebrity thanks to his performance as Clubber Lang in 1982’s Rocky III as well as the NBC television series The A-Team. But Piper was wary of losing a bout to someone who was only making a passing appearance in the wrestling world and told McMahon he wouldn’t allow Mr. T to defeat him in the bout. It was Orndorff who was pinned. For WrestleMania 2 the following year, Piper and Mr. T faced each other again, this time in a simulated boxing match. Piper lost by disqualification after body-slamming Mr. T, a clear violation of the rules.

6. John Carpenter cast Roddy Piper in They Live because the wrestler walked funny.

Roddy Piper stars in They Live (1988).Shout! Factory

In 1988’s They Live, a drifter with the enigmatic name of John Nada (Piper) discovers a subversive alien plot to control humans via subliminal messages. Director John Carpenter cast Piper after meeting the wrestler following his match in 1987’s WrestleMania III. “Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him,” Carpenter told Starlog in 1988. “He has been hit so many times, that he is really broken up. He even walks funny, because his pelvis was shattered and his back was wrenched. He is definitely not a pretty boy. He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever met. You could run a truck into Roddy, and he would still be standing.”

Piper’s shopworn physicality won him the role. They Live went on to become a cult classic, in part due to a ridiculously long fight scene between Piper and actor Keith David.

7. Roddy Piper became a member of G.I. Joe.

In 2007, Hasbro unveiled a limited-edition G.I. Joe figure of Piper as an Iron Grenadier Trainer from the Scottish Army for their annual International G.I. Joe Convention. He joined fellow wrestler Sergeant Slaughter, who debuted as a Joe in the 1980s. Piper also appeared at the convention to sign autographs.

8. Roddy Piper released a pop song in 1992.

Along with Hulk Hogan and other wrestlers, Piper helped popularize the WWE in the 1980s by appearing alongside singer Cyndi Lauper in music videos and on MTV. Lauper even got in the ring on occasion. In 1992, Piper got out of his own comfort zone by recording a single, “I’m Your Man,” that was released in the UK by Epic Records. You can watch Piper croon in the video above.