The Great Jackie Robinson

Written By: Greg Howell - Jan• 22•20

It’s not a stretch to label Jackie Robinson the first African-American superstar on television. His inaugural year in fact, 1947, was the same year National League Baseball began regular broadcasts on network television. And Jackie Robinson was the discussion, initially for the wrong reasons, around television sets across the country.

By October 1947, with the first broadcast of the World Series, and coincidentally, a legendery series by Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees, the “edge-of-your-seat” series generated tremendous excitement for television. And Jackie emerged a superstar.

Jackie Robinson Promotional Photograph

Jackie Robinson’s dignity was evident. His stance on non-violence, and his remarkable talent for baseball, hitting runs, and stealing bases quickly moved the needle toward inclusion and desegregation. 3.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the series finale; with only 10,000 sets in the New York viewing area, the per television viewers numbered 40 to 50 for each set!

Television sales immediately escalated after the series, as did Jackie Robinson’s approval ratings. Jackie became legendary overnight. By 1950, a successful documentary movie was released. Jackie’s unparalleled courage in the game of baseball was noticed and rewarded, despite the occasional set-backs.

Jackie Robinson and Dan Bankhead after the Dodgers won the sixth game of the 1947 World Series. Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

In 1949, he had to testify for the House UnAmerican Activities Committee regarding a close friend; he had little option, as he would have certainly been implicated as a communist otherwise.

Finally, in 1955, and the first color telecast of a World Series, Robinson and the Dodgers won the series in another 7-game nail biter. Even though Robinson would retire in a few years, his impact on televised baseball was gigantic.

As reported by The New York Times, in the late 1950’s, Robinson hosted a television show emphasizing morality and ethics. Airing on WOR in New York, it showcased the importance of maintaining personal dignity and making moral choices.

He overcame the greatest obstacles to be heralded as one of the greatest of baseball players, but most remarkable and significant, he had crossed the unfair barriers of racism. He brought into focus that Americans were Americans, no matter their color. Jackie Robinson became one of the most celebrated and honored men walking the entire earth.


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