Year Inducted: 1962 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 124/160)
Someone, eventually, was going to be the first African American player in the modern game. There is no way the country would allow its major sport to continue segregating under an old “gentleman’s agreement”, especially when racial tensions were starting to come to the forefront of the American Consciousness. Before Brown vs Board of Ed, before Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, before the Civil Rights Amendment, there was baseball once again at the head of the country and showing them the way forward. All it took was one man to do it all. One person to take all the torture and hell that was directed at seemingly every African American in the country, and to be the focus of all the hate and hope of a nation. That man was, of course, Jackie Robinson.
Robinson played 10 years for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was an incredibly gifted and valuable player, hitting .311/.409/.474 with a wRC+ of 135-eerily similar to the last short career covered around here. But, unlike Kiner whose value was based on his power and batting eye, Robinson had everything but home run power. He only hit 137 home runs in his career (which is great for a middle infielder), but he also collected 273 doubles and 54 triples as part of his 1500+ hits.
While at college, Robinson was a multi-sport star and it’s easy to see his athleticism by just looking at his numbers. Not only was he an adept hitter, but he also stole 197 bases, was worth almost 30 runs on the base paths, and was worth about 94 runs defensively. Robinson was really a player that had all 5 tools, and utilized every single one of them.
Due to everything mentioned in the opening paragraph, as well as WWII, Robinson didn’t play in the bigs until he was 28 years old, so a brief career is to be expected. It is, in fact, the only thing holding him back in a study like this, where the only thing considered are the statistics. Robinson may be the most culturally significant player in baseball history. Ruth, Cobb, Mantle and many others changed how the game was played (especially Ruth); Robinson helped change a nation. He went through pure Hell on Earth and had to endure hardships and hatred the likes most of us combined wouldn’t know of, and he excelled through it. Robinson was truly one of the greatest to play the game.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/17/16, along with Bob Feller, this pitcher helped guide the Indians to their most recent championship.