The Tragic Death Of Jackie Robinson

Baseball legend Jackie Robinson is not only one of the greatest athletes of our time, but he’s a major figure in both American and Black history.

He was born Jack Roosevelt Robinson on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia (via Biography). His family relocated to California when he was a boy, and he spent most of his upbringing in the Golden State. Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College and the University of California, Los Angeles, where one of the many sports he played was baseball. He also joined the Army, and when WWII ended, he went back to his passion for baseball. 

His athletic career got started when he joined the now defunct Negro National League, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. Afterward, Robinson met with a man named Branch Rickey. Rickey was the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers (now Los Angeles Dodgers), and he recruited Robinson to play for the Montreal Royals — a training team for the Dodgers — per the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. But his next major career move would change his life and history.

Jackie Robinson makes history

Rickey (pictured above with Robinson) would then move him to the highest level of baseball, when he offered Robinson a chance to play in the big league. Jackie Robinson became a familiar name in the sports world when he broke the color barrier of baseball by becoming the first contracted major league Black baseball player in America. When Robinson signed with the Dodgers in 1947, he integrated a professional sport that had once kept Black and white players separate. His baseball debut would change the course of all American sports in the years to come forever. Because not long after, more Black players would join the league, according to History. Throughout his career, Robinson earned a lot of achievements in the league. He would be named rookie of the year in 1947 (via National Baseball Hall of Fame), won MVP in 1949, and he appeared in six finals games — finally winning with his team in 1955, per History

The following year, Jackie Robinson retired from baseball at 37 years old, but he’d accomplish so much. After retiring, he continued to be a visible face in the sport, supporting and advocating for other Black players, and he supported the civil rights movement. In 1962, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Failing health leads to Jackie Robinson's death

Jackie Robinson’s achievements in changing baseball is a feat he’ll always be remembered for. He could’ve enjoyed seeing a lot more fruits of his labor in old age, but his life was cut short on October 24, 1972. Robinson suffered a heart attack and died at 53, reported The New York Times in 1972.

Unfortunately, he had spent years with a series of health issues — physical and internal illnesses. According to Diatribe, Robinson dealt with several of those health concerns while he played on the Dodgers. He also had poor eating habits that contributed to his varying weight loss and gains. As a result, at some point before or after his retirement, Robinson was diagnosed with diabetes. His life with the disease would cause some complications and force him to take several trips to seek medical care.

Things only got worse for Robinson when he would suffer from diminishing eyesight and have difficulty with the mobility of his legs as a result of his condition. The disease brought him down significantly, and it drastically changed how he moved around. Adding on to his health issues, Robinson was mourning the loss of his oldest son Jackie Jr. in 1971. Unfortunately, it would take a toll on his heart when he had a heart attack. He was survived by his wife Rachel, his son David, and daughter Sharon.

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