On April 15, 65 years ago, Jackie Robinson entered Major League Baseball with a bang. He would earn the first-ever MLB Rookie of the Year award that same year and go on two years later to win the MVP award in 1949 after racking up 124 RBIs and a .342 batting average (the first of six consecutive All-Star years where he would hit above .300). In both these pivotal seasons, his rookie year and his NL MVP season, he led the major leagues in stolen bases.
It is easy to remember his contribution to the integration of baseball, but at times we forget that this was a player who was productive. His lifetime batting average was .311, his lifetime on-base percentage was .409. He could run you out of the stadium, he could hit you out of the stadium. He was that good. And if you want to bring in relatively new statistics, his NL wins above replacement was ranked in the top 10 from 1948 to 1953, including two years when he was No. 1. He even walked nearly three times as often as he struck out.
Playing under the stress of being a pioneer for integration is one thing, but to be productive in the face of it is another. And often it gets lost that he didn’t stop after his playing career was over.
The transition from player to former player brings every major leaguer to his knees at one point or another. Be it from the silence that now surrounds your thoughts, the seemingly instant emptiness from losing that access and connection to teammates, or the wayward search for what it is you are next qualified to do.
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