Jackie Robinson, the legendary African-American who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier, would have been 97 years old Sunday. Robinson made history as the first black man to play in the MLB April 15, 1947, when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson was born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia, and was a standout athlete at the University of California, Los Angeles, earning varsity letters in baseball, basketball, football and track. He served in the military 1942-44, then played baseball in the negro leagues. In 1945, Dodgers executive Branch Rickey lobbied Robinson to play for Brooklyn. Robinson would go on to make history — persevering through terrible, persistent racism and threats — by becoming the first African-American to play in the MLB, which had previously been segregated.


Robinson not only made history, he thrived in the majors, becoming one of the greatest players of all time. Playing mostly as a second baseman, he retired with a .311 batting average, a rookie-of-the-year nod, an MVP win and six all-star selections. 

Robinson died Oct. 24, 1972, at 53 after suffering a heart attack. Robinson's number, 42, was retired by the MLB in 1997. Players are allowed to wear the number only every April 15, the day Robinson broke the color barrier. Everyone who takes the field that day now dons a 42 jersey to remember the legendary man who changed sports and the country as a whole.


Listed below are 12 quotes attributed to Robinson to help celebrate his birthday, all of which were collected from Brainy Quote, government archives and WABC:

1. "I don't think that I or any other negro, as an American citizen, should have to ask for anything that is rightfully his. We are demanding that we just be given the things that are rightfully ours and that we're not looking for anything else."

2. "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me — all I ask is that you respect me as a human being."

3. "Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead."

4. "Civil rights is not by any means the only issue that concerns me — nor, I think any other negro. As Americans, we have as much at stake in this country as anyone else. But since effective participation in a democracy is based upon enjoyment of basic freedoms that everyone else takes for granted, we need make no apologies for being especially interested in catching up on civil rights."

5. "There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free."

6. "I won't 'have it made' until the most underprivileged negro in Mississippi can live in equal dignity with anyone else in America."

7. "Life is not a spectator sport — if you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."

8. "How you played in yesterday's game is all that counts."

9. "It kills me to lose. If I'm a troublemaker — and I don't think that my temper makes me one — then it's because I can't stand losing. That's the way I am about winning; all I ever wanted to do was finish first."

10. "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

11. "Baseball was just a part of my life. Thank God that I didn't allow a sport or a business or any part of my life to dominate me completely — I felt that I had my time in athletics, and that was it."

12. "The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time."