Baseball still holds a special place in the culture of the United States. As this year’s season opened around the nation’s capital, we began to see more and more people wearing baseball caps, shirts and jackets with their team’s favorite logo.
Though baseball has been a part of the culture of the United States for many years, not all were allowed to play in the major leagues. The Library of Congress timeline “Baseball, the Color Line and Jackie Robinson” documents the history of minority involvement in baseball, including April 15, 1947, the day Jackie Robinson broke the color line established in 1887.
In spite of abuse from both baseball fans and other teams, as well as threats against him and his family, Robinson played for ten seasons with the Brooklyn (later Los Angeles) Dodgers, had a lifetime batting average of .311, and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant several times. In 1955, he helped them win the World Series. His number 42 was permanently retired by the Major Leagues in 1997.
The Primary Source Set Baseball Across a Divided Society provides a teaching guide and easy access to primary sources including images, sheet music and an early Edison film to help students learn more about baseball and its role in various communities in the United States.
- Compare the image of the baseball team from the US Naval Academy to the image of students from the Morris Brown College baseball team. What are the similarities and differences between the pictures?
- Students should read Branch Rickey’s speech for the “One Hundred Percent Wrong Club” where he discusses why he decided to bring an African American player into the major leagues. In it he describes the type of man he needed to break the color line. Why do your students think Jackie Robinson fit Rickey’s description?
- Students can study the timeline “Baseball, the Color Line and Jackie Robinson” and add other events that were taking place at the same time as those on the timeline. What parallels do they see? Ask them to consider how national and world events affected baseball.
The Library of Congress has other baseball related resources online including, of course, statistics! Explore Baseball Cards, 1887-1914 and Spalding Baseball Guides for primary sources that can be used to support math activities.
Ask your students why Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball had importance beyond the baseball field. Let us know in the comments how they responded and what questions they had.