Robinson changed the face of baseball

Updated: October 17, 2005, 4:34 PM ET
By Larry Schwartz | Special to

Oct. 24, 1972

Challenging the prevailing social tide, Jackie Robinson single-handedly changed the face of baseball -- and America. A Hall of Famer, family man, civil rights leader and national hero, Robinson dies today at 53 after suffering a heart attack in his home in Stamford, Conn.

For sociological impact, Robinson was perhaps America's most significant athlete. He made history in 1947 by becoming the first African-American to play in the major leagues in the 20th century, becoming a pioneer for a generation of African-Americans in major pro sports after World War II.

Robinson's appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers prompted racial insults, both from opponents and teammates. He stood up with dignity to everything. The competitive infielder was the major league's Rookie of the Year and two years later was National League MVP. Pigeon-toed and muscular, his daring base running shook up opposing pitchers as he stole 197 bases and twice led the league in steals. He batted .311 in 10 seasons.

Robinson recovered from a heart attack in 1968, but then lost the sight of one eye and the partial sight of the other as a result of diabetes.