FORT HOOD, Texas – Before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier 74 years ago this day, he had to fight for justice as an Army officer stationed on Fort Hood.
While riding on a bus on post, Robinson was told to sit in the back of the bus because he was black. The buses were not segregated by race, but rather by rank – so Robinson was allowed to sit in the front.
“He sat there and refused to move, and he was arrested,” says baseball historian Eric Robinson. “He was court-martialed over it, and it actually made the news. Not just local news, but national news.”
Facing a dishonorable discharge and possible jail time, Robinson was acquitted by an all-white panel. His courage in the face of adversity caught the attention of a certain Brooklyn Dodgers general manager.
“Branch Rickey. One of the reasons he even signed Jackie Robinson to be the one to break the color line was because of the incident at Fort Hood,” Robinson said. “He had already shown that he had been able to handle adversity.”
As they say, the rest is history.
More than 60 years on from Robinson’s retirement and half a century on from his death, his legacy still looms large over the next generation of ballplayers in Central Texas.
“I wouldn’t be able to play the game today without him,” says Harker Heights High School baseball player Eric Moore. “He kind of set that all in motion and made a way for me to be able to do what I do.”
Moore and his Harker Heights teammates celebrate Robinson’s legacy by playing the game of baseball with each other every day. For players like Moore who idolize him, the dream was made possible by Jackie Robinson.
“I feel like I could try to walk in his footsteps,” Moore said. “Since he was here, and I’m here, I can just try to do what he did.”
April 15th is celebrated annually around Major League Baseball as “Jackie Robinson Day.”