Ultimate Athletes Countdown: Jackie Robinson

Ultimate Athletes Countdown: Jackie Robinson

Ultimate Athlete

Ultimate Athletes Countdown: Jackie Robinson


We're counting down the Top 10 male and female all-time Ultimate Athletes. Previously: Lolo Jones, LeBron James, Mary Lou Retton, Michael Jordan, Cheryl Miller, Ray Lewis, Kelly Amonte-Hiller, Allen Iverson, Bonnie Blair, Dave Winfield, Mary Decker Slaney, Jim Brown, Lisa Leslie, Joe Mauer, Mia Hamm, Bo Jackson and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

2. Jackie Robinson

First black athlete to play Major League Baseball and a member of baseball's Hall of Fame, he was the first athlete at UCLA to letter in four sports: baseball, football, basketball and track and field.

FOR THE WIN: Vin Scully once beat Robinson in an ice-skating race

Why Him: He was a five-sport athlete at John Muir High in Pasadena, playing football, baseball, track and field, basketball and tennis. He went on to become UCLA's first four-letter man, competing in baseball, basketball, football and track and field. On the Bruins' basketball team, he led the Pacific Coast Conference Southern Division (now Pac-12) in scoring in 1940 and 1941. In track and field, he won the 1940 NCAA long jump. In football, he was named an All-American as a running back, leading the nation in 1939 in average yards gained with 12 yards per carry and in punt returns with 20 yards a return. Ironically, baseball was his worst sport in college. He played only one year at UCLA, hitting .097. He left UCLA early because of finances, but was good enough to play professionally or semiprofessionally in football, basketball and baseball.

In 1941, he played for the Honolulu Bears, a semipro racially integrated football team, then the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast Football League. In basketball, he played for the Los Angeles Red Devils. He didn't play professionally in baseball until after a stint in the Army during World War II. After the war, he played in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1945, he hit .387 with the Monarchs, made the Negro League All-Star Game and was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He spent one season in the minors, playing for the Montreal Royals, and was named the International League's Most Valuable Player. In 1949, he was called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers and he was named the National League's Rookie of the Year after hitting .297 with 12 homers and a league-leading 29 steals. In 1949, he won the NL batting title with a .342 average and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. He went on to hit .311 for his career and made six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949-1954.

Ultimate Moment: Robinson stole home 19 times in his career, but by 1955, he was slowed by age and diabetes, only a year from retiring. Yet, in the first game of the World Series against the Yankees, he stole home and the Dodgers went on to win their first World Series.

Funky fact: His older brother Mack finished second to Jesse Owens in the 100-meter race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.


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