Skip To Content
Baseball player skids across floor

Barriers Broken

While a student at UCLA, Jackie Robinson becomes the school's first athlete to letter in four sports. A few years later, he is the first black athlete to play in Major League Baseball, a proud moment for UCLA.

At the age of 28, former UCLA student Jackie Robinson began his Major League Baseball career -- one that would span a decade and earn him countless awards and honors, including a World Series title. But one day in 1947, when Robinson first stepped out onto the field in front of more than 26,000 spectators at Ebbets Field, baseball wasn’t just about to change. Everything was.

A star athlete in high school and junior college, Robinson enrolled at UCLA, where he became the first Bruin to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track, though at the time, baseball was considered his weakest sport. After serving in the army during World War II, Robinson returned to baseball in 1945 when he joined the Negro leagues. Still, he had his eye on the majors, even though no African American had played in the major leagues since Moses Fleetwood Walker back in 1884.

Braving an uphill battle in a sport heavily dominated by segregation and racial animus, Jackie Robinson won a spot on a minor league team before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. On April 15th, 1947, he became the first African American player in modern history to openly break the major league baseball color line. The impact would be felt for decades to come, across both the sports world and society as a whole. Retiring from baseball at the age of 37, Robinson continued to tirelessly support the growing civil rights movement across the country, prompting Martin Luther King, Jr. to call him “a legend and a symbol in his own time” who “challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.”