Jack Roosevelt Robinson re-broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947, becoming the first black man to play at the game's highest levels in the modern era. To those who haven't studied Robinson, he must seem like a lucky guy who came along at the right time. Robinson, though, was an intentional choice. When Brooklyn General Manager Branch Rickey targeted Robinson, he searched for a man with recognizable talent, unshakable courage, and above all, unrelenting composure.
You see, Robinson wasn't the first black player qualified to play on the grandest stage. He wasn't even the best player of his era. Before there was a Robinson, there were guys like Josh Gibson - the "Black Babe Ruth" - and Oscar Charleston, who ESPN writer David Schoenfield called "Willie Mays before Willie Mays." During the 1930s, pitcher Satchel Paige dominated hitters like no pitcher had in baseball history. In 1945, Robinson shared a Kansas City Monarchs bench with Hilton Smith, a 2001 Hall of Fame inductee who was known as one of the best hitters and pitchers in all of baseball. Robinson wasn't like many of these men. While others were flashy, his game was more grit than glamor. In fact, some historians argue that Robinson rated baseball as his third favorite sport.
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