Black Bruin History

Jackie Robinson’s celebrated place in history for breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier began with his impressive college career at UCLA.  Jackie is the only Bruin to individually letter in 4 different sports – baseball, basketball, football and track.  On April 15, 1947, he solidified his place in history as the first African American player to step onto a MLB field, which had been segregated for over 50 years.  His jersey number 42 would later be retired by all MLB teams in 1997.  MLB celebrates this historic event every April 15 as “Jackie Robinson Day.”

Although hard to believe, Jackie Robinson’s “worst” sport at UCLA was baseball.  He had better success in football, basketball and track.  In football, he played on offense, defense and special teams.  He was one of four African American players on UCLA’s 1939 football team, which was highly unusual and contrary to the traditions of the day. Two of his UCLA football teammates, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, became the first to break the NFL color barrier in 1946 as players for the Los Angeles Rams.

More information about this groundbreaking group of Bruins can be found in the book The Black Bruins by James Johnson.

Timeline

1939 – UCLA’s football team has its first undefeated season, thanks in part to the contributions of Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode and Ray Bartlett

1946 – Kenny Washington and Woody Strode play their first NFL game for the Los Angeles Rams

April 15, 1947 – Jackie puts on his first Dodgers baseball jersey, #42

1981 – UCLA opens its baseball park, Jackie Robinson Stadium

Jackie Robinson in his UCLA Football Uniform (ASUCLA Photography)

A commemorative Jackie Robinson shirt is available from the UCLA Store here: https://shop.uclastore.com/p-129331-ucla-42-baseball-t-shirt-blue.aspx

UCLA Alumni Jackie Robinson Profile: https://alumni.ucla.edu/ucla-history/ucla-history-3/

UCLA Athletics Celebrates Jackie Robinson: https://uclabruins.com/news/2014/4/15/209467368.aspx