MLB

Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King and sport's great trailblazers

By Sports Desk April 15, 2020

April 15 is 'Jackie Robinson Day' in MLB, an annual celebration of baseball's great trailblazer.

In 1947 a 28-year-old Robinson walked out onto Ebbets Field, Brooklyn and became the first black man to play professional baseball in the modern era.

Here we take a look at those who broke down barriers or revolutionised their sport with acts that continue to have lasting impacts.

 

JESSE OWENS

Not only did Owens crush his competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany, he also destroyed Adolf Hitler's Aryan supremacy theory in the process.

Owens, a black American born in Alabama, won gold over 100 and 200 metres, the long jump and the 4 x 100m relay, becoming the darling of the German public and reportedly annoying Hitler along the way.

In 1976, Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian honour for an American.

JACKIE ROBINSON

When he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day in 1947, Robinson ended 60 years of segregation in his sport.

By 1956, Robinson's final year in the majors, black players made up 6.7 per cent of major league rosters. That number was still only 7.7 per cent in 2019.

Robinson was a six-time All Star, the 1949 National League MVP and a 1955 World Series champion. His number 42 is retired by every MLB franchise.

BILLIE JEAN KING

King was not only an incredibly successful player - one who won 39 grand slam titles across singles, doubles and mixed doubles - she was also a pioneer for women's tennis.

In 1970, frustrated by a disparity in prize money between men and women, King led a group of nine women to form a new competition, which eventually led to the formation of the WTA Tour.

King also beat former men's world number one Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes in 1973, a match that was watched by 90 million people worldwide and was considered key to gaining greater recognition for women's tennis.

JIMMY HILL

Players paid £100,000s every week owe a debt of gratitude to Hill, the former chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

Back in the 1950s, players in England were only allowed to earn a maximum of £20 a week due to a Football League salary cap that Hill, in his role with the PFA, successfully campaigned to scrap in 1961.

Later that year Hill's Fulham team-mate Johnny Haynes became the country's first £100-a-week player. Today, Lionel Messi has a wage in excess of €600,000 per week.

DICK FOSBURY

The creators of the Cruyff Turn and the Dilscoop might have produced feats of skill worthy of bearing their names, but neither man completely redefined the way their entire sport is approached.

Fosbury began experimenting with a new way to perform the high jump during high school and his success with the Fosbury Flop started to be replicated by others.

The American won gold at the 1968 Olympics. Four years later over half of the high jumpers used Fosbury's technique. Today it remains the most popular method to try and clear the bar.

Related items

  • Halep edges out Hercog on WTA Tour return in Prague Halep edges out Hercog on WTA Tour return in Prague

    Simona Halep made a winning return to the WTA Tour, edging past Polona Hercog 6-1 1-6 7-6 (7-3) in the opening round of the Prague Open.

    In her first professional match in almost half a year, world number two Halep, who skipped last week's Palermo Open and will not make a decision on whether to play the US Open or not until after the tournament in the Czech Republic, was made to work hard for victory by the unseeded Hercog.

    The Romanian picked up an early break and responded to dropping her serve in game three of the first by reeling off the next four in succession to take the set.

    When Halep started the second set by breaking Hercog the writing appeared to be on the wall, but the Slovenian world number 46 fought back valiantly to force a decider in emphatic fashion.

    Halep was unable to convert any of the six match points that came her way after breaking for a 5-3 lead, with Hercog clinging on to take the match to a third-set tie-break.

    After failing to consolidate an opening mini-break, Hercog's resistance was finally broken after two hours and five minutes when a forehand into the net sent top seed Halep into the second round.

    Wildcard Barbora Krejcikova ensured Halep's next match would not be an all-Romanian affair by beating Patricia Maria Tig 6-4 6-3.

    Second seed Petra Martic defeated Varvara Gracheva 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 and third seed Elise Mertens needed three sets to overcome Jasmine Paolini 7-5 4-6 6-3.

    A number of other seeded players were not as successful. Ekaterina Alexandrova (5) fell to qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6) went down 7-5 6-2 to Arantxa Rus, and Anastasija Sevastova (9) lost 6-2 6-2 to Irina-Camelia Begu.

  • Sturgeon issues yellow card as Celtic games called off following Bolingoli breach Sturgeon issues yellow card as Celtic games called off following Bolingoli breach

    Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the entire SPFL season was at risk after two Celtic fixtures were postponed following a breach of coronavirus restrictions. 

    Boli Bolingoli travelled to Spain without Celtic's knowledge and did not follow quarantine rules upon his return, going on to play in the 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock on Sunday. 

    Celtic condemned the Belgian's "stupidity", apologising to the league for his "irresponsible action" in a strongly worded statement. 

    Neil Lennon's team had been due to play St Mirren on Wednesday and Aberdeen on Saturday, but those games – along with Aberdeen's midweek clash with Hamilton Academical – will not now take place. 

    Before the SPFL confirmed the cancellations, Sturgeon said: "I don't want the season to be in jeopardy. But we have to be very clear this situation is not acceptable. 

    "You should not be expecting to see Aberdeen or Celtic play over the course of the coming week. Consider today the yellow card. The next time it will be the red card because you will leave us with absolutely no choice." 

    Bolingoli's blunder came after two Aberdeen players tested positive for coronavirus, with eight players from the Pittodrie club issuing an apology for breaking guidelines after visiting a bar following their opening-weekend defeat to Rangers.  

    Sturgeon has been left furious by the footballers' conduct and said in her daily briefing on Tuesday: "What I regret is that some football players seem incapable of living up to their responsibilities." 

    She added: "This is just not acceptable. Every day I'm asking members of the public to make huge sacrifices in how they live their lives and the vast majority of members of public are doing that and it's not easy. 

    "We can't have privileged football players deciding they're not going to bother. This can't go on." 

    Celtic did not hold back in their condemnation of Bolingoli, who has tested negative for COVID-19.  

    A club statement read: "It is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible action in current circumstances and we find it beyond explanation. The club will take immediate action through our own disciplinary procedures. 

    "All of our playing and backroom staff have been tested twice for COVID-19 since this incident and all, including the player in question, have tested negative. While this comes as a relief to all concerned, it in no way diminishes the seriousness or stupidity of the player's actions." 

    Bolingoli said: "I am guilty of a major error of judgement. I know what I did was wrong and I know that I must now deal with the consequences."

  • Bayern 'cautiously optimistic' on Alaba extension, want 'fair fee' for Thiago Bayern 'cautiously optimistic' on Alaba extension, want 'fair fee' for Thiago

    Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is "cautiously optimistic" that David Alaba will sign a contract extension with the Bundesliga champions. 

    Versatile defender Alaba has less than a year remaining on his existing deal at the Allianz Arena but, according to reports, the club are unwilling to meet his demand for a €20million annual salary. 

    Hansi Flick has expressed his hope that the Austria international will finish his career at Bayern, who are gearing up for a Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona in Lisbon on Friday. 

    Alaba is expected to re-enter negotiations with the Bavarian giants once their European campaign is over and Rummenigge believes an agreement will be reached. 

    "With Alaba, I am cautiously optimistic we will find a solution," Rummenigge told the media on Tuesday.

    Bayern look set to lose Thiago Alcantara, however, with the midfielder having informed the club of his desire to leave. 

    Thiago has a contract until the end of the 2020-21 season but is available for "a fair fee" amid links to Premier League champions Liverpool. 

    Rummenigge said: "Thiago is known to have told us he would like to do something new. If a club approaches us that is willing to pay a fair fee, we will deal with it." 

    Having already signed Leroy Sane from Manchester City in a deal that could reach €60m, Rummenigge insisted there will be no further significant outlays. 

    Bayern opted against exercising their option to make Philippe Coutinho's loan from Barca permanent and any lingering hopes of remaining in Munich appear to have been dashed. 

    "Coutinho - as I said, the contract is running out and we cannot and will not make any further investments of this magnitude," said Rummenigge.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.