Greatest sports figures in L.A. history, No. 10: Jackie Robinson
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Continuing our countdown of the 20 greatest figures in L.A. sports history, as chosen in voting by our online readers, with No. 10, Jackie Robinson.
No. 10 Jackie Robinson (21 first-place votes, 1,702 points)
It was interesting to watch the votes come in for Jackie Robinson, particularly through the comments on our original blog post asking for votes. As soon as someone would vote for Robinson, it seemed someone else would chime in, chastising the person for not realizing Robinson never played with the Dodgers in L.A. Which just goes to show how a man can be remembered for one thing almost to the exclusion of everything else. When you think Jackie Robinson, you think ‘broke the color barrier in baseball’ and have to be reminded of his outstanding legacy as one of the greatest athletes in UCLA history.
Robinson was UCLA’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. He was one of four black players on the 1939 UCLA Bruins football team (Woody Strode, Kenny Washington and Ray Bartlett were the others).
In track and field, Robinson won the long jump at the 1940 NCAA men’s outdoor track and field championship, jumping 24 feet, 10 1/2 inches.
In basketball, Robinson won two consecutive conference scoring titles.
He hit less than .200 with the Bruins baseball team, making baseball his worst sport at UCLA.
Robinson was also a standout athlete at Pasadena Muir High and Pasadena junior college.
Robinson’s life after UCLA could fill several books. He is a more-than-worthy addition to this list. As former UCLA chancellor Norm Abrams once said: ‘He was the first athlete in UCLA history to letter in four sports in the same year, but it is his abiding dignity and unshakable conviction that we most appreciate and that made him a true champion. The entire Bruin family treasures his legacy.’
-- Houston Mitchell