As the first black player in major league baseball, Jackie Robinson withstood considerable harassment. "He had to be bigger than the Brooklyn teammates who got up a petition to keep him off the ball club," Hank Aaron recalled, "bigger than the pitchers who threw at him or the base runners who dug their spikes into his shin, bigger than the bench jockeys who hollered for him to carry their bags and shine their shoes, bigger than the so-called fans who mocked him with mops on their heads and wrote him death threats."
On the morning of his first appearance with the Dodgers (in 1947), Robinson kissed his wife goodbye at their hotel. "If you come down to Ebbets Field today you won't have any trouble recognizing me," he playfully remarked. "My number's 42."
["Before Jackie Robinson broke the color line, I wasn't permitted even to think about being a professional baseball player," Aaron recalled. "I once mentioned something to my father about it, and he said, 'Ain't no colored ballplayers.'" In 1944, as a second lieutenant, Robinson risked a court-martial by refusing to take a seat in the back of an army bus. In 1997, he became the first player to have his number retired by Major League Baseball.]