There's been a ton of pixels spilled over Jackie Robinson Day, and what I want to add is this: One thing many people forget about Robinson is that, in addition to being a pioneer and a hero, he was a hell of a ballplayer. A hell of a ballplayer. By some measures, he was the best player in all of baseball from 1949 through 1952—ahead of Musial, Williams, Campanella, Kiner, Snider, and others. And he was already 30 years old when he began that streak. Imagine what he could have done if he’d come to the majors as a 22-year-old instead of as a 28-year-old.
Another question I’ve thought about: Could he have played better if he hadn’t had to put up with the beanballs and racist epithets? I say no. I think sticking it to the racists helped motivate Robinson to become the player he was.