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Jackie Robinson played for Kansas City Monarchs before MLB debut

Jackie Robinson Pic 1
Posted at 8:30 AM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 09:30:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Seventy-five years ago, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson wore number 42 for the Dodgers and broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Kansas City played a major role in his journey to make history.

“Before he was number 42, he was number five for the Kansas City Monarchs,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

How did Jackie Robinson wind up in Kansas City? He was born in Cairo, Georgia. Robinson was an incredible all-around athlete at the University of California-Las Angeles before getting drafted into the Army and being stationed in Kansas.

“He was stationed in the Army at Ft. Riley and the great Joe Lewis helped Jackie get into officer school. When Jackie gets into officer school, he’s transferred to Ft. Hood in Texas. Hilton Smith had seen Jackie played baseball in the military and he recommended Jackie Robinson to J.L. Wilkinson,” Kendrick explained.

Hilton Smith, a future hall-of-famer himself, played for the Kansas City Monarchs.

Kendrick said many of the Monarchs players were gone serving in WWII when Robinson reached out to J.L. Wilkinson, the owner of the Monarchs, for a tryout.

“So if they had their full roster, I don’t think Jackie would have ever gotten invited to try out and how would history have been altered?" he remarked.

But Robinson got the tryout and made the team. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs for five months in 1945 before later donning 42 for the Dodgers and making his Major League debut in 1947.

Friday, on the 75th Anniversary of his debut, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will unveil a historical marker that used to sit at Jackie Robinson’s birthplace in Georgia. It was vandalized in 2021 and has since been replaced, but the damaged marker will now be permanently held at the museum.

“This to us was a perfect way to remember the enduring legacy of Jackie Robinson but also the need that we have to have dialogue, meaningful dialogue about social injustice and this effort to eradicate hate in our society and this is the place that it should happen. So we’re thrilled to welcome it home,” Kendrick said.