Previously In Sports: Black History Month

By Rachel Puglia
Elm Staff Writer

Although February is the shortest of the 12 months of the year it is full of important dates. Among them are Groundhog Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day, but since the year 1979, the entire month of February has also been known as Black History Month. The world of professional sports is one institution in American society that was slow to integrate African Americans on teams with White athletes, but eventually the walls were broken and American sports teams eliminated racial segregation. Here are some historic moments in African American sports history in honor of Black History month:

In the year 1950, Earl Lloyd of the Washington Capitals, Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics, and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton of the New York Knicks become the first African American NBA basketball players.

The Olympic Games are a worldwide event, but DeHart Hubbard, a Cincinnati Ohio native, was the first African American to win an individual Olympic Goal medal for team USA. This track and field star brought home the gold in the long jump during the 1924 Summer Games held in Paris, France.

Since Nov. 1, 1924, the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League have been at the epicenter of hockey in New England. Throughout the years the team has had many memorable moments, but one historical moment occurred on Jan. 18, 1958 when the first African American ice hockey player participated in a regular season NHL game. Willie O’Ree, originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada was the first African American to skate on NHL ice.

Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was the first African American to play in a Major League Baseball game. Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. As the first major league team to play a black man since the 1880s, the Dodgers ended racial segregation that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades. Over 10 seasons, all of which but the first he played as a second baseman, Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship. He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954, was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player so honored. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, Major League Baseball “universally” retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.

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