If January 31 seems a bit early for a Jackie Robinson celebration, you're not entirely wrong.
Typically, Major League Baseball honors its first African-American player on April 15 - the day he made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The standard practice is for major league players to don No. 42 in homage to Robinson.
But Google has kicked off the celebration a little early this year with a Google doodle on Jackie Robinson's birthday. And Google is not alone.
"We believe that Boston children should learn the story of Robinson, what he endured, and how his character led him to succeed in what many consider the beginning of the civil rights movement. Children are free to dream of any career, and to pursue those dreams and careers, thanks in part to Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. It's an important story to tell. Hollywood will do so in grand style this April [when the movie is released], and we are doing so in our intimate, grass-roots style," Red Sox senior advisor Dr. Charles Steinberg said in a press release on MLB.com.
On April 12, the movie "42" opens. It's a new bio pic about Robinson by the same folks who produced "Ray" - the 2004 movie about the life of jazz pianist and singer Ray Charles. The movie stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers president.
Rickey signed Robinson and championed the integration of major league baseball. The movie accurately portrays Branch as telling Robinson that he was chosen not only for his great baseball skills, but also for his ability to maintain his composure under fire. And Robinson's composure was tested. Right from the beginning, his own teammates objected to a black man playing on their team. Players on other teams refused to play against the Dodgers, and the fans made derogatory comments and threw things at him. But Dodgers management, and some of his teammates stood by him.
"In one incident, while fans harassed Robinson from the stands, Dodgers shortstop and team captain Pee Wee Reese walked over and put his arm around his teammate, a gesture that has become legendary in baseball history," notes Biography.com.
In his rookie year, Robinson helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant. He led the league in stolen bases, hit 12 home runs, and was named Rookie of the Year. He played with the Dodgers for a decade, and in 1955 helped the team claim baseball's ultimate victory: The World Series.
Robinson was not just an example, but also a voice for change.
"In July 1949, he testified on discrimination before the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1952, he publicly called out the Yankees as a racist organization for not having broken the color barrier five years after he began playing with the Dodgers," notes Biography.com.
After he retired, he continued to support the cause of civil rights and served on the board of the NAACP.
According to "Grand Slams and Fumbles" by Peter Bellenson, Robinson once said: "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."