Dodger Jackie Robinson changed baseball in many ways.

File – Dodger Jackie Robinson rounds first during a game against the Giants. (Photo By George Silk/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)

April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, and the most famous number 42 in sports had such an impact that he not only changed baseball, but changed our society. On this date 68 years ago, Robinson made his Brooklyn Dodgers debut against the Boston Braves.

It took a brave man to go against the grain of what was seen as acceptable in society, and he showed it with class and stoicism in the face of unimaginable adversity.

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Today, all the players in the MLB will wear 42 in honor of this great American legend.

While we all know what Jackie Robinson did and how it changed us, we tend to forget the athletes who wouldn’t have taken the field, if it wasn’t for this pioneer. Here are three African American baseball legends who followed in Robinson’s footsteps.

Barry Bonds – The King of the Home Run

The San Francisco Giants legend destroyed the home run record. In his twenty-second season in the MLB, he crushed a record 762 dingers.

In August 7, 2007, Bonds smacked home run 756 into the stands, breaking Hank Aaron‘s home run record.  In 2001, he also broke a record that looked unbeatable. He smashed 73 pitches into the outfield bleachers― and sometimes into the ocean― to break Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record.

The 14-time all-star is the most feared hitter of all time.

Bob Gibson – The Scariest Man to Stand on a Mound

Bob Gibson is the definition of a game-breaker. The former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher has a lifetime ERA of 2.91 that is mind boggling. In his 1968 season, he earned 22 wins and an insane 1.12 ERA. Basically, he was an unhittable, video game type of pitcher.

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His biggest impact on the game was the change in the height of the mound. He was so dominant that field managers had to drop the height of the mound by five inches just to give hitters a chance.

He did all this of during a time when race relations were still very difficult.  The title “hall of famer” falls short when describing a player like Bob Gibson.

Hank Aaron – The Man Who Toppled the Babe

When you talk baseball, and more specifically hitters, you will always hear the name Babe Ruth. On April 8, 1974 Hammerin’ Hank hit the 715th home run of his career, breaking George Herman Ruth’s nearly 40-year-old record. This was one of the records most people thought was never going to be broken. Aaron amassed 755 home runs in his hall of fame career.

These are just some of the players we should be thank Jackie for. There are many more still to come.


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