Seventy-five years ago this fall, a star athlete was the talk of west coast college football.
Jackie Robinson had transferred from Pasadena City College and his impact on the Bruins’ athletic program was immediate. On October 7, during a game in Seattle, he grabbed a Washington punt and darted 63 yards to set up a touchdown by Kenny Washington, one of four African-American players on the UCLA roster, making them the most integrated team in college football.
This original image of Robinson on the gridiron is our Photo of the Day from RMY Auctions. It’s one of more than 1,200 news and sports photos up for bid through November 15. The 7×9” photo shows Robinson on the run in a leather helmet, being pursued by Huskies defenders. The caption, still attached to the back of the photo, reveals that not everyone knew him well. Robinson is referred to as “John Robinson, the sophomore Negro halfback”.
The caption is dated and the back is also stamped with the date it was filed into archives.
The Bruins of ’39 would go undefeated–winning six under first-year coach Edwin Horrell–but remarkably, tying four of their ten games.
At UCLA, Jackie would become the first student-athlete to earn a letter in four different sports: baseball, football, track and field and basketball.
Of course, baseball is where Robinson make his mark in history, breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947 and becoming a Hall of Famer but at the time this image was captured, few could have imagined his impact on sports and society that would come within just few years.
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