Jackie Robinson Quotes

Inspiring words from the trailblazer who broke baseball's color barrier
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

Jackie Robinson was a legendary baseball player who broke the “Baseball color line” in Major League Baseball (MLB) when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Not only did he become the first African American player in the modern era of baseball, but he also excelled on the field and was awarded the MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. He went on to have a successful career and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

He also used his platform to advocate for the Civil rights movement and was a trailblazer for generations of athletes to come. His legacy lives on through the retired number 42 across all MLB teams. Here are some of the most inspiring quotes from Jackie Robinson.

Famous Quotes

“The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity.”

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

“How you played in yesterday’s game is all that counts.”

“It kills me to lose. If I’m a troublemaker, and I don’t think that my temper makes me one, then it’s because I can’t stand losing. That’s the way I am about winning, all I ever wanted to do was finish first.”

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.”

“Above anything else, I hate to lose.”

“I don’t think it matters what I believe, only what I do.”

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

“This ain’t fun. But you watch me, I’ll get it done.”

“The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and baseball with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it.”

“A life isn’t significant except for its impact on others’ lives.”

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”

“Many people resented my impatience and honesty, but I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect.”

“Next time I go to a movie and see a picture of a little ordinary girl become a great star… I’ll believe it. And whenever I hear my wife read fairy tales to my little boy, I’ll listen. I know now that dreams do come true.”

“The many of us who attain what we may and forget those who help us along the line we’ve got to remember that there are so many others to pull along the way. The farther they go, the further we all go.”

“We’re in a real crisis situation where many times people are being turned away at the door.”

“There’s not an American in this country free until every one of us is free.”

“I do not believe that every person, in every walk of life, can succeed in spite of any handicap. That would be perfection. But I do believe that what I was able to attain came to be because we put behind us (no matter how slowly) the dogmas of the past: to discover the truth of today; and perhaps the greatness of tomorrow.”

“I don’t like needing anyone for anything.”

“If I had been white with the things I did, they never would have allowed me to get out of baseball.”

“I’m not goin’ anywhere, I’m right here!”

“Pop flies, in a sense, are just a diversion for a second baseman. Grounders are his stock trade.”

“We live in a materialistic society in which money doesn’t talk—it screams.”

“When I am playing baseball, I give it all that I have on the ball field. When the ball game is over, I certainly don’t take it home. My little girl who is sitting out there wouldn’t know the difference between a third strike and a foul ball.”

“The colonel replied that he didn’t care how my men had got the job done. He was happy that it had been accomplished. He said that, obviously, no matter how much or how little I knew technically, I was able to get the best out of people I worked with.”

Baseball Quotes

“In my opinion, baseball is as big a business as anything there is. It has to be a business, the way it is conducted.”

“The only thing a manager has to do is relate to the players.”

“I felt unhappy and trapped. If I left baseball, where could I go, what could I do to earn enough money to help my mother and to marry Rachel? The solution to my problem was only days away in the hands of a tough, shrewd, courageous man called Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

“In all my years of baseball, I have always expected to be traded. I never liked the idea.”

“The old Dodgers were something special, but of my teammates overall, there was nobody like Pee Wee Reese for me.”

“I had practiced with the team, and the first scheduled game was with the University of Missouri. They made it quite clear to the Army that they would not play a team with a black player on it. Instead of telling me the truth, the Army gave me leave to go home.”

“When I look back at what I had to go through in black baseball, I can only marvel at the many black players who stuck it out for years in the Jim Crow leagues because they had nowhere else to go.”

“I think it was one of the greatest times ever in the world to play baseball. Television was in its infancy. Breaking the color barrier.”

“Baseball, like some other sports, poses as a sacred institution dedicated to the public good, but it is actually a big, selfish business with a ruthlessness that many big businesses would never think of displaying.”

“The black press, some liberal sportswriters, and even a few politicians were banging away at those Jim Crow barriers in baseball. I never expected the walls to come tumbling down in my lifetime.”

“I had no future with the Dodgers, because I was too closely identified with Branch Rickey. After the club was taken over by Walter O’Malley, you couldn’t even mention Mr. Rickey’s name in front of him. I considered Mr. Rickey the greatest human being I had ever known.”

“Yell. Heckle. Do anything you want. We came here to play baseball.”

“You’re going to be a great player, kid (Mickey Mantle).”

“I ought to break this trophy into 32 pieces.”

“Dodgers, ending a long period of segregation in Major League Baseball. It wound up being a momentous day not just in baseball history, but in the history of a country.”

“I guess if I could choose one of the most important moments in my life, I would go back to 1947, in the Yankee Stadium in New York City.”

“The most important thing that happened to me in 1948, as far as I am concerned, is that I got thrown out of a game for heckling an umpire. It happened in Pittsburgh.”

America and Citizenship Quotes

“I don’t think that I or any other Negro, as an American citizen, should have to ask for anything that is rightfully his. We are demanding that we just be given the things that are rightfully ours and that we’re not looking for anything else.”

“It would make everything I worked for meaningless if baseball is integrated but political parties were segregated.”

“I want everybody to understand that I am an American Negro first before I am a member of any political party.”

“I speak to you only as an American who happens to be an American Negro and one who is proud of that heritage. We ask for nothing special. We ask only that we be permitted to compete on an even basis, and if we are not worthy, then the competition shall, per se, eliminate us.”

“United States—and unfairly, I feel—the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.”

“Negroes aren’t seeking anything which is not good for the nation as well as ourselves. In order for America to be 100 percent strong — economically, defensively and morally — we cannot afford the waste of having second and third-class citizens.”

“I think if we go back and check our record, the Negro has proven beyond a doubt that we have been more than patient in seeking our rights as American citizens.”

“We have a social responsibility and we are held to a higher standard than other institutions.”

“It isn’t a perfect America and it isn’t run right, but it still belongs to us.”

“If I had to choose between baseball’s Hall of Fame and first-class citizenship for all of my people. I would say first-class citizenship.”

“A new breed of Republicans has taken over the GOP. It is a new breed which is seeking to sell to Americans a doctrine which is as old as mankind – the doctrine of racial division, the doctrine of racial prejudice, the doctrine of white supremacy.”

“The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.”

“During my life, I have had a few nightmares which happened to me while I was wide awake. One of them was the National Republican Convention in San Francisco, which produced the greatest disaster the Republican Party has ever known – Nominee Barry Goldwater.”

“At the beginning of the World Series of 1947, I experienced a completely new emotion when the National Anthem was played. This time, I thought, it is being played for me, as much as for anyone else.”

“I’ve been riding on cloud nine since the election (HOF), and I don’t think I’ll ever come down. Today, everything is complete.”

“When he (Richard Nixon) took the oath of office, he pledged to be the president for 100% of the people, and I challenge the president to prove that he is being the president for 100% of the people.”

Racial Equality Quotes

“But as I write these words now I cannot stand and sing the National Anthem. I have learned that I remain a black in a white world.”

“Are you looking for a Negro who won’t fight back?”

“My protest about the post exchange seating bore some results. More seats were allocated for Blacks, but there were still separate sections for Blacks and for Whites. At least I had made my men realize that something could be accomplished by speaking out, and I hoped they would be less resigned to unjust conditions.”

“Today, Negroes play on every big league club and in every minor league. With millions of other Negroes in other walks of life, we are willing to stand up and be counted for what we believe in. In baseball or out, we are no longer willing to wait until Judgment Day for equality – we want it here on earth as well as in Heaven.”

“It was one thing for me out there on the playing field to be able to keep my cool in the face of insults. But it was another for all those Black people sitting in the stands to keep from overreacting when they sensed a racial slur or an unjust decision.”

“I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

“In those days a white ballplayer could look forward to some streak of luck or some reward for hard work to carry him into prominence or even stardom. What had the black player to hope for? What was his future?”

“But if Mr. Rickey hadn’t signed me, I wouldn’t have played another year in the black league. It was too difficult. The travel was brutal. Financially, there was no reward. It took everything you make to live off.”

“Blacks have had to learn to protect themselves by being cynical but not cynical enough to slam the door on potential opportunities. We go through life walking a tightrope to prevent too much disillusionment.”

“I cannot possibly believe that I have it made while so many black brothers and sisters are hungry, inadequately housed, insufficiently clothed, denied their dignity as they live in slums or barely exist on welfare.”

“After two years at UCLA, I decided to leave. I was convinced that no amount of education would help a black man get a job.”

“Plenty of times I wanted to haul off when somebody insulted me for the color of my skin, but I had to hold to myself. I knew I was kind of an experiment. The whole thing was bigger than me.”

“I had to fight hard against loneliness, abuse, and the knowledge that any mistakes I made would be magnified because I was the only black man out there… I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect.”

“I’m grateful for all the breaks and honors and opportunities I’ve had, but I always believe I won’t have it made until the humblest black kid in the most remote backwoods of America has it made.”

“Became a swellhead, a wise guy, an ‘uppity’ nigger. When a White player did it, he had spirit. When a Black player did it, he was ‘ungrateful,’ an upstart.”

“I was naïve about the elaborate lengths to which racists in the Armed Forces would go to put a vocal black man in his place.”

“It was a small victory, for I had learned that I was in two wars, one against the foreign enemy, the other against prejudice at home.”

“Suppressed and repressed for so many years, they needed a victorious Black man as a symbol. It would help them believe in themselves.”

Inspirational Quotes

“I guess you’d call me an independent since I’ve never identified myself with one party or another in politics. I always decide my vote by taking as careful a look as I can at the actual candidates and issues themselves, no matter what the party label.”

“Relationships may change throughout the gift of time, memories stay the same forever in my mind.”

“My problem was my inability to spend much time at home. I thought my family was secure, so I went running around everyplace else. I guess I had more of an effect on other people’s kids than I did my own.”

“I have always been grateful to Colonel Longley. He proved to me that when people in authority take a stand, good can come out of it.”

“No matter how much or how little I knew technically, I was able to get the best out of people I worked with.”

“I don’t let my mouth say nothin’ my head can’t stand.”

“You might say that I turned professional at an early age.”

“I remember even as a small boy, having a lot of pride in my mother. I thought she must have had some kind of magic to be able to do all the things she did, to work so hard and never complain, and to make us all feel happy. We had our family squabbles and spats, but we were a well-knit unit.”

What do you like the most?

Jackie Robinson’s legacy will forever be etched into history for his tremendous athletic and revolutionary accomplishments. We can all learn from Jackie’s enduring and brave spirit as he fought through struggles of discrimination and inequality that had denied so many basic freedoms to Americans before him. He rose above it all, and his words are still inspiring people to take on the challenge of combating hatred, bigotry, and apathy, even though they may be difficult at times.

This is an important message not only in the sports world but throughout American society. We must continue to honor this legend’s memory by celebrating equality and embracing a unified culture that stands strong against prejudice.

Let’s keep his spirit alive– share this blog post today with your friends, family and colleagues so they too can appreciate the impact of Jackie Robinson’s powerful words. What did you like most? Comment below to let us know!