On April 15, Major League Baseball will again celebrate Jackie Robinson Day, an annual tradition that celebrates the man credited with racially integrating baseball in the modern era. As a means of commemorating Robinson’s accomplishments, Major League Baseball has retired the number 42 among all teams, except on Jackie Robinson Day, when all MLB players don a number 42 jersey in tribute.

Robinson’s athletic accomplishments, however, transcend baseball. He is the only athlete to ever letter in four sports at the University of California at Los Angeles – baseball, football, basketball and track and field.

In 1939, Robinson was an All PAC-10 honoree after leading the nation in punt return yards for consecutive years, and splitting time on both offense (running back) and defense (safety). In basketball, he was selected as the conference MVP after posting double-digit scoring averages for two consecutive years. In track, he claimed a conference championship and national championship in the long jump.

Sports fans tend to be a little more familiar with his achievements as a professional baseball player. His 12 homeruns, 29 stolen bases and near .300 batting average resulted in his selection as Rookie of the Year in 1947. He was a six-time MLB All-Star, and played on a World-Series winning Brooklyn Dodgers team in 1955.

In 1962, Robinson would become the first African-American inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Robinson’s athletic achievements alone are praiseworthy. But when you consider that those accomplishments happened during a time when racial discrimination was the norm in this country, his achievements take on even greater value. Robinson transcends being merely a great athlete; he becomes a pivotal civil rights pioneer.

His efforts made possible the normalization of African-Americans in professional sports. His perseverance through hardships and racial inequity served as a gateway for Muhammad Ali. For Walter Payton. For Michael Jordan. For Tiger Woods. For Serena Williams. For every Black person fortunate enough to compete professionally in the sport they love.

Given that level of achievement – and that level of perseverance – why aren’t we celebrating Jackie Robinson more frequently, and with greater enthusiasm? Why aren’t we doing a better job of celebrating the man that paved the way for the athletes we are so fond of today?

Robinson endured disrespect that today would be considered unfathomable. He was often called “nigger” by fans and other players. He was the victim of unfair officiating during games.

Restaurants and hotels were placed off limits to him. Still, he approached his craft with dogged determination and relentless effort. He, along with so many other African-American athletes, proved that they were just as worthy and capable as their white counterparts to compete at the highest level. And win.     

 If your favorite athlete is a Black person, know that Jackie Robinson helped pave the way for that athlete. It’s a lesson we just cannot allow ourselves to forget.

So, on Jackie Robinson Day, read one of the many biographies written about him. Rock your Brooklyn Dodgers jersey (shout out to Spike Lee). Watch some of the many YouTube videos that feature him. Rewatch “42,” starring Chadwick Boseman. Talk to your kids about Jack Roosevelt Robinson. Because his legacy is entirely too important to ever forget.