If he did nothing else, the role played by Jackie Robinson in integrating Major League Baseball would make him one of the game’s most important figures.
Robinson, of course, did a lot more than that. The 1947 Rookie of the Year and 1949 Most Valuable Player, he was a leader of six Dodger pennant winners, one of which (in 1955) went on to win the World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962.
But it is his central role in breaking down the game’s color barrier that it honors on Jackie Robinson Day, the anniversary of his first appearance in a major league uniform.
A look back at the 10 most exceptional regular-season outings as well as the five best postseason games of Jackie Robinson’s outstanding MLB career.
Our standard of measurement is Win Probability Added. That calculates the individual’s role in influencing the game’s outcome. For that reason, it emphasizes late-inning game-turning accomplishments. It judges the player’s contribution within the broader context of winning the game.
Here are Jackie Robinson’s 10 most exceptional regular season performances.
10. April 23, 1954, Dodgers 6, Pirates 5. Robinson’s fourth-inning single off Pirate starter Bob Friend was wasted. Facing Friend again in the sixth inning with Brooklyn leading 2-1, he drew a one-out base on balls, advancing to second and third as Friend also walked Gil Hodges and Sandy Amoros.
Friend retired Roy Campanella on an infield pop for the second out, then, with Carl Furillo at bat, Robinson entrusted run production to his legs. As Friend wound up he broke for home, sliding in under the tag of Toby Atwell for a steal of home at the head of what was scored as a triple steal.
But the Pirates fought back and tied the game, which proceeded all the way into the 13th inning. Then, with one out and runners at first and second, the Dodgers star lined a double into right field, scoring Jim Gilliam with the eventual winning run. Robinson Win Probability Added: 0.466.
9. June 6, 1954, Dodgers 6, Cubs 4. On a Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, Robinson opened the second inning with a home run off Cubs starter Paul Minner. His second hit, a fourth-inning single, was wasted, and this game, too, moved into extra innings, tied 4-4.
After Cubs reliever Hall Jeffcoat retired the first two batters, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider worked him for consecutive hits, bringing up Jackie in a game-critical spot. He delivered, rolling a base hit into left field that scored Reese with the go-ahead run. Gil Hodges would follow with a hit of his own to send home an insurance run. Robinson Win Probability Added: 0.472.