Jackie (and Rachel) Robinson: It Takes a Village

Robinson’s one-hundredth birthday was this past January, and because it’s March and many eyes turn toward baseball.  Robinson stands for the many black athletes who suffered discrimination and harassment during their playing years and beyond and whose lives have helped incline the arc of history toward justice.

During the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers baseball season Robinson was the first black major-league player since the 1880’s. He impressed the entire country with his quiet dignity and skill as a ballplayer.  Robinson fulfilled a promise previously made to owner/president Branch Rickey before he signed with the Dodgers, not to retaliate or respond angrily to the catcalls, dirty play, and thousand large and little insults he endured. Robinson’s heroic perseverance resulted in success for himself and many black players who quickly followed him into the major leagues, and left an array of acknowledgments and awards in and outside baseball.

Robinson’s not the first person in this series on Exemplary Individuals from the ill-named “Civil Rights Era” – as if it were over.  My series began with a white woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped get the whole thing started.  We also considered Malcolm X, with a message and demeanor completely different from Jackie Robinson, and Maya Angelou, whose contribution was literary and her life story powerful.


Most recently, the 2013 film “42” Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, Harrison Ford as Rickey, and Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson.) 

 Jackie Robinson’s life gives us an opportunity to acknowledge those who enabled and supported his greatness.  Rachel Robinson, at this writing still among us at the age of 96, has had a significant career on her own, has in many ways expanded her husband’s legacy since his death in 1972, and was an indispensable companion to Jackie during his years in baseball and afterwards.  We credit Branch Rickey, of course, but also many baseball people around Robinson who provided him the necessary support and companionship. The overwhelming support Robinson received from the black community was critical and cemented his understanding that he had a unique place in his nation’s history and culture. For Robinson and the others in this series, it did take a village to produce an exemplary person.

Becoming Jackie Robinsont

Robinson’s life shows him to be a focused and disciplined person who resented at times pushed back against the second-class citizenship with which he grew up. 

Jackie Robinson’s astrological chart not including outer planets. Click to open in new window.

He was born in Georgia the fifth son of sharecroppers, grandson of a former slave.  When Jackie was very young his father left the family and his mother moved the family to Pasadena California where she worked odd jobs to support the family.  This left Jackie and his siblings to grow up poor in a wealthy conservative community. 

Like his brother who later received a silver metal in the 1936 Olympics, Jackie was athletically gifted.  After having been talked out of joining a street gang, Jackie focused on his athletic accomplishment that provided him the opportunity to go to Pasadena Junior College and then to UCLA where he met his future wife Rachel. In high school and college he was a multi-sport star, excelling in track and football; baseball was down the list.

After Jackie’s college graduation, a stint of semi-pro football in Hawaii ended when the Second World War began, and he was drafted into a segregated army unit in Texas.  Along with his new friend boxing’s Joe Louis, Robinson lobbied to be admitted to officer training and, after noticeable procrastination on the part of the military bureaucracy, Louis and Robinson were admitted to officer training.Robinson’s military career was headlined by a rather prophetic incident. One day, as his company was boarding a bus, Robinson was asked to go to the back of the bus that was set aside for black soldiers.  He refused to move and found himself into an altercation with the military police that eventually resulted in his being court-martialed for “insubordination during questioning.” In the summer of 1944, he was officially acquitted of these charges, but his court marshal prevented his going to Europe along with his company. At the end of 1944 he left the army, receiving an honorable discharge.

Baseball

Now at the age of twenty-six, Robinson desired a career as a professional baseball player and successfully tried out with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League.  Although baseball had not been a major sport for him, he played well but was by no means the best player in the League or on his team.

Playing in the Negro League, Robinson disliked the lack of discipline shown by some players and the League’s gambling problem.  In an incident captured in the movie 42, the team bus stopped by a gas station for a fill-up, yet the players were denied access to the whites-only restroom.  Robinson insisted that the bus find a more accommodating place to get more gas and they left the station.  Soon this was standard procedure for the team.

Having played one year for the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson began to pursue his career in the (white) major leagues. He even had a try-out with Tom Yawkey’s Boston Red Sox, more a concession to a local politician than anything serious. Robinson impressed the field manager but endured racial taunts from the stands during his tryout. (The Red Sox finally had its first black ball player in 1959, becoming the last major league team to integrate.) 

During this time Branch Rickey, newly involved with the Brooklyn Dodgers, felt there was an immense pool of negro ballplayers who could help his team win.  In Robinson, Rickey saw a talented player and a handsome charismatic person who could help the team and attract positive public attention.  In the famous meeting on August 28, 1945, Robinson agreed to “turn the other cheek”, to remain steady and “not answer back” for three years. He kept his promise – for three years.

Robinson spent the 1946 season with the Dodger’s minor league team in Montreal and, despite the attention that had gathered around him, played very well.  He also had the good fortune to get married to Rachel earlier that year.

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Saturnine Robinson

It’s difficult not to notice that Robinson was born with Leo rising, conjunct the kingly fixed star Regulus, and that Saturn is conjunct the Ascendant with the Lots of Fortune and Spirit are also there (a feature of a chart of somebody born at a New Moon.) This strong configuration is governed by Sun in Aquarius that is in partile (same sign) conjunction with Moon.

Leo, as a fixed sign, denotes perseverance and loyalty; in the element fire, it denotes forward movement and inspiration.  Leo helps us understand his charisma and his willingness to be a pioneer.  Regulus, the starry Heart of the Lion, provides almost a royal kind of grandeur.  During his three years of “turning the other cheek”, Robinson focused on his game and contributions to his team with a quiet dignity – and played aggressively.  This eventually helped turn his teammates and white Dodger fans into strong supporters.

It’s hard not to associate Saturn with Robinson’s sense of purpose and willingness to endure.  Like many successful athletes, Robinson augmented his native talent with consistently hard work.  Yet as the planet of prudence and discipline, Saturn is not terribly happy in Leo (in detriment) and is out of sect in Robinson’s nocturnal chart. 

I also wonder about physical vulnerability, perhaps just under the surface, that manifested in poor health later in life and an early death at the age of sixty-three.  This may be indicated by his Lot of Fortune. I also wonder about the contribution of the Lot of Spirit. Although a self-motivated person with a strong sense of religion and his role in helping the world be a better place, psychological stress also took a toll on him over the years, perhaps also leading to ill-health and an early death.

This brings us to Robinson’s Sun and Moon in Aquarius.  Is there a mutual reception between Sun in Aquarius, Saturn’s diurnal sign, and Saturn in that of Leo, the Sun’s zodiacal sign?  Because both are in detriment in their respective signs (opposite the signs of domicile rulership), I doubt they can help each other out very much. There is no doubt, however, that the placements of both luminaries in Aquarius, governed by Saturn, adds to the saturnine nature of his chart.

Aquarius is very different from the other domicile of Saturn, Capricorn.  As an air sign, Aquarius has less of the cynicism and oppressive rigidity sometimes associated with the nocturnally-inclined Capricorn, more a cool mental orientation.  As a fixed sign, Aquarius tends to stand by principle. We also see Aquarius helping Robinson see the larger picture and his role in it, and to be, in the infelicitous expression of my youth, “a credit to his race”.  With Sun and Moon in Aquarius, Robinson could convert himself into a national symbol. 

Robinson’s chart, outer planets included. Click to open an another window

Sun and Moon in Aquarius are also opposed by Neptune, helping the larger picture but containing an element of self-sacrifice and maybe self-denial.  This placement perhaps allowed Robinson to stay sane by using a spiritual context.

A darker Saturnine expression manifests in his Mercury in Capricorn in the Sixth House. To me this seems a “keep your head down and keep working” placement.  It also bestowed Robinson with practical shrewdness that he used well as a baseball player.

Praise to Robinson’s Mars and Jupiter

Some might diminish Mars in Robinson’s chart because it falls in the Eighth House; others might consider being in Pisces too Neptunian for Mars to be effective.  I think completely differently.  Mars is wholly in sect in Robinson’s nocturnal chart, in the “feminine” sign Pisces and on the other side of the horizon as the Sun. This chart and Mars’ sign placement provide a rich environment for this planet to prosper. 

Why is Mars a nocturnal planet?  Because it needs the moisture and relative quiet of nocturnality to overcome impulsiveness and to become more situationally sensitive and reasonable, but never stopping being Mars. In Robinson’s case, Mars allowed the quality of his baseball to respond to the many abuses that befell him in his early years of baseball.

His competitiveness as never an issue. In the words of Leo Durocher, the Dodgers’ manager for Robinson’s early career, “Ya want a guy that comes to play.  This guy didn’t just come to play.  He come to beat ya.  He come to stuff the goddam bat right up your ass.”

The fixed star Alpheratz rose with Mars that day, signifying a pioneering spirit but also a desire for free movement. (He was a demon on the base paths.) This spirit and desire have been in his nature from the beginning.

Mars is in an applying trine to Jupiter and Pluto in Cancer. Since Jupiter (not Neptune!) is the domicile ruler for the sign Pisces, we’re looking at a strong reception that favors Jupiter that is also in its sign of exaltation.  Bringing Mars and Jupiter together we find the warrior (“spiritual warrior”?) who will fight the good fight, and willingly suffer defeat if the fight is indeed good enough.  Pluto’s presence only strengthens and deepens the Mars-Jupiter combination.

Robinson’s Jupiter is strongly allied with stars in the constellation Orion.  On the day he was born Betelgeuse and Rigel rose with Jupiter and Alhena culminated with Jupiter.  Orion the hunter is a large masculine adventurous presence in winter’s night sky that further enhanced Robinson’s athleticism and sense of importance.

The constellation Orion in winter’s night sky. Many of its stars are aligned with Robinson’s Jupiter,

Does Jupiter’s presence in the Twelfth House diminish Jupiter?  Perhaps.  However, in conformity with the Twelfth House, we also see Robinson taking on (unwillingly) a great deal of collective suffering and some of his nation’s unfinished business.  Jupiter’s activity in being part of something larger also allowed Robinson to be successful as a public spokesperson and businessman after his baseball career.

Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson

This brings us to Jackie Robinson’s Venus that is conjunct Uranus in Aquarius in the Seventh House, a strong signal for a dynamic marriage.  A self-motivated and unconventional person would be an appropriate marriage partner for him. Noting the opposition of Saturn on his Ascendant to Venus-Uranus (governed by Saturn) opposite his Ascendant, there could easily have been a power struggle between the two.  Instead, Rachel Robinson was an impressive person in her own right, both pursuing her own career and being a providing warmth and strength behind the scenes.

Rachel Isum received a degree in nursing at UCLA just as Jackie was setting out for the military.  After their marriage in 1946 and during Jackie’s baseball career, they had three children.  After his career Rachel went onto study and work in psychiatric nursing and eventually became was on the faculty of nursing programs in New York and Connecticut.  After Jackie’s death in 1972 she was president of the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation, working with low and moderate-income housing.  Later she founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation to provide opportunities for minority students. She has co-authored a book about life with Jackie Robinson, has been interviewed often (see Ken Burns’ Baseball Series, Part Seven), has received awards on her own and has stood in for Jackie for his posthumous recognitions.

We do not have a birth time for her, and we’ll have to use a solar sign chart and a twelve noon birth time.  Her Moon has a strong chance of being in Taurus and possibly is in square to Jackie’s Venus-Uranus in Aquarius and Saturn in Leo and is in trine to his Mercury in Capricorn. Her Mercury was conjunct his Jupiter. We see a mental and an emotional connection between the two.

Rachel’s Jupiter in Libra was in partile trine with Jackie’s Sun and Moon; her Mars in Sagittarius was in partile sextile with his Sun and Moon. They also seemed alike in their values that reflected their individual desires and ambitions: they were fighting the same battles.

All Hail Pluto and Saturn (and Jupiter)

When Robinson met with Branch Rickey in the summer of 1945, transiting Neptune  in Cancer was conjunct Robinson’s natal Pluto; two months later, when he officially signed with the Dodgers and became a national figure, Neptune proceeded to join Jupiter and would stay in its vicinity through autumn of that year.  This corresponds to Robinson’s desire to pave the way for his fellow African-Americans, yet Neptune’s presence also signifies the cost in personal sacrifice. Saturn was also making its way through Cancer. 

Jupiter, going through Libra, would make a transiting square to his Mercury in Cancer during the winter of 1946, the time of his marriage to Rachel Isum: considering the strong Mercury-Jupiter contacts between their two natal charts, this was an auspicious time for the young couple.

Graphic Ephemeris 1945-1957; notice Pluto’s long transit of Robinson’s Sun and Moon

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Beginning in the summer of 1945 at a direct station and continuing well through the 1947 baseball season, Pluto in early Leo was in opposition to Robinson’s natal Sun and Moon in early Aquarius. Robinson’s life during these two years captures well the many meanings of Pluto. 

On a generational level Robinson’s personal endeavor to play major league baseball would be a transformative event in the history of race relationships in the United States. He would become personally under the microscope and would have to perform admirably regardless of his state of mind at the time.  Robinson’s sense of identity and his personal safety were threatened by larger national and historical forces, including the strong racist resistance to his presence on a national stage.  We may also be looking at distress responses, on a physical and psychological level, that manifested later in ill health and an early death.

Before joining the Brooklyn team, during his stint with the minor league team in Montreal, and especially in preseason training camps in Florida, Robinson had to endure the coldness of the team manager and many of his teammates, and local standards of segregation and exclusion as his team traveled.

Robinson’s Pluto transits were quite operational in his first major league game.  Saturn had entered Leo in the summer of 1946 and had been in square to his natal Neptune; in the summer of 1947, during a time in which Robinson was injured by being spiked, endured aborted players’ actions – the first from players on his own team – and of course the catcalls from the stands and an opposing manager.  Happily, transiting Saturn had but one pass in opposition to his Sun and Moon in Aquarius, and it was over by August of that year.

Robinson’s transits for his first appearance in the major leagues

As often happens, Jupiter came to the rescue.  Note the opposition of Jupiter to Robinson’s Midheaven degree.  We must consider his self-identification as a “negro” and the support of the black community.  Of over twenty-six thousand fans who attended his first game, one-half were black.  As best he could, Robinson was “taking it for the team” – for those of his race across the country.  Jupiter, as the planet of membership beyond the personal, moving through his Fourth House of family and cultural foundations was a contributor to his eventual success.

Using the ancient technique of decennials adds nicely to this picture.  Robinson’s general and specific chronocrators or planetary lords were Mars-Mars beginning in 1940 when he was 21 and a star athlete at UCLA.  His time in the army, however, happened under Mars-Saturn that ended almost exactly after he left the military.  Following was Mars-Mercury and his career in baseball to the summer of 1946; when we look at his style of playing baseball, with his genius for base-running, we note his strong intelligence about the game.  This leads to Sun taking over as his specific planetary lord from 1946 until the winter of 1948, catapulting Robinson into lasting fame and a place in history.  For him this was an Aquarian accomplishment, not about him but about the society around him,

I invite the interested reader to pursue the details of 1947 in the life of Jackie Robinson and a step toward national positive change.  By the end of 1947 Jackie had solidified his reputation as an excellent ball player, had won the first Rookie of the Year Award, and his season was almost perfect for his game – except that the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the World Series. 

Statue of Robinson and teammate Pee Wee Reese unveiled in Brooklyn in 2005. At an away game in Cincinnati, to quiet a vocally abusive crowd, Reese, from nearby Kentucky walked over to Robinson and put his arm around him.

Robinson’s secondary progressed Moon was in Aquarius during this time; otherwise his progressions for 1945-1947 were unremarkable.  In 1948, the year in which the pressure on him diminished somewhat (other black players now appeared in the major leagues), his progressions helped establish him as a professional athlete – all he had wanted to be – and a family man.  Because he was born under a New Moon, the following progressed Full Moon that happened for him in summer of 1948, would occur at the time of his Saturn return. The following autumn Jupiter by progression was stationary direct.  Now he could be an outstanding member of a baseball team and an early symbol of racial equality and integration.

Robinson continued to play baseball well and when his three-year promise to Branch Rickey to “turn the other cheek” ran out, he began to be more argumentative and actively promote integration and black economic and political advancement.  During one off season he starred in a Hollywood film about himself.  He promoted integration by hotels and restaurants that served the Dodgers and he was successful, although his desire to become the first black major league manager was blocked by baseball’s front office.  In the early 1950’s when he was becoming increasing vocal in his advocacy, his natal Mercury in Capricorn was transited by Saturn in Libra, then Neptune in Libra, finally also by Uranus in opposition from Cancer that finally ended in early 1955.

Robinson played a total of ten years, was on the All-Star team for six of them, won the Most Valuable Player award after his third year, played in six World Series and finally in the autumn of 1955 his Dodgers beat the Yankees for a World Series Championship. Already becoming afflicted with diabetes that ran in his family and having failed in his ambition to become a field manager, Robinson retired and took a position in the Chock Full o-Nuts coffee company.  The good news was that Jupiter was in Leo, his First House; his difficulties in his final year were posed by Saturn in Scorpio, in  his Tenth House, squaring his Ascendant-Saturn opposite Venus-Uranus, and transiting Pluto, still in Leo, was crossing his Ascendant.

Robinson’s Second Career

Robinson’s “day job”, as a company executive for Chock Full o’Nuts, made him the first black executive of a major corporation.  He created and helped promote economic opportunities for blacks and was also active in the NAACP, probably its most famous member at that time.

Robinson’s changing political affiliations reflect the changing racial affiliations of the two political parties in the United States. Robinson was originally independent but leaned Republican – on a state and local level, the Democrats had long been the party of white segregationists. In 1960 Robinson backed Nixon over Kennedy for President but was impressed by the civil rights record of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.  He organized for Nelson Rockefeller in 1964 but after Goldwater was nominated left the Republican Party for good.

He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962 on the first ballot. Three years later he was the first black to be in the broadcast booth covering major league baseball. 

He died of complications of diabetes and heart disease in 1972.  The posthumous awards and recognitions are too numerous to mention.

Rachel Robinson receiving Congressional Gold Metal for her husband in 2005

Was Robinson a Stoic?

What did it take to be a civil rights hero in the age of segregation, Jim Crow, and the Ku Klux Klan?  If we define a stoic as somebody with patience, a hard back of endurance, and the ability to not become overwhelmed by the ten thousand large and small insults coming one’s way, Robinson was indeed stoic.  This is conveyed beautifully by the saturnine nature of his chart as I’ve depicted above.

There is also Mars and that stoicism is not quietism or passivity.  Supported by the strong trine from in-sect Mars in Pisces to Pluto and Jupiter in Cancer, Robinson first let his athleticism and competitiveness in baseball speak for him.

Later, with his reputation firmly established, he became an articulate spokesman for his cause.  He was even referred to as a “prima donna” by Walter O’Malley, co-owner of the Dodgers.  Is that another word for “uppity”?

I close with the chart of another person who, like Robinson, refused to sit at the back of a bus. Rosa Parks was five years older than the ballplayer but lived until 2005.  Her arrest lead to the Montgomery bus boycott that launched the civil rights career of Martin Luther King and she remained a civil rights activist throughout he life.

Although the birth time provided cannot be relied upon, she was also clearly a strongly saturnine individual with a strong Mars.  Accompanying Sun in Aquarius are many planets in either Capricorn or Aquarius, including Moon.  Mars is in Capricorn, its sign of exaltation. I suspect that she had a nocturnal chart and Mars was also strong by sect.

These days modern psychologists have been studying “true grit”, a combination of personal qualities that are strongly correlated with achievement.  True Grit consists of self-control plus perseverance, the ability to stay focused and to continue regardless of obstacles and setbacks.  Yet these qualities do not exist in a vacuum even if they well-supported in an astrological chart.  To flourish in life, to approach our own greatness, we depend on a sense of larger purpose and a supportive surrounding community of some kind.  Jackie and Rachel Robinson and Rosa Parks surely had these qualities and so did those around them.

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  1. great article!

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