Jackie Robinson's contribution to American history will be remembered with particular poignancy over the next several days, between the opening of the movie "42" and the 66th anniversary of his major-league debut.
Whether we see the film or reflect about the meaning of the "42" on every jersey across the major leagues on April 15, it's important to know why Dodgers executive Branch Rickey chose Robinson to break baseball's color barrier. What was it about Robinson that assured Rickey that he would be able to perform with singular grace while enduring the vilest threats?
"He was a man who was educated," explained Don Newcombe, Robinson's teammate with the Dodgers for six seasons.
"He knew what to do about pressure. He knew how to handle pressure. He had it happen to him while he was in the military as a second lieutenant, how he was treated because of the blackness of his skin.
"He had a man with him in the military (during World War II) named Joe Louis, the world's heavyweight c...