Like other sports, baseball is a frequent theme on medals, awards and
other forms of exonumia. Some medals celebrate baseball players who
tore down cultural barriers — racial, ethnic and religious.
Jackie Robinson in 1947 became the first African-American to play on
a modern Major League Baseball team. Robinson’s incredible skill on
the ball field playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers along with his ability
to ignore (at least outwardly) the racist taunts thrown his way by
other players and some in the public helped make him an American hero.
In 2003, Congress approved legislation for a gold congressional
medal honoring Robinson, not only for breaking the color barrier but
for his many humanitarian achievements.
Donna Weaver, then a Mint sculptor-engraver, designed the obverse.
It features a portrait of Robinson, with the inscription JACKIE
ROBINSON appearing to the left of the portrait, followed by A LIFETIME
OF ADVOCACY FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE & HUMAN DIGNITY. The inscription
ACT OF CONGRESS 2003 is featured on the lower rim.
The reverse was designed by then Mint Sculptor-Engraver John
Mercanti and engraved by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart II. It
features laurel leaf branches surrounding a plaque containing the
inscription “A LIFE IS NOT IMPORTANT EXCEPT IN THE IMPACT IT HAS ON
OTHER LIVES.” JACKIE ROBINSON.
President George W. Bush and members of Congress presented the gold
medal to Rachel Robinson, the ball player’s widow, on March 2, 2003,
in the Capitol Rotunda. The U.S. Mint began selling the bronze
versions of the medals the same day.