Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When he took the field in April 1947 as the first African-American player since the major
leagues were segregated in 1887, Robinson launched a new era in which the best competed
against the best, regardless of skin color. He not only opened the door for generations to come, including fellow Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and
Reggie Jackson, but he helped
advance civil rights at a time when segregation was still
Players won the right to become free agents.
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In 1975, six years after All-Star center fielder Curt
Flood sued unsuccessfully to prevent a trade—the case having gone all the way to the Supreme Court—pitchers Andy Messersmith and
Dave McNally won the right to sign with the team of their choice. The
rule they fought was officially changed the next year. Famous free-agent signings include Reggie Jackson with the Yankees in 1976 (five
years, $2.96 million) and pitcher Cliff Lee, left, with the Phillies in 2010 (five years,