(NBC News) — As Jackie Robinson prepared to take the field as the first Black player in modern baseball history on Opening Day 75 years ago this Friday, an Associated Press reporter asked if he had any butterflies in his stomach. 

“Not a one,” Robinson replied, with a grin. “I wish I could say I did because then maybe I’d have an alibi if I don’t do so good. But I won’t be able to use that as an alibi.”

Two years earlier, in 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey signed Robinson to a minor league contract, after Robinson played a single season in the Negro Leagues. After a stellar year with the team’s top minor league team in Montreal, where he led the International League with a .349 batting average, Robinson was promoted to the Dodgers as a 28-year-old rookie in 1947. 

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