Just outside Pasadena City Hall, you’ll find two giant heads — one of baseball player Jackie Robinson and the other of Olympic athlete Mack Robinson.
Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. But he spent his formative years in Pasadena, first at John Muir High School and then at Pasadena Junior College. And Pasadena really likes to remind you that Mr. Robinson has deep roots in Crown City.
We’ve already explored the Jackie Robinson Rose Bowl Statue, but just a mile an a half away, in front of Pasadena City Hall, stands another tribute to the multi-disciplined athlete.
And this one also features his older brother, Mack Robinson, a record-setting track and field athlete for Pasadena Junior College. He was also a Silver Medalist in the 200 meter sprint at the 1936 Olympics— finishing a mere 0.4 seconds behind Jesse Owens.
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The memorial, sitting in an area of Pasadena known as Centennial Square, consists of two 9-foot-tall, 2,700-pound bronze heads — one bearing each brother’s likeness.
Jackie’s face is positioned so he looks east, toward New York City and his eventual career with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Mack, on the other hand, who settled in Pasadena after attending the University of Oregon, is looking straight at Pasadena City Hall. This was a place of contention for the elder Robinson brother. He lost his city job when Pasadena fired all Black employees in response to a desegregation order.
But he was also a vocal participant in many city planning meetings and was instrumental in improving the Pasadena community, helping to provide safe places like playgrounds and swimming pools for kids to gather and insisting these spaces were kept free of drugs and alcohol.
The Hair-Raising Accomplishments of the Brothers Robinson
In addition to being straight reproductions of the brothers’ likenesses, the two statues feature bas-relief iconography of their accomplishments in their hair.
Mack’s hair features images of figures sprinting along a track under the image of a coliseum. The space around these images is peppered with quotes from his life.
Jackie’s hair showcases four figures — one each for football, basketball, track, and baseball — in action above a stenciled “UCLA” next to an explanation that these images represent Jackie’s mastery of those four sports at John Muir High School and UCLA. There’s also a crossword-style layout with names and ideas from Jackie’s life. I’m not sure of the crossword’s significance.
The statues were dedicated in 1997 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Jackie’s first day as a Brooklyn Dodger. Later, in 2002, a ring of donors was added surrounding the two statues and the space was fully landscaped, including a few peach trees as a nod to the Robinsons’ home state of Georgia.
The two statues, which were sculpted by Ralph Helmich, John Outterbridge, and Stuart Schechter, are hollow. A CD-ROM (remember, this was in 1997) hangs suspended inside each one of the statues (it’s not clear if these remain suspended inside today). This CD-ROM contains Beyond Glory: Stories of Mack and Jackie Robinson, a multimedia presentation created by students from ArtCenter.
Pasadena Robinson Memorial
- 95 Garfield Ave (at Holly St), Pasadena
- GPS Coordinates: 34.147351, -118.144616 [ Google Maps ]
- what3words: ///neon.modest.festivity
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