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Jackie Robinson: How God used two faith-filled believers to desegregate baseball.

jackierobinson+3The biographical film “42” depicts Jackie Robinson’s courageous battle to break the color barrier in major league baseball. At the same time, the film provides a glimpse of his religious faith, which afforded the strength he needed to overcome fierce opposition.

“It took two Christians to pull this off,” says Chris Lamb, the author of “Blackout: The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training” (University of Nebraska, 2004). “Robinson was a Christian and Branch Rickey was a Christian,” he notes. “Sometimes we miss this.”

Lamb was blind to it himself until he researched Robinson’s life for his book. “I kept wondering all these years what kept Robinson together,” he says. “Finally I realized what I missed before – the core came from above.”

The film accurately depicts the role of Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey in advancing desegregation in baseball. Rickey, a devout Methodist, was sometimes known as “the deacon” due to his forthright convictions.

“It was in every part of him,” Lamb says. “He spoke often about his religion. You could see him across the room and even with the cigar smoke, there was a warm glow.”

As an athlete, Rickey was demoted from the major leagues to the minor leagues, because he refused to play baseball on Sundays, according to Lamb.

“His religion was not a coat he put on and took off at night,” Lamb says. “It was a part of his skin, and he took it with him wherever he went.”

Wesley "Branch" Rickey as a young man
Wesley “Branch” Rickey as a young man

There was one searing incident four decades before Robinson came along that altered Rickey’s perspective on racial integration. Rickey coached Ohio Wesleyan’s baseball team, and his star catcher Charles Thomas – the only African American on the team — was denied lodging at the Oliver Hotel in South Bend, Indiana on the eve of a game against Notre Dame.

“Blacks and whites couldn’t stay in the same hotel room,” Lamb notes. But Rickey approached the front desk clerk and asked if Thomas could stay in his room on a cot. The clerk reluctantly agreed to make an exception, but when Rickey went to their room later that night he found Thomas crying, rubbing his skin.

“If only I could make it white,” Thomas said. “If only I could make it white.”

Charles Thomas

“It looked like he was trying to rub off his skin,” Lamb recounts. At that moment, Rickey made a vow before God that if he ever had the opportunity to do something about racial injustice, he would do it.

Forty years later he got that chance when he invited a young player from the Negro leagues into his office. In their first encounter, Rickey wanted to know if Robinson was made of the right stuff, because he knew whoever was chosen first to break the color barrier would endure awful indignities.

“I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey told Robinson. Then Rickey opened up a book he had sitting nearby, “Life of Christ,” by Giovanni Papini.

He read the words of Jesus to the promising athlete: “But whoever shall smite thee on the cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Even though Robinson’s father abandoned their family when he was only a child, these words were familiar because of the influence of a godly mother. “I have two cheeks, Mr. Rickey. Is that it?” he replied.

When Robinson was a teenager veering into trouble in the streets, he was taken under wing by Rev. Karl Downs, minister at Scott United Methodist Church in Pasadena. He counseled the young man and became a father figure. “Pretty soon Robinson was teaching Sunday School,” Lamb notes.

The influence of a godly mother and Rev. Downs left a lasting mark. “Robinson wore his religion quietly, but it was sincere,” Lamb says.

In the Negro leagues, Robinson developed a straight-laced reputation. “He didn’t engage in premarital sex and he didn’t drink,” Lamb recalls. “There was a quiet strength that put him at odds with his teammates.”

On one occasion, Robinson took a glass of whisky and dramatically tossed it into a lit fireplace in front of his astonished team. “This is what liquor does to you,” he said, as the flames roared in a vivid display of alcohol’s combustible properties.

In the first providential meeting between Rickey and Robinson, the Dodgers executive discovered that Robinson had built his life on the right foundation. “Rickey sensed that Robinson had a strong central core that could hold together in the face of the storm.” The core – the indwelling presence supplying the faith and assurance — was Jesus Christ.

Robinson with Rickey, 1950
Robinson with Rickey, 1950

 

“I’m a Methodist. Robinson is a Methodist, and God is a Methodist,” Rickey exclaimed after the meeting. Sensing it was all more than a coincidence, their common faith gave both men the assurance to forge ahead in the face of certain opposition.

Horrible invective was hurled at Robinson during his first Spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. “He had to deal with 10 kinds of awful indignities every day,” Lamb recounts. It got so bad, Robinson’s wife delayed telling him she was pregnant, because she didn’t think he could handle the news, according to Lamb.

“You can’t tell the civil rights story without Jackie Robinson and you can’t tell the Robinson story without the civil rights movement,” he observes. “Martin Luther King taught non-violent resistance, but Jackie Robinson did that 20 years before.”

Lamb sees the Jackie Robinson story as almost biblical. “When you think about where the strength comes from, it becomes a parable, a Christian story,” he notes. “It’s like something out of the New Testament.”

The Best Players in Baseball

Who are the best players in baseball? Players who never fail? Players who don’t attack other players? Players without obsessive pride? Here are a few: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mariano Rivera, Christian Guzman, Matt Holiday, Jamie Moyer, Ryan Church, Lance Berkman.

They are so dominate. They believe in God.

Rivera is a devout Christian. During his childhood, neither he nor his family attended church, but after a born again experience in his early 20s, Rivera—and subsequently his parents—became religious. He maintains that God has a reason for everything that happens. Rivera has publicly said that he is going to be a Christian pastor when he retires from baseball. He is often reading the Bible in the Yankees clubhouse. He has payed for a church to be built in his home Town of Panama City. He is still caring about them after he is the best reliever in the game. He is truly invincible.

Albert Pujols has contributed to more donations than he has longballs. In 2006 his team one the World Series. He is an amazing christian, he always puts his family first. He has showed christian leadership and through him he has changed so many peoples lives.

Lance Berkman is the first baseman of the Houston Astros. He was raised in a christian home. A little after, he was swearing like a sailor, spending every night in a bar. When he reached his sophomore year in college he found guys at his school that were at the same level he was at, they started encouraging one another to get deeper with God.


Jamie Moyer is playing in Philliedelphia and has a foundation called the Moyer foundation. It helps children in severe distress, children without the money to pay for the healthcare. He has created camps that help children get comfort after the death of loved ones.Matt Holiday is an amazing Christian leader on his team, even in the hard times. Last season in the clubhouse you wouldn’t find any penthouses, playboys, or a maxim. They would read the Bible, car magazines, sports illustrated and the newspaper. Other team mates that took part in their weekly Bible study were  Todd Helton who is one of the most respected players of the game, Jamey Carrol, and Choo Freeman. They made it to the world series last year as a christian baseball team.Christian Guzman and Ryan Church have been holding their team to Christian morals. Once there was a player(name unknown) on the nationals that wanted to do batting practice instead of going to there weekly seminars but Ryan Church was firm and said no, your coming.

Josh Hamilton was into drugs; then he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and has fought his way back up to an all-star, and back up as a MVP candidate. He encourages you to do the same. Read John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believed in him would have everlasting life.”


To God Give the Glory!

Cooperstown gets it right – finally!

Bert Blyleven has waited 14 years for the news he received today. You’d think 3.701 strikeouts would be a no-brainer. Oh well, even no-brainer’s take time – sometimes. If 3,701 strikeouts wasn’t enough, one might think the 5-1 record in the post season with two World Series rings would do it!

After a narrow miss last year, Bert Blyleven wasn’t shy in saying voters finally got it right by sending him into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Roberto Alomar.

And he didn’t shy away from talking about the Steroids Era.

All-Star sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez didn’t come close in Wednesday’s election.

“Guys cheated,” Blyleven, 59, said. “They cheated themselves and their teammates. The game of baseball is to be played clean.”

Blyleven was chosen on 79.7 percent of the ballots – it takes 75 percent from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to reach the shrine. The curveballer won 287 games, threw 60 shutouts and ranks fifth with 3,701 strikeouts.

“It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting,” Blyleven said. “And thank the baseball writers of America for, I’m going to say, finally getting it right.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/05/SP9P1H4O9B.DTL#ixzz1AFGCEPuQ

Jakey – State Champion 2010

 

What a ride.

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