He Put A Number On His Back

The movie '42' opens today. It will tell us what happened. It will tell us that Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball in 1947 in spite of racism that showed itself in the forms of verbal abuse and threats of physical harm.

It will tell us that Branch Rickey, the white general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Robinson to a contract with the intent of his breaking the 'color barrier' and becoming a pioneer - a pioneer that is honored by every MLB franchise today. That's what happened.

I hope it tells us why it happened.

Because why it happened is for the glory of God.

As a young man, Branch Rickey coached the baseball team at Ohio Wesleyan University and it was there that:

". . . his Christian conviction collided head on with his love for the great game. Charles Thomas was recruited by Rickey to play catcher and was the only black player on the team. OWU traveled to South Bend, Indiana for a game against Notre Dame. When they arrived the hotel clerk refused to allow Thomas to stay because of a whites-only policy. Rickey persuaded the hotel to allow Thomas to go to his (Rickey's) room and later requested a cot. That evening Rickey found his catcher sobbing and rubbing his hands and arms convulsively while muttering, 'It's my skin. If only I could wipe off the color they could see I am a man like everybody else.' Rickey told him to, 'Buck up!' and said, 'We will beat this one day!' but later noted he never felt so helpless and vowed at that time that he would do whatever he could to end such humiliation." (from The ferocious Christian gentleman behind Jackie Robinson's famous moment)

Author Eric Metaxas, from his book Seven Men: And The Secret Of Their Greatness, records the kind of faith that animated Robinson and Rickey:

"Robinson was a Christian and his Christian faith was at the very center of his decision to accept Branch Rickey's invitation to play for the all-white Brooklyn Dodgers . . . Branch Rickey himself was a Bible-thumping Methodist whose faith led him to find an African American ballplayer to break the color barrier . . . At the center of one of the most important civil rights stories in America lies two men of passionate Christian faith." (from Jackie Robinson and the Pattern of Jesus)

Both men were men of abiding Christian faith and that faith was at the heart of, what Rickey called, 'the great experiement'.

Oh, it would be a great story had they been Hindu, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or some other faith. Or of no faith at all. Righting this wrong was, well, right, and most of us rejoice at those kinds of stories. However, if the faith of the two men was a key factor (and it seems to have been), then to leave it out would not be right and we would not rejoice, for we would have been told only a partial truth.

As I said, I hope they tell us why.


LanceWebStudio said...

I did not know that. Great post.

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