42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. 2017
This book was released on the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American in Major League baseball. Many are already familiar with the key points of Robinson’s story through previous books and the 2013 film 42. What Henry’s book focuses on is the role of faith – of Robinson, his wife Rachel, Branch Rickey and Robinson’s and Rickey’s mothers – in Robinson’s story.
Henry looks at the unique relationship between Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson and how their respective Methodist faiths impacted them. The book is well-researched, as the author met with Robinson’s widow Rachel, teammate Carl Erskine, visited the site of the former Ebbets Field, pulled a lot of information from Robinson’s unpublished memoir, as well as his sermons and speeches, to show how Robinson was open about how his faith helped him to deal with all that came his way (verbal and physical abuse, death threats, etc.).
Juan Williams offers a lengthy introduction about race and faith in America. Henry includes biographical sketches of Rickey and Robinson’s lives up until they met each other on a warm August day in Rickey’s office in Brooklyn. Robinson wasn’t sure why he was there. He had been told that the Dodgers were starting a negro team, but that was just what he was told to get him to Rickey’s office.
Henry looks at the effect of Rickey’s faith (he was a Methodist, named after John Wesley) on his decision to move forward to bring Robinson to the major leagues. Henry writes that Rickey was impacted by discrimination against Charles Thomas, an African American on one of his Ohio Wesleyan teams, who was denied housing at a hotel when Ohio Wesleyan went to Indiana to play Notre Dame. That may have influenced him towards the action he took in making Robinson the first African American player in the major leagues.
Henry reveals that Rickey had doubts about his plans to bring Robinson to the Dodgers, and details Rickey’s secret visit to his pastor at Plymouth Church as he was struggling over the decision to sign Robinson. He said he had to talk to God about it.
In their initial three-hour meeting in August, 1945, Rickey asked Robinson to “turn the other cheek”. Robinson was known to have a temper. Rickey asked him if he could keep his temper in check knowing what was coming his way? Robinson’s faith helped him to do so and Robinson would keep his word to Rickey, though it was very difficult to do so. Rickey told Jackie that “God is with us”. Henry states that Robinson talked to his mother after his initial meeting with Rickey (who Jackie would come to see as a father figure).
Henry writes that Rickey and Robinson both had mothers who instilled a strong faith in them. Both also taught Sunday School in their respective churches.
Methodist pastor Karl Everitt Downs had a big impact on the young Jackie. The author states that Robinson felt a connection with the biblical character Job in the suffering he had to endure.
Jackie got four hits and a home run in his first minor league game. He was treated in a hateful and shameful manner his first year in the major leagues, including by Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman, which was depicted in the film 42. He would go on to be named 1947 Rookie of the Year, and the Dodgers would go to the World Series, where they would lose to the New York Yankees. The Dodgers would eventually win the World Series in 1955.
Rickey would leave the Dodgers for Pittsburgh in 1951, being succeeded by Walter O’Malley. Robinson would greatly miss Rickey. Rickey would die in 1965. The Dodgers would try to trade Robinson to the New York Giants in 1956, but he chose to retire instead, accepting a position as Vice President at Chock full o’Nuts. He would be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962.
The author touches on Robinson’s political views, his work for civil rights, his relationship with teammate and fellow African American Roy Campanella, and the tragic drug addiction and unrelated death of son Jackie Jr. at age 24 in 1971. Friends would say he was never the same again after the loss of his son. Robinson had diabetes and would die at the early age of 53 in 1972.
I enjoyed and appreciated Henry’s unique perspective on Jackie Robinson’s story.
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BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler. 224 pages. 2018
In this new book, step by step, phrase by phrase, Dr. Mohler explains what the words in The Lord’s Prayer mean and how we are to pray them.
We begin our look at this important new book by reviewing the Introduction:
- We still yearn for radical change, for things to be made right. We rightly long to see righteousness and truth and justice prevail. We are actually desperate for what no earthly revolution can produce. We long for the Kingdom of God, and for Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are looking for a kingdom that will never end and a King whose rule is perfect. This is why Christian’s pray the Lord’s Prayer.
- The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that turns the world upside down. Are you looking for revolution? There is no clearer call to revolution than when we pray “Yourkingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But this is a revolution only God can bring … and He will.
- The Lord’s Prayer takes less than 20 seconds to read aloud, but it takes a lifetime to learn. Sadly, most Christians rush through the prayer without learning it – but that is to miss the point completely.
- Jesus did not only teach his disciples to pray – he commanded us to pray.
- Many Christians simply do not know how to pray. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us how to pray.
Next time, we’ll look at Chapter 1: The Lord’s Prayer: An Overview.