The Power of a Life Lived
Branch Rickey refused to play or attend games on Sunday. An uncharacteristic trait of a Baseball manager, it is even more uncharacteristic of the manager of the famed Brooklyn dogers. A perennial powerhouse, the team Rickey managed was directed by an inovator who was a devout Christian.
Rickey was in search for something special three weeks after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sending a scout to gather a well-known player named Jackie Robinson led to a historic meeting in Rickey's office on Mantague Street in Brooklyn Heights. The meeting in their office is told by biographer Arnold Rampersad:
Rickey stripped off his coat and enacted out a variety of parts that portrated examples of an offended Jim Crow. Now he was a white hotel clerk rudely refusing Jackie accomodations; now a supercilious white waiter in a restaurant; now a brutish railroad conductor. He became a foul-mouthed opponent, Jack recalled, talking about "my race, my parents, in language that was almost unendurable." now he was a vengeful base runner, vindictive spikes flashing in the sun, sliding into Jack's black flesh-"How do you like that, nigger boy?"
Eric Metaxas notes in his book 7 Men, "According to Rickey, not only would Robinson have to tolerate such abuse, but he would need to almost be superhuman and to commit himself to never, ever hit back...Jackie knew that resisting the urge to fight back really would require a superhuman effort, but he was deeply moved by Rickey's vision. He thought of his mother. He thought of all the black people who deserved someone to break this ground for them, even if it was difficult. He believed God had chosen him for this noble purpose...Knowing that Jackie shared his Christian faith and wanting to reinforce the spiritual dimensions of what the two men were about to embark on, Rickey brought out a copy of a book titled Life of Christ by Giovanni Papini. He flipped to the passage in which Papini discusses the Sermon on the MOunt and refers to it as 'the most stupefying of Jesus's revolutionary teachings.' It certainly was revolutionary. In fact, it seemed impossible."
This story of Jackie Robinson is inspiring. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson were compelled by their Christian faith to join together to break the racial barrier. They referenced the Sermon on the Mount and found solace in the reality of the Gospel. The power of the Gospel is more than words spoken, it is the power of a life lived.