4.15.2007

Guts

In college and professional sports, teams retire the jersey numbers of the all-time greats who played for them. For example, no Chicago Bull can wear number 23, because that was Michael Jordan’s number, and it has been retired. No New York Yankee can wear number 3, because that was Babe Ruth’s number, and it has been retired. If you play Major League Baseball, no matter what team you play for, you can’t wear the number 42, because that was Jackie Robinson’s jersey number, and it is the only number to be retired by Major League Baseball.

Sixty years ago today, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson donned that number 42 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey and appeared in his first regular season Major League game.

Contrary to popular belief, Robinson was not the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues, but on that April day he did break baseball’s color barrier and became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

His Hall of Fame career and the way he handled himself on and off the field opened the door for other black athletes in professional sports, and it has been said that only Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished more for the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. than did Jackie Robinson.

Before he signed a contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson was called into the office of Team President and General Manager Branch Rickey. To give him a taste of what it would be like to be the only black player in the Big Leagues, Rickey spent 3 hours taunting and insulting Robinson, calling him every racial slur he could think of. Rickey then told Robinson that this is what he would face every day on the field, and that if he wanted it to work out, he would have to promise not to fight back or respond to insults of any kind for the first three years of his career.

Robinson, who possessed a fiery temperament and was very outspoken, was put off by this and asked, “Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a player who is afraid to fight back?”

Branch Rickey replied, “No, I want someone with guts enough not to fight back.”

And that’s exactly what Robinson did. When opposing baserunners tried to spike him when sliding into second base, he didn’t fight back. When fans and players yelled and cursed at him and questioned his humanity, he showed them how wrong they were by taking the moral high ground.

He had the guts not to fight back.

What Branch Rickey told Jackie Robinson reminds me of Jesus’ words in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

The world tells us to stand up for ourselves when we are treated unjustly. It tells us to have the courage to fight back and not let others push us around.

Jesus tells us to have the courage to show that we are different from the world because we don’t fight back, and He tells us to forgive others when they do mistreat us.

He wants followers with guts enough not to fight back.


Today, on the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game as a Dodger, representatives from each Major League team will wear number 42 in his honor.

4 comments:

preacherman 10/6/06, 7:52 AM  

Luke,

I enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to reading more in the future.
I have been censured from the blog you responded on. I wanted to let you know that I love all people and most of all God. God is what life is all about. And the beautiful thing about God is that he takes all of our differences, politcal, education, families, religious up bringing and makes something beautful, like an artist. It takes guts to stand for what you believe whether it be sports, social issues specially the Bible. There are so many Christians who lack guts. If only more of us had guts when it comes to faith and what we believe.
Thanks for you post.
Thanks for you blog.
Looking forward to reading more of it.

God bless you brother!

J. Beauchamp 11/29/06, 3:37 PM  

Nice post bro.

Branch Rickey wasn't Jesus, but he may be in the running for James.

Luke 12/7/06, 4:58 PM  

Yeah, he was pretty cool.

Though the integration of MLB was Rickey's biggest contribution, he also pioneered the farm system.

As a Dodger fan, you should be proud.

Edward Carson 4/18/07, 6:04 PM  

This blog piece reminds me of why America is so great. Although bad things happen in the world, we find ways to unite and overcome our differences and challenges.

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