Guts Enough Not To Fight Back: Jackie Robinson

Jackie steals home against Yogi Berra and the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.

As a general rule 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, regardless of what team you play for, you can’t wear the number 42, because that was Jackie Robinson’s number, and it is the only number to be retired by Major League Baseball.*

Sixty-five years ago yesterday, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson donned that number 42 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey and appeared in his first regular season Major League game, breaking baseball’s racial color barrier.**

Robinson’s Hall of Fame career and handled himself on and off the field opened doors for other black athletes in professional sports (and ultimately many other fields as well), and it has been said that only Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished more for the American Civil Rights Movement than did Jackie Robinson.

Before he signed a contract to play for the 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 three 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 of by this and asked, incredulously, “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.”

After some deliberation, Robinson agreed to Rickey’s terms, and he lived up to them on the field. 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 even questioned his very 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. On the other hand, 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 mistreat us.

Jesus wants followers with guts enough not to fight back.

•   •   •

* Yesterday, to commemorate the anniversary of Robinson’s first game as a Dodger, this prohibition was temporarily lifted as representatives from each Major League team wore number 42 in his honor.
**Contrary to popular belief, Robinson was not the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. That honor goes to Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884. Regardless of this, Robinson was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century, and it was his breaking of baseball’s color barrier that led to the permanent integration of the Major Leagues.


The Doc File © 2006-2012 by Luke Dockery

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP