The Faith of Jackie Robinson, Both on and Off the Field
In Major League Baseball and across society, this man changed all the rules — and now, 71 years later, America remembers and celebrates
Baseball player Jackie Robinson — number 42 — was a man of faith. Over the weekend and beyond, America celebrates Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers 71 years ago.
On Saturday, festivities included the renaming of the 500 block of MacDonough Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant to Jackie Robinson Way, multiple outlets reported. Robinson resided at 526 MacDonough from 1947 to 1952. His son, David, and his family were present to celebrate the renaming of this street to honor a distinguished athlete and faithful Christian.
People of faith know that having strong beliefs doesn’t always make things easier — particularly back in the 1940s and ’50s, when tensions ran high regarding the inclusion of blacks into all aspects of society.
“The path was not easier for Jackie Robinson simply because he embraced God,” wrote Fox News Channel’s chief national correspondent, Ed Henry, in his book, “42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story,” published last April. “He was far from perfect and had a criminal record from his days in the gang, though it is clear that at least some of the arrests were racially motivated.”
Robinson’s mother “taught her kids to get down on their knees and pray each night before bed, a habit Jackie would continue right through his days as a famous baseball player,” Henry wrote in his book.
The Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson in 1947. Inducted 15 years later into the Hall of Fame in 1962, Robinson held the titles of rookie of the year (after his first season) and, in 1949, National League MVP.
“We’ve got this culture now of everybody gets a trophy,” Henry said last year as a guest on the podcast “Unplugged with Brandon Steiner.” “Jackie Robinson didn’t just have trophies handed to him. He earned every accolade he got, and he overcame all kinds of adversity.”
Hall of Famer Branch Rickey made the decision to bring Robinson into the major leagues.
71 years ago today, Jackie Robinson made his @MLB debut as a Brooklyn Dodger & became the first African American to play in the Major League. This historic milestone is celebrated at Major League ballparks across the nation with players wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. pic.twitter.com/4U4Iuw9vav
— Jackie Robinson Fdtn (@JRFoundation) April 15, 2018
“What bound them together was a love for this game of baseball and also a strong faith in God that these two men shared,” Henry said.
“I think the lessons of both Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey are timeless in terms of showing us through hard work, courage, grace under pressure and a strong faith in God, frankly, [that] you can overcome any challenge,” Henry said.
Robinson’s story has been portrayed in movies such as “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950) and “42” (2013).
“Jackie and some of his friends were dragged off to jail at gunpoint by a local sheriff because they had gone swimming in the reservoir,” Henry wrote in his book. “Sure, the kids were in the wrong, but it’s hard to believe that a similar swim by white kids would have resulted in them being escorted to jail at all, let alone with weapons pressed to them. After all, Jackie had jumped into the reservoir to protest the ban on African-Americans at the local pool.”
Thanks to the faith of his mother and a Christian minister named Karl Downs, Robinson ended up on the path toward God.
This article originally appeared last year and has been updated.