Faith Lift: 42

Jackie Robinson

I’m a native Texan.   Naturally, I grew up playing 42. It’s a game played with a standard set of double six dominoes for four players, two sets of partners.  In 2011 it was designated the official State Domino game of Texas.   One Labor Day weekend my dad, mom, sister, and I played 100 games of 42.

There was a movie called “42.”  It wasn’t about dominoes. The movie 42 was the story of Jackie Robinson who was the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era.  On April 15, 1947 he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

As a pastor, one of my favorite scenes took place during one of Jackie’s first games against the Philadelphia Phillies.  At Jackie’s first at bat the Phillies manager, Ben Chapman, hurled racial slurs (in addition to having his pitcher hurl high inside heaters) at Jackie.  It distracted Jackie to the point that he flied out to the catcher.   Jackie was so frustrated that he took his bat into the hallway behind the dugout and shattered it into several pieces.  The owner of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey, who was a Methodist, met Jackie in that hallway.  He challenged Jackie to get back on the field.  He challenged him with these words.  “You are living the sermon.”

Jackie played for 10 seasons.  He played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship. (He stole home in Game 1). He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954 and was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947.  In 1949 he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award—the first African-American to be so honored.

Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, Major League Baseball “universally” retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams, the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored.  On April 15, 2004, Major League Baseball has adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day”, on which every player on every team wears #42.

One of my other favorite lines in the movie was when Branch Rickey was weighing which player to bring to the Dodgers.  He was asked if he wanted someone who had the courage to fight back.  Rickey said, “I want someone who has the courage to NOT fight back.”

Sounds like someone I will be preaching about last Sunday. In Matthew 5:39 Jesus said, “But I say to you, Do not resist and evildoer.  But is anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”   (I hope you were able to come and hear my lengthy explanation of this prescription). Come to think of it, the movie 42 was about dominoes.  Like a roomful of dominoes standing on their ends in a conga line around a room, Jackie Robinson was the first domino to fall that opened the way for Major League Sports to be integrated.  The abuse he took and his perseverance in the face of it was his contribution in our nation’s struggle for Civil Rights that we are remembering this Black History month of February.  Would that more and more of us would “live the sermon” that was preached by the man who wore 42 .”

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