Big Leaguer Jackie Robinson

Big Leaguer Jackie Robinson

"And Peter . . . said: 'Truly, I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."—Acts 10:34-35

Take your mind back to May, 1920, to a hot day in Georgia. Mallie Robinson was discouraged. And no wonder! Her husband had run away and left her with five children to raise, the oldest only ten.

She hitched up the horse and went out in the fields to plow under the broiling afternoon sun. Furrow after furrow, row after row, step after weary step, she plowed until the day was done and she returned to the house. There in the half darkness inside was her baby—John Roosevelt Robinson.

This sixteen-month-old Negro boy, who cried constantly, whose mother was soon to board a bus with just the clothes on her back and five hungry tots, was the same Jackie Robinson who someday was to be on the front page and sports page of every newspaper in the world.

The bus roared on toward California, the Robinsons eating mainly sandwiches and lunches brought along, for Negroes could not be served at most of the bus stops along the way.

We've no time to tell each incident in the life of this great ball player who, as much as anybody else, brought the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first World Series victory, but let's just take a quick glimpse at him along the way.

First, his grandfather was a slave. His mother, when they reached California, took in washing and ironing to feed her family. Oftentimes she worked out in other folks's houses. After school and in the summer Jackie went around the streets of Pasadena gathering up newspapers and junk in a little red wagon. He shined shoes for more money for the family. Each Sunday morning he got up at four to deliver newspapers.

When the great depression of 1929 came, times were hard. Some nights there was no supper. Jackie and the other four children knew hunger. But they were happy.

And no matter what, every Sunday morning they all walked to the Methodist church nearby, where Jackie learned Chris­tian ideals that are with him to this day. Mallie Robinson always reminded her children, no matter how poor they were to worship God and give him thanks.

But harder than poverty was being called a "nigger" and 'hav­ing to take it. Jackie was hot-tempered. He wanted to strike back. But his mother showed him how he could win only if he was more charitable and patient than those who called him names.

Jackie and his older brother Matthew soon acquired fame as athletes. Matthew even came in second in the 1936 Olympics, right behind the great Jesse Owens in the two hundred meter sprint.

Jackie was an all-round athlete. In Muir Technical High School he entered every sport, starring in track, baseball, basketball, and football. But in them all the worst opponent was never the actual competition but the cruel talk and foul play he encountered because of his color.

We see him being tackled harder than the other backs in football, or being guarded more closely on the basketball court, or the fans calling him bad names from the baseball stands. Jackie learned that if he was to stay in the game, he had to keep his mouth shut.

He matured and gained fame at Pasadena Junior College and then at the University of California at Los Angeles. He graduated from there as the greatest athlete in the school's history.

Even while in college with this great athletic career Jackie had to work—cleaning up dirty dishes in a cafeteria, working as janitor, selling hot dogs and candy at Rose Bowl games, which are held in Pasadena, his home town.

The years passed. Jackie was called into the army in World War II. Then he coached sports at a small, struggling Negro college in Houston, Texas. Next he played for the Kansas City baseball club in a minor league.

Then came his big chance. Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, asked him to play for Montreal as preparation for actually going on to the Dodgers. Rickey warned him against the jeers, curses, blows, intentional spikings, and vile names he'd have to endure and all without striking back or lashing out with his tongue.

All of what Rickey said came true. Not only the fans but the players did all they could to get under Jackie's skin. Every bad word was hurled at him. Players deliberately roughed him up to make him lose his temper and be thrown out of the game. But Jackie Robinson, the first Negro in big-league baseball, held his tongue and his fist.

We know now how he did make the Dodger team and in his first year was named the most valuable rookie of the year. Honor after honor was heaped on him by Negro and white person alike. When he tried to buy a home in Stamford, Connecticut, neighbors opposed it, saying they didn't want Negroes living so close. But others said differently. And Jackie and his wife got the home they wanted.

Through all these trials his Christian religion, taught so many years ago by his mother, stayed by him. He learned to smile when mistreated, to play all the harder when opponents tried to rattle him.

Today the whole world honors Jackie Robinson, the Christian gentleman, the same Jackie born many years ago in a tumble-down house, but who had the advantage of having a mother who followed Christ.

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