May 27th, 2010
05:10 PM ET

Jackie Robinson's other crusade

Any baseball fan probably knows the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American in major league baseball.

I thought I did, too.

Then  I came across a book describing how Robinson’s Christian faith also drove his decision to become the major league’s first black baseball player.

Tom Krattenmaker, author of Onward Christian Athletes, says Robinson’s Christianity was nurtured by a “fervently devout mother.”

Krattenmaker says Robinson also developed a mentor-protégé relationship with a dynamic pastor in his church, and expressed his faith through civil rights activism.

Robinson’s beliefs helped convince Branch Rickey, the pious Brooklyn Dodgers executive, to make Robinson a racial pioneer, Krattenmaker told me when I talked to him recently for an article on the growing nexus between sports and faith.

The pivotal meeting between Rickey and Robinson revolved around theology - not baseball - Krattenmaker writes.

After learning that the gifted and highly skilled ballplayer Robinson was a church-going Christian, Rickey decided to give him a closer look and arranged a meeting, one that would turn into an emotional three-hour marathon. At one point during the discussion, the bespectacled baseball man read out loud from Giovanni Papini’s The Life of Christ, a passage dealing with the practice of turning the other cheek. ...

The story shows you how time has changed. Robinson never pointed to heaven after he hit a home run.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Culture & Science • Sports

soundoff (34 Responses)
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.