Just when you thought you knew who Jackie Robinson was, the book 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story gets published and it makes you rethink your impression of the man who became legend.
The Jackie most of us know is the Baseball hall of famer and first African American baseball player in the major leagues, appearing in the World Series numerous times and earning the rookie of the year award and the National League MVP. Many know that as a student at UCLA, he became the first athlete to win varsity letters in FOUR sports (baseball, basketball, football and track). Some even remember that he served our country as a second lieutenant in the Army and was court-martialed for his refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus. Also incredibly noteworthy, he earned the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom – both the highest honors an American civilian can receive. His number 42 has been permanently retired from all teams in the major leagues and his story – the one you know — is already the stuff of movies and countless books.
But just when you think you’ve googled everything there is to know about the legend Jackie Robinson, author Ed Henry has written a book showing us another path from Jackie’s remarkable journey. In the book 42 Faith, Henry includes research over a ten-year time period and the role that faith played throughout Robinson’s life.
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Imagine the horrific racial attacks that Jackie faced daily as the first black man in major league baseball. This book illuminates the personal story of Jackie Robinson, and how his quiet but strong beliefs helped him cope with problems he faced in a world barely ready for a black baseball player. But it also uncovers the people around Jackie that also turned to a higher power to make these historic decisions which paved the way to a new beginning in our country.
One such example is Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey and his struggle with the decision to sign Jackie to the team. Rickey he went to Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, asking to speak with Reverend L. Wendell Fifield before coming to his final decision in 1947. We know what Rickey decided, but most never knew about that pivotal moment. It was a meeting that the Reverend kept secret — except for telling his wife. Author Ed Henry only learned about the encounter after Fifiled’s passing and by reading a five page church bulletin story written by Fifield’s wife, June. In her letter, she told the story of how Rickey wanted to be in God’s presence while he made the final decision whether to sign Robinson to the Dodgers or not.
This book is filled with stories of people who knew Jackie as he was: how he certainly wasn’t perfect, but he was relatable even through the significant challenges that he faced. I love the story of the cleats and revenge for bad behavior but you’ll have to read the book to earn your own chuckle. It even has personal forwards by Juan Williams and Larry King.
If you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift for your baseball fan, this is a captivating retelling of the real-life story of sports, race, faith and exemplary character.
I received a complimentary copy of 42 Faith to review. All opinions are my own.