Last weekend, I finished 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book, going into it. I don’t consider myself a religious individual, and the thought of a book — even one about baseball — trying to shove faith down its readers’ throats was not an appealing possibility. But I’m glad I gave the book a shot in spite of my hesitation, because it really didn’t do that at all. Yes, it talked about religion quite a bit, but more from an objective, this-is-how-religion-factored-into-these-events kind of approach.
This book isn’t just about Jackie Robinson, but just as much about Branch Rickey and about the rest of the Brooklyn Dodgers team during Robinson’s time with them. It serves a biographical purpose when it comes to the lives of both Robinson and Rickey, while also, of course, highlighting the role of religion and faith for both men, both in their everyday lives and in the steps they took in breaking baseball’s color barrier.
His religious convictions, Henry writes, are a big part of what prompted Branch Rickey in his determination to bring a black player into the big leagues. Based on his research, Henry insists that Rickey was not as certain about his decision to break the color barrier as history now suggests, but rather his faith provided him with the resolve to move forward with the undertaking. And it was Robinson’s faith that sustained him through the slings and arrows flung at him on the diamond, even as he kept his promise to Rickey not to fight back.
The scope of the book doesn’t stop with these two men. Most notably, Henry also takes a long look at Ralph Branca, a devout Catholic and good friend to Jackie Robinson on the Brooklyn Dodgers team. Branca, fans might recall, also happens to be the pitcher who gave up the “Shot Heard Round to the World” to Bobby Thomson in the 1951 National League pennant race. Ed Henry delves into the role Branca’s religious beliefs played in his friendship with Robinson and in how he responded to the aftermath of the 1951 pennant race.
Ed Henry references Robinson’s unpublished memoirs to a great extent in this book. In his research, he also drew from previously uncovered sermons and traveled to perform interviews with Robinson’s and Rickey’s family and friends. Overall, I’d say this book is worth the read. True, it is another Jackie Robinson book in an already-large collection of Jackie Robinson books, but I think that Ed Henry does a great job looking at this story from a different angle, even talking about faith and religion without getting preachy.
For anyone who is going to be in the Washington, D.C. area in the near future, this looks like a fascinating opportunity to learn about the Library of Congress’s baseball collections. The LoC currently has a Baseball Americana exhibit featuring items from their collections and from their partners as they relate to the game’s history. You can find information about the exhibit and some of the online collections on their website.
Then on Friday, July 13th, the LoC is teaming up with JSTOR labs, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Wikimedia for an event that appears to be a sort of mini conference featuring not only the collections, but also a panel on baseball, data, and American culture. The poster for the event is below, and more information can be found through Eventbrite here.
These are just a couple events associated with the exhibit. More information regarding additional events can be found here. It’s one of those things that makes me wish I had a bit more flexibility for travel, because I’d totally go to check some of this stuff out if I could. If anyone reading any of this happens to attend any (or all!) of these, please report back here!
This photograph from the collections of the Library of Congress looks simple enough, but it prompts a lot of questions for me. It is noted that the photo was taken between 1873 and 1916. Given that the catcher’s mask wasn’t invented until 1876 and it wasn’t until a few years later that their use became common among backstops, we can eliminate the first few years of that range. The mitt, meanwhile, resembles the one patented by J.F. Draper in 1899, so I think it is safe to say this photo is likely from the early 20th century.
My questions, however, involve the player himself: Who is he? Where is he from? What team does he play for? Is he really a baseball player, or merely a man off the street the photographer convinced to put on some equipment for a photo op?
And if he really is a ballplayer, what is he thinking? He appears to be standing behind home plate, looking out at the field before him. Is he deciding on what pitch to ask for next? Is he unhappy with how the defense is arranged? Or is he upset because that damned umpire called the last pitch a ball when it was clearly over the outside corner?
Its listing in the Library of Congress catalog doesn’t answer any of those questions, unfortunately. I guess I’ll just have to continue to study the photo and wonder.
I found this photograph while browsing the Library of Congress catalog. Taken in July 1914, it depicts a group of men playing baseball in a large body of water off the beach. There’s no notation as far as an exact location, unfortunately. They appear to be playing ball in the ocean, but there are plenty of large lakes and other relatively-smaller bodies of water in existence large enough to not be able to see the shore on the other side. Regardless, the idea of playing baseball in the water, with other factors such as the tide, rocks, and seaweed, sounds like a fun and interesting twist on the game. Just keep your fingers crossed that your outfield doesn’t get eaten by sharks!
Here’s a cool, old school panoramic of a Yale-Princeton game, dated July 2, 1904, found in the Library of Congress collection. The photo was contributed by R.H. Rose & Son, and the game took place in Princeton, New Jersey. I tried to find a box score or other details about the game, but didn’t have any success in doing so. However, if you go to the photo link here, you can zoom in and pan around the photo. In doing so, you can get some cool views, like this one:
Here’s a photo from the Library of Congress collection simply titled, “Sandlot baseball.” It was published in 1918 by Bain News Service, but beyond this, there isn’t much information available regarding the print.
It is a fascinating one to look at and to contemplate what might be taking place. These two men appear to be fighting it out at third base — it could be first base, I suppose, but given the direction of the play in progress, I think third base is more likely. The runner seems to have made an unsuccessful attempt to dive back to the bag, perhaps due to a pick-off throw, or maybe he overran the bag while running the bases.
I’m curious about the exact location of the photo. They seem to be in the middle of a large field, and there is a town in the background. But those details can apply to just about anywhere in America at this time.
Bain News Service, Publisher. Sandlot Baseball.  Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ggb2006002736/. (Accessed January 04, 2017.)
Here’s a tremendous find that the Library of Congress recently recovered. Found in the garage of an estate, eight cans of nitrate film were discovered to be in near-perfect condition. The contents of the film? Nearly forty minutes of Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, in which the Washington Senators defeated the New York Giants 4-3 in twelve innings.
If you would like the read the story from the Washington Post, click here. As an added bonus, Keith Olbermann took the liberty of broadcasting the game’s highlights, complete with commentary:
Thanks for passing this story onto me, Bill!