Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We Would Have Played for Nothing

Two little things from a light read on baseball in the 1950s and 60s: a compilation of interviews by former commissioner Fay Vincent called We Would Have Played for Nothing.

One of the primary themes is the emergence and heroism of Jackie Robinson. It was interesting to read the varying perceptions of players, based on their own backgrounds-- fully expecting or being surprised by what they encountered.

Carl Erskine took things a step further by talking about what Robinson meant for disabled people. Erskine and his wife had a boy with Down Syndrome:

Jimmy was born into a society that wasn't any more prepared to accept him than it had been to accept Jackie....There's a momentum in life and in sports. And I think Jackie kicked off a momentum of change that had a sweeping effect. ...We went from a society-- in Jackie's case-- from rejection to inclusion. In Jimmy's case, from a spectator to a participant.

I've often talked about how the 1950s are fondly regarded by many. But they weren't such good times for minorities and the disabled. From a Christian perspective, it's also not clear whether the greater number of "Christians" in that day were culturally so-- or relatively shallow in their faith-- in comparison to today.

Erskine also shared a story about he and Robin Roberts speaking at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes talk at a high school. Erskine paraphrased Roberts:

"You know, I could throw hard when I was a kid. I had a good arm, and I didn't know why. I'd just throw it...As I kept doing it, I kept thinking 'Gee, I've got something these other kids don't have.' Now, I really think that if God gave me the ability to throw a baseball, God should have something to say about how I use it." Just a strong statement of simple faith and simple belief.


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