In 2007, Ed Henry was at a dinner, attempting to gracefully leave early, when the woman next to him asked if he was a baseball fan. He said of course — he was, in fact, trying to leave to watch the World Series at that very moment. The woman said, “My late father-in-law had a major role in baseball history and his story has never been told.” The journalist in Ed had to sit down and ask her more.
It turns out her father-in-law was a minister in Brooklyn. In 1945, Jackie Robinson was signed as the first black Major League Baseball player by Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers. But it almost didn’t happen.
Before he signed Robinson, Rickey had second thoughts and secretly went to his minister — the aforementioned father-in-law — to say, “I don’t know if I can do this…help me.” Ed said he wanted to find out what happened in that meeting and in what way faith affected Rickey’s decision to make history.
Ed, a Chief National Correspondent for Fox News, researched this story for years and recently published a book covering how faith was intertwined with the Jackie Robinson story. Ed sat down with Clay Aiken from Bold and Sarah Hill from Bookstr, to discuss the book, “Faith 42: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story,” and how faith helped these two men in their careers and lives. Rickey and Robinson didn’t have a lot in common, but “they both loved baseball and they both had a deep love of faith,” Ed said.
Sarah is the CEO of Bookstr, an online community focused on literature; she said she thinks her audience will love Ed’s book because of its inclusiveness. She said, “I love how this book has tied sports, African-American history and faith all into one book.”
Clay brought up the relationship between religion and racial tension at this time in history. He said, “I’m from the South. And people used religion many times to explain segregation and to validate it.” Ed said, “You’re exactly right, people in the South — and in other places — misused the gospel, misused the Bible to say that it was ok to enslave people.”
Ed said he thinks one of the wonders of this story is that “this is one example in history where the gospel is turned back around.” Rickey was looking for a player to turn the other cheek, and to be the bigger person at a time when there was so much hatred. Ed pointed to the scene in the movie “42” when the Branch Rickey character gets in the Jackie Robinson character’s face and tries to provoke him by saying awful things, and suggesting he’s going to be discriminated against. Robinson asks, “You want a player that doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” and Rickey says, “No, I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.”
It’s a powerful scene and Ed said it highlights following the Bible’s teachings. He said that faith played a part in both of these men’s lives in different ways. Rickey reportedly said signing Robinson was the hardest decision in his life and that he needed to be in his minister’s presence and in God’s presence to make it. While Robinson was much quieter about his faith than Rickey was, Ed said it was very important to him as well. Robinson’s faith sustained him through the rough moments when “he had people shouting awful things at him, [when he] had people threatening his life, just because he wanted to play baseball,” said Ed.
Ed told Clay and Sarah about the process of writing the book. Ed said he wanted to explore the faith dimension to this story and that it took years of research and writing to get his book published. And that research was made more difficult because many of the people in this story have passed away. “I had to find these living links to Jackie,” Ed said.
Ed wanted to know what happened in that famous meeting in 1945. Rickey’s minister basically kept it secret for over 20 years but right before he died, he told his wife what happened. She wrote about it in an essay and put it in her church bulletin in Brooklyn. This was in the mid ’60s and only a couple hundred people saw it — Ed tracked the essay down for his book.
Ed encouraged others who are thinking of writing a book to not stress about time. He was working on this project on and off for 10 years before he got “42 Faith” published.
Ed said he’s relieved to be done with the process but he’s actually excited to start writing again. He’s currently looking for the topic of his next book and his fans have even been pitching ideas on Twitter. Here at Bold, we’re certainly excited to see what he does next.