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Bill Ellis
 You're here » Christian Columns Index » Guest Writer

Jackie Robinson, meeting and learning from this great man
by Bill Ellis
April 14, 2007
Category: Sports
I REMEMBER WELL the time I met Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League baseball. My former classmate at Anderson College, Anderson, Indiana, and the celebrated Brooklyn Dodger pitcher, Carl Erskine, introduced me formally to this great American in the lobby of the Anderson YMCA. He was there to speak to a large crowd for a special occasion. What a thrill it was to meet a man of his stature.

The first time I may have met him was in the spring of 1953 when I went to see the Dodgers play an exhibition game in Birmingham, Alabama. I was so excited about what was happening I am not sure who I met.

Carl invited me to join him in the Dodger dugout before the game. I met a lot of their great players. Some of the members of that team were the magnificent Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Pee Wee Reese, Billy Cox, Carl Furillo, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. Carl Erskine won 20 and lost only six that year. This superb team repeated as National League champions.

I have read a great deal about Jackie Robinson the last few days. Sunday, April 15, 2007, marks the 60th anniversary of Jackie's first start in a major league game and the breaking of the color barrier in baseball which paved the way for other historic advances in civil rights.

Robinson also broke a color line with Montreal of the International League in 1946. Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers had chosen Jackie as the one to smash that hideous barrier in the Major Leagues and shatter it he did. He had been one of the all-time great college athletes, winning letters in four major sports at UCLA and served the army as a second lieutenant during World War II. He came to the Dodgers as a 28-year-old infielder and became the Rookie of the Year in 1947 and in 1949 was named the league's Most Valuable Player. He had come not only to change the face of baseball, but the face of a nation.

Later that same year the Cleveland Indians signed Larry Doby as the first black player in the American League and soon the St. Louis Browns added Hank Thompson and Willard Brown. The Dodgers also called up Dan Bankhead. The records speak clearly of the monumental achievements of African American players.

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey had mothers who were devout and devoted Christians who taught their famous sons to follow Jesus Christ. Both men were early leaders in the formation of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

For some of the best of the best baseball stories I suggest you get a copy of two books by Carl Erskine, who pitched his first professional baseball game at Fans Field, Decatur, Illinois, as a member of the Dodgers farm team in nearby Danville. The first of Erskine's books is titled Tales From the Dodger Dugout and the second one is Tales From the Dodger Dugout -- Extra Innings. I read them both over and over.

You can order copies of these two exciting books from Sports Publishing, Inc., by going online at www.sportspublishingLLC.com, fax 217-363-2073 or call toll free 1-877-424-2665. You may also check with your local bookstores.

A very special book by Carl Erskine, a McGraw-Hill publication, is titled What I Learned from Jackie Robinson. This terrific new book may be purchased at or ordered by the finest bookstores in your area.

Carl and Jackie were close friends who helped in numerous ways to make their world a better place in which to live. It was a privilege to meet both of these outstanding men. You may also meet them through Erskine's books.

© 2007 ASSIST News Service, used with permission.

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