Two books shine a long-overdue spotlight on the Christian convictions of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier.
There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of 42, the 2013 film that depicts the inspiring story of Jackie Robinson. Observers noticed it at the time, pointing out that the film mostly ignored the role that faith played in Robinson’s life and in Branch Rickey’s decision to sign him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. And the film is not the only account of Robinson’s life that downplays religion. While Rickey’s stalwart Methodist convictions have been widely recognized, most biographies of Robinson provide limited attention to his own faith.
Not so in Michael G. Long’s and Chris Lamb’s Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography(Westminster John Knox Press) and Ed Henry’s 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story(Thomas Nelson). Published earlier this year, both books claim to offer a thorough look at the religious dimensions of Robinson’s life.
Ed Henry worked at CNN for eight years before joining Fox News Channel in 2011 as chief national correspondent. His desire to write a book about Jackie Robinson’s faith grew out of his reporter’s instincts. In 2007 freelance journalist Donna Shor told him that her father-in-law, Rev. L. Wendell Fifield, was involved with Branch Rickey’s decision to sign Robinson. In 1945, she claimed, Rickey visited Fifield’s Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn, where he prayed for assurance from God that signing Robinson was the right move to make. Hearing Shor’s story, Henry writes, “sent me on this journey to find out how much of a role faith played” in bringing Robinson and Rickey together and in empowering Robinson to succeed.
Four years later, Henry heard from Shor again. This …