Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, April 15, 1947 — “The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind.”1
On this spring afternoon, a young baseball player sporting the number 42 would take first base and change the history of the game forever. The support and criticism following Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the “color barrier” in baseball served as a microcosm of the racial tension that persisted across the country in the 1940s. Nearly 66 years later, Jackie Robinson’s story unfolds onscreen in the feature film 42.
Whether reflecting on Jackie Robinson’s plight or on the fact that baseball’s best hitters fail to get a hit about twice as often as they succeed, Major League Baseball offers insight into America’s history and provides valuable lessons about everyday life. Issues such as social turmoil and immigration, personal failure and the importance of teamwork have all played out on the field. If so inclined, one could even draw apologetic value from the sport.
In the articles below, Kenneth Samples and I (both diehard fans of baseball and of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in particular) offer our perspective on the sport and the lessons it provides on and off the field.
How Baseball Prepared Me for Life – Kenneth shares his love of baseball and connects it with life lessons, including how to cope with personal slumps, setbacks, and failures.
Reflecting on Baseball and Life – Kenneth describes the analogy between baseball and daily life and provides a list of the unique features of Major League Baseball and why it has remained such a grand game.
Why Can’t We Be Friends? – I explain how an unpleasant run-in with a rival fan revealed the importance of seeking common ground with those who hold “opposing” team and worldview loyalties rather than fighting over our differences.
Still a Fan – I compare misconduct in the Dodger clubhouse with bad behavior in the church and how, despite the effect some Christians’ bad behavior might have on morale, such behavior shouldn’t dissuade the faithful from rooting for the home team.
Perhaps after reading through these articles, even nonfans can appreciate baseball as more than simply America’s pastime. At the very least, you might want to check out 42 in theaters, to see the cultural climate in the 40s through the eyes of baseball.
Ball fields once served as training grounds for justice and they continue to open doors for discussion of ultimate issues today.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” —Jackie Robinson
1. Jackie Robinson as told to Alfred Duckett, I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson (New York: Harper Collins, 1995): xxiv.