David R. Currie
A Rancher's Rumblings
April 17, 2007


This past weekend, major league baseball celebrated the 60 th anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American player in 1947.

Listening to the ceremony honoring Robinson on Sunday night, I was very moved, as I thought about the character and courage that Robinson had to have to survive the death threats, racist statements and taunts, and constant pressure to not fail. If he did not perform at a high level of excellence; if he responded in anger; or if he, in any way, acted as most humans would act in response to living under relentless attacks on our integrity and dignity, he would be a failure. Jackie Robinson’s impact was such that, if he had been a failure, the civil rights movement might never have happened. Jackie Robinson probably changed America more than any other man in the 20 th century. He changed America by playing baseball.

I hope that you took the time to read the many newspaper articles about Robinson, or those on the Internet about this remarkable man and all that he did for America and, I believe, the Kingdom of God. If you did not, I urge you to look him up now and read about him on the Internet. There are some great articles.

In 1947, there were 16 major league teams. They voted 15-1 against integration, but Dodgers owner Branch Rickey showed tremendous courage and integrated the Dodgers in spite of the overwhelming vote against him.


George Will wrote about Robinson’s brother, Mack, who finished second in the 200-meter dash in the 1936 Olympics and “wore his Olympic jacket as a Pasadena, California street sweeper.” That was America in 1947. African-Americans could die for their country in war but could not find decent jobs to support their families. Jackie Robinson is the one who started to change all of that, followed by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. We are a better country and people now, even though we still have many problems in race relations and other areas.

But my favorite story is about Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers’ shortstop and captain, as well as my sister Carolyn’s favorite player (along with Roy Campanella). I’ve told the story many times but was glad to read a first-person account in USA Today, written by Ralph Branca, a Dodgers pitcher who was a teammate of Robinson and Reese.

It was in Cincinnati during the summer of 1947. “‘One day they were on Jackie’s case pretty good from the Reds’ third-­base dugout,’ Branca recalls. ‘The fans were hooting and hollering. That’s when Pee Wee walked over and put his glove hand around Jackie’s left shoulder, stared into the Cincinnati dugout and said, “Hey, he’s my friend. It says Brooklyn on my uniform and Brooklyn on his and I respect him.” That took a lot of courage because Pee Wee came from Louisville, just 60 miles down the road. He was going to go home and be razzed by friends and called names.’”


Reese putting his arm around Robinson was a small action in many ways, but it was also a huge act of courage and compassion. It also told other Dodgers, who didn’t want to play with Robinson, how their “leader” felt.

Dr. Tracy used to say that he appreciated the Billy Grahams of the world but that Kingdom battles are actually fought in the day-to-day challenges and opportunities that everyday Christians face to be loving and accepting and courageous. The Kingdom of God is spread by normal everyday people doing the right thing in a tough situation; the loving thing when it would be easier to be judgmental; the kind action when it would be easier to be angry or hurtful.

We defeat racism when we refuse to be racist; we defeat sexism when we refuse to be sexist; we defeat greed when we are generous; we defeat pride when we put the feelings and needs of others above our own.

Jackie Robinson did something that very few men could have done; in doing so, he changed America. Pee Wee Reese helped by standing beside him with a simple act of courage and compassion.

Few of us have an opportunity to show the courage of Jackie Robinson in the spotlight, with the pressure of the world upon us, but each of us has an opportunity to imitate Pee Wee Reese nearly every day. Think about it.