PDT Staff Writer
In a year in which a movie will honor the career and groundbreaking baseball hero Jackie Robinson and the man from Scioto County, Branch Rickey, who signed him to a contract, will come to theaters across America, a California book repairer has come up with an item that has great meaning to the life of Rickey.
Acording to a story in the Sacramento Bee, California book repairer, Joanne Murphy, reportedly knew something was unusual when she opened up an old Bible found last week amid thousands of materials donated to the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library. The Bible contained 31 signatures, with a heading in blue ink that reads - “Pirates 1953.” Sure, that Pirates team finished dead last with a 54-100 record, but those signatures were attached to a book once owned by the legendary Cooperstown enshrinee, Branch Rickey, raised in Lucasville.
“The Bible had been sitting in my shop for months waiting to get repaired,” Murphy, 65, told the Sacramento Bee. “No one wanted it.”
The motion picture “42,” comes out this year, the 60th year of the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entrance into Major League Baseball, and those familiar with the story of the relationship between the two men, know there was a spiritual component to it. An article titled “With Guts Enough To Be Disarming,” carries the following passage:
…Rickey read to Robinson some familiar words from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy cheek, turn to him the other also.” “I have two cheeks, Mr. Rickey,” Robinson answered. “Is that it?” That was it.
Like Robinson, Branch Rickey was also a Methodist. Not just a Methodist, but, according to Rickey biographer Arnold Rampersad, “a dedicated, Bible-loving Christian who refused to attend games on Sunday.”
His full name was Wesley Branch Rickey. He was a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University-and the influence of the Methodist Church was a great factor in his life.
The Bible was signed by 30 players and manager Fred Haney from the 1953 Pittsburgh Pirates and was given to general manager Rickey, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson six years earlier when he ran the Brooklyn Dodgers.
So, how exactly did Rickey’s Bible end up in a donation bin in Sacramento?
Rickey’s grandson, Branch Barrett Rickey, said it’s a mystery to him as well.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of the Bible,” Branch B. Rickey said by phone from Texas.
Branch Rickey, who was posthumously inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, died in 1965. About a dozen of the 30 Pirates players who signed the Bible, including Hall of Fame member Ralph Kiner and broadcaster Joe Garagiola, are still living. But of the five reached by The Bee, none recalled signing the Bible.
“I don’t remember signing it, but maybe I did,” Eddy Fitz Gerald, a former catcher who lives in Folsom, said.
Branch B. Rickey, president of the Pacific Coast League, said a number of his relatives live in California, including a sister in Davis and a cousin in Sacramento. But both said they didn’t know about the Bible.
“Much of the stuff from my grandfather was parceled out among five daughters and a daughter-in-law,” Branch B. Rickey said. “The division of who got what was very informal.”
He said it was possible his grandfather had “given the Bible as a gift to a dear friend,” but acknowledged “there’s any number of speculations.”
Baseball collectors told Murphy the restored Bible could fetch as much as $800, the newspaper reports.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or firstname.lastname@example.org.