James “Deacon” White Tribute

On July 28, 19th-century standout James Laurie “Deacon” White (1847-1939) will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some 75 years after his passing, the man tough enough to catch hundreds of games barehanded, skilled enough to bat .312 in more than 1,500 major league contests and famous enough to be part of a celebrated “Big Four” on three teams, at last is honored in Cooperstown for his diamond exploits. Some, however, will look even deeper into the character of the man. How did he get the nickname “Deacon”?  Beginning with the post-Civil War baseball boom, and playing into the 1890s, he exemplified Christian faith as a way of life and conduct. One of baseball’s first superstars, his career is well summarized by Joe Williams in Nineteenth Century Notes (Spring, 2010) published by SABR—the Society for American Baseball Research. His selection in that year as “19th Century Overlooked Legend” Read More

Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson and helped break the color barrier

Last April 12 was Opening Day for 42: The True Story of an American Legend, honoring Dodgers’ Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson (1919-1972). Chadwick Boseman played the man who broke MLB’s color barrier, with Harrison Ford as Brooklyn executive Branch Rickey (1881-1965). As David Q. Voight wrote in the Biographical Dictionary of American Sports (2000): “Rickey’s innovations as baseball executive, dominant role in the racial integration of organized baseball, and stimulus to the game’s expansion place him among this century’s most influential baseball leaders.” This year marks his centennial in the baseball front office. Becoming manager/executive director of the AL St. Louis Browns in 1913, his remarkable vision—and Christian convictions—created a Hall of Fame (1967) icon. Rickey was a bright, diligent student who worked through Ohio Wesleyan College and the University of Michigan Law School by teaching and coaching sports. He played pro baseball from 1903-07, a catcher batting .239 Read More

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