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April 29, 2013

Inside the soul of Jackie Robinson

(Continued)

The key "42" scene -- when Robinson meets Rickey on Aug. 28, 1945 -- could have shown that the Dodgers leader pulled out a classic devotional work: "Life of Christ" by Giovanni Papini. Ricky read aloud the passage in which the author discusses the Sermon on the Mount, including the reference that describes the "turn the other cheek" challenge as "the most stupefying" of the "revolutionary teachings" of Jesus.

It wouldn't have taken long to read the scripture that so inspired Rickey and Robinson, said Metaxas. The Gospel of St. Matthew states:

"Ye have heard 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 right cheek, turn to him the other also."

The reason, quite literally, that Rickey "choose Jackie Robinson was his strong moral character and his Christian faith," said Metaxas. "There were other great black players out there. But could they have taken the stand that Jackie took? ...

"That first meeting is the moment. That scene is the heart of this story and Jesus is right there in the middle of it."

It would have been wonderful if "42" had also noted the strong faith of Robinson's mother, Mallie. Then there was a crucial Methodist mentor named Karl Downs who taught the great ballplayer that obeying the command to "resist not evil" was not cowardly, but heroic, said Metaxas.

But movies are movies and, often, what matters the most are the visual images. Thus, it's crucial that Helgeland didn't include scenes in which Robinson is shown doing what he repeatedly said that he did day after day in those tense early years in the major leagues -- getting down on his knees, praying for strength and patience.

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