Posts tagged jackie robinson

Unbroken, plus 10 other real-man movies



The movie Unbroken, which opened on Christmas Day 2014, tells the story of a real-life World War II hero. In this post, we share a bit of his story and point to 10 other major motion pictures about real-life men who stepped up in the face of overwhelming pressure.

This may sound strange coming from a professional writer, but I’m not a big reader. My schedule’s usually so busy and fragmented that it takes me forever to finish a book. That is, if I ever start one. A good year is when I actually finish five books.

Needless to say, I wasn’t overly excited or hopeful when my manager here at FamilyLife recommended a book for me to read. But he hit me at a good time, when distractions were at a minimum. I was hoping he was right about it being a gripping story, because if it didn’t grab me quickly, my schedule would.

He was right about Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. And so are the millions of readers who have kept it on the New York Times bestseller list for four years. And I’m pretty sure that millions more will be picking up a copy after seeing the film adaptation of Unbroken when it premiers in theaters on Christmas Day.

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Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, who may be the most incredible man you’ve never really heard of. The story follows his life, starting as a problem child running from the police, eventually channeling his talent for running into a positive direction and making the 1936 Olympics. When the nation was plunged into World War II, he put his Olympic career aside to become a highly-regarded bombardier in the Army Air Corps, only to become a crash survivor, floating at sea for a record 47 days before being picked up by the Japanese. He spent the better part of the next three years in brutal prisoner-of-war camps, written off as dead by the nation that revered him as an athlete.

After his rescue at the end of the war, he re-entered civilian life as a bitter and psychologically tortured man bent on revenge, which nearly destroyed his family. That all changed in 1949 when he heard Billy Graham at a Los Angeles evangelistic crusade speak of forgiveness and redemption through Christ. For the next 65 years until his death this summer at age 97, his personal life of forgiveness inspired and challenged others.

Two people in particular were impressed by his story. One was Laura Hillebrand, who wrote Unbroken. The other was Angelina Jolie, who directed the motion picture — one that directors toyed with for 50 years but none had the courage to tackle the complicated story line.

We haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet, but have paid close attention to the trailers, interviews, and news of the film — enough to be confident that it’s a movie well worth watching (and a book well worth reading). We have heard that the faith elements aren’t as strong as Christians would like, but thankfully the Billy Graham Association interviewed Louis before his death and had him tell the rest of the story … of how a bitter, broken man became unbroken through the life-changing power of Christ. The 30-minute video, Louis Zamperini: Captured by Grace, is available on DVD for a gift of any amount, and will be available to watch for free online beginning Christmas Day.

The film Unbroken is rated PG-13 for violence and some language, just to be forewarned. This may be a great outing for a father and older sons. Zamperini shows how talent combined with discipline and focus can defeat some of the most formidable foes, whether external or internal. Seeing other real-life men stepping up to face struggles in their lives, encourages boys and men both, and opens up opportunities for conversations about what it means to be a man.

To go along with the movie Unbroken, we came up with a list of 10 other movies for men. Over the past few months, we asked a number of people to recommend movies where men stepped up in the midst of difficulties and, in doing so, inspired others. Here are some of the films that consistently showed up on these men’s lists. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. We don’t even claim them to be the best biographical movies for men.  And some of them have objectionable elements that may make them inappropriate for your sons, or even for you. So we’ve included their MPAA ratings. For more information on the content in these films, follow the links to Pluggedin.com, Focus on the Family’s film review site, which we find to be dependably thorough and balanced.

So here’s our list of 10 real-man movies — films about real-life men who stepped up in adversity, and the films (in alphabetical order) that tell their stories.

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Jackie Robinson’s story: becoming a mentor (conclusion)



This is the third and final part in the Jackie Robinson Story as carried in the book, Stepping UpBe sure to read parts one and two if you missed them.

20/20 generational vision

photo from www.britannica.com

photo from www.britannica.com

Jackie Robinson wasn’t forced to become the man to integrate Major League Baseball. Branch Rickey could have found another player, and it certainly would have been more comfortable for Robinson to follow someone else’s lead. He had the ability, however, to look beyond himself. Someone needed to make the sacrifice. Someone needed to blaze the trail so that others in the future would have equal opportunities.

I think that many of us men face a similar choice as we reach our thirties, forties, and fifties. We may never face the intense opposition that confronted Robinson, but I believe we are called to look beyond ourselves to the impact we can have on the next generation.

Becoming a mentor

Becoming a mentor is the fourth of the five steps of manhood. Some guys can see clearly where they are in life, but they haven’t developed the ability, like Robinson did, to look past themselves. A mentor, on the other hand, exhibits “20/20 generational vision.” He sees the need to pass on his faith and his experience to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

A mentor makes decisions and orders his life to intentionally invest in the next generation. A mentor must pass on his values — lessons learned from his mistakes, successes, and defeats — the essence of his life. He intentionally passes on wisdom to the next generation and casts a vision for how they can do the same.

It’s possible to step up and become a mentor when you are a young man, especially if you are put in a position of authority or influence over others. But in this section, I’m going to speak primarily to those of you who are entering what I call the “prime time” years.

Most younger men pour their physical and emotional energy into building their careers, raising their families, and being involved in church or community. Once their children leave home, I’ve often seen men head in one of three directions:

  1. They pour their energy into a renewed effort to capitalize on their position and experience and seek further success and influence in the working world.
  2. Perhaps fearing the onset of older age, they regress and try to recapture their youth by seeking adventure and sensual pleasure.
  3. Realizing that they won’t achieve the wealth and success they had dreamed about in their careers, they gradually become depressed and passive and end up squandering the assets God has given them.

But there is a better path — a path of wisdom. Many men in the prime time years recognize that they now have the time and energy to broaden their influence and impact for Christ by mentoring younger men.

If you are at this stage in life, my challenge to you is to step up and become a mentor. You’ll find the “view” from this step to be quite exhilarating.

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

Major League trailblazer — Jackie Robinson story (part two)



Yesterday, we started the courageous story of Jackie Robinson as shared in Stepping Up.  Today, we continue the story in part two …

Stepping Up FamilyLife Jackie Robinson sliding-2

photo from http://www.myhero.com/

Handling the pressure

Rickey turned out to be an accurate prophet. After a successful year in the minor leagues, Robinson made his major-league debut as the Dodgers’ first baseman in April of 1947. The first resentment he faced was from his own teammates. They didn’t like the idea of a black player taking a white man’s spot on the roster. Many were from the south and weren’t accustomed to equal treatment for blacks.

Dixie Walker, one of the top Brooklyn players, worried about the reaction back home in Hueytown, Alabama, if he played with blacks. He feared how it would affect business at his hardware and sporting-goods store. “I grew up in the South, and in those days you grew up in a different manner,” Walker said years later. “We thought that blacks didn’t have ice water in their veins and so [they] couldn’t take the pressure of playing big league baseball.”

On opening day, most of the players ignored Robinson. He arrived in the locker room to discover that he hadn’t been assigned a locker; his uniform was hanging on a hook on the wall.

Robinson’s first real test occurred in a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. A flood of insults poured out of the Philadelphia dugout during the game. The Phillies insulted his appearance and yelled about the diseases he would pass on to the Dodger players and their wives.

Robinson took insults like these personally. “For one wild and rage-crazed minute,” he wrote later, “I thought, ‘To hell with Mr. Rickey’s noble experiment.’ I thought what a glorious, cleansing thing it would be to let go. To hell with the image of the patient black freak I was supposed to create. I would throw down my bat, stride over to the Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of bitches and smash his teeth in with my despised black fist. Then I could walk away from it all.”

But Robinson withstood the temptation that day . . . and for the entire season. Instead, he let his playing speak for him. It was more than his hitting and fielding, which improved throughout the season. He also disrupted the opposing team with his daring base running. He would take impossibly big leads off base, throwing pitchers out of their rhythm and shaking their confidence. This led to more walks and better pitches for his teammates to hit. He could take over a game even if he never got a hit.

Still, he paid a price for holding back his emotions. At home he became withdrawn from his wife, Rachel, and found it difficult to sleep. At one point he called his sister and said, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m quitting.”

He received almost no support from his teammates, who excluded him from social outings and hardly spoke to him on road trips. The players’ wives met regularly for shopping, knitting, and impromptu sleepovers, but Rachel was never invited.

Rooting for Jackie Robinson

But as the season progressed, things began to change. His teammates began yelling in his defense at opposing teams, threatening retaliation if the insults continued. He was greeted by well-wishers and autograph seekers wherever he went. White kids began selling, “I’m rooting for Jackie Robinson” buttons at Ebbets Field.

Most of the letters the Dodgers received were encouraging. One fan wrote, “You’ve got a lot more friends in this country of ours than enemies. The main thing to remember is that it’s the unthinking few who generally make the biggest noise.” Another said, “If your batting average never gets any higher than .100 and if you make an error every inning, [and] if I can raise my boy to be half the man that you are, I’ll be a happy father.”

Robinson also began to see the impact he was having on the culture. An owner of an electronics factory in New Jersey, for example, was inspired by Robinson’s example and decided to integrate his factory.

Late in the season, Brooklyn fans were angered when Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals appeared to deliberately step on Robinson’s foot at first base. One fan, Doug Wilder, was at the game that day, and he felt this may have been Robinson’s greatest moment “in showing how he would rise over and over to be the person he was. . . . It was a tremendous lesson.”  Later in life, Wilder went into politics in Virginia and became the first African American in the United States to become a governor.

Robinson was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1947, and he helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees. After the final game of the series, each of his teammates came by his locker to congratulate him for the season.

He had succeeded in integrating the major leagues; in fact, by the end of the 1947 season, there were other black players in baseball. But his greatest impact may have been in the broader American culture. As Arnold Rampersad wrote in his biography of Robinson,

Over a period of six months, from the first stumbling steps to the victories that closed the season, he had revolutionized the image of black Americans in the eyes of many whites. Starting out as a token, he had utterly complicated their sense of the nature of black people, how they thought and felt, their dignity and their courage in the face of adversity. No black American man had ever shone so brightly for so long as the epitome not only of stoic endurance but also of intelligence, bravery, physical power, and grit. Because baseball was lodged so deeply in the average white man’s psyche, Robinson’s protracted victory had left an intimate mark there.

Final post tomorrow…

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

A Major League trailblazer — Jackie Robinson’s story (part one)



This week, Major League Baseball’s first pitch was tossed for the 2013 season.  There’s an upcoming movie, “42”, about the man — Jackie Robinson.  And in the book, Stepping Up, we shared the story of Jackie Robinson.  The next few blog posts will be selections from that chapter, sharing the impact that he had on Major League Baseball, his personal courage and integrity to team with Branch Rickey to become the player that would break the racial barriers that existed in Major League Baseball and across the nation.

Jackie Robinson didn’t see much of a future for himself in professional baseball.

Stepping Up FamilyLife Jackie-Robinson

photo from Think Positive magazine, http://74.53.231.70/~thinktpm/

The year was 1945, and he was twenty-six. A UCLA graduate and World War II veteran, he was trying to make a living by playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. He hadn’t played much baseball; he was better known as a football star at UCLA. But when the Monarchs offered him a job, he decided to give it a try.

Jackie was infuriated by the indignities that black ballplayers faced. In some stadiums, they weren’t allowed to use the locker rooms because white owners didn’t like the idea of black men using the showers. He hated the segregated hotels and drinking fountains. In one instance, when the team bus stopped for gas and the station owner said the players couldn’t use his restroom, Robinson threatened to fill up the team’s bus at another station. The owner changed his mind.

And, of course, the worst indignity of all was the fact that Major League Baseball was segregated. For decades, some of the best baseball players in the nation —  legends like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson—were kept out of the big leagues. Robinson saw no hope for the situation changing, or for the opportunity to move up and play baseball in the whites-only major leagues. “I began to wonder why I should dedicate my life to a career where the boundaries for progress were set by racial discrimination,” he later wrote.

A legendary meeting

Robinson was contacted by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Word was that Rickey was forming a new Negro league and wanted to talk with Robinson about joining it.

Robinson’s meeting with Rickey on August 28, 1945, became a turning point in America’s history. Robinson learned that Rickey had no intention of starting another Negro league. Instead, he wanted to break the color barrier in professional baseball . . . and he wanted Jackie Robinson to lead the way by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Rickey could have chosen better players, but he was looking for someone with the right character. He had no illusions about the pressure that the first black ballplayer would face — the hatred he would encounter from white players, and the impossible expectations he would feel from the black community. He wanted someone who was angry about segregation but could keep that anger in check. Choose the wrong player, he felt, and he would push the cause back by years

“If you’re a good enough man, we can make this a start in the right direction,” Rickey told Robinson. “But let me tell you, it’s going to take an awful lot of courage.”

In the meeting, Rickey confronted Robinson with examples of the situations he would face. He acted the part of ballplayers using racial slurs and trying to start fights. “They’ll taunt and goad you,” he said. “They’ll try to provoke a race riot in the ballpark. This is the way to prove to the public that a Negro should not be allowed in the major league.”

“Mr. Rickey,” Robinson said, “are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” “No,” Rickey replied, “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” Robinson wondered if he was the right person for this. Did he have that kind of strength and courage? “Yet I knew that I must,” Robinson later wrote. “I had to do it for so many reasons. For black youth, for my mother, for Rae [his wife], for myself.”

Continued next post…

Excerpted with permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.

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