A Yankee Looks at Life

The following article, written by Gary Demarest, appeared in the April, 1960 issue of The Christian Athlete, FCA’s flagship publication at the time.

BobbyRichardsoncardAlthough the snow still blankets the ground here in Kansas City, the 1960 Major League Baseball season is well under way in training camps in Florida and in Arizona. Faithful fans the world around are eagerly waiting to hear that first “play ball” and to listen again to the crack of hickory on horsehide and to the thud of the ball in the catcher’s glove.

Few baseball discussions go very long without some mention of the New York Yankees. Whether you’re for them or against them, you can’t escape the fact that year after year they’re the team to watch in the long drive for the pennant.

If you watch the Yankees this year, you’ll see a lot of star second-baseman Bobby Richardson. Bobby rose to the role of team leader last year and in the words of Casey Stengel, “definitely established himself as a major leaguer.”

During the off-season, Bobby spends most of his time visiting school and church groups showing the F.C.A. film “Play Ball,” and sharing his witness for Christ and the Church. He participated in the F.C.A. city-wide program in Columbia, South Carolina this past February. He resides in his hometown, Sumter, South Carolina, with his wife and two boys. During the season, the family lives in New Jersey, across the river from Yankee Stadium.

If you’ve ever heard him speak, you’ve probably heard him refer to a set of rules that have been meaningful to him. They were rules repeated by his American Legion Baseball Team before a game, but to him they were basic to everyday life:

Keep the rules
Keep faith with your comrades
Keep a stout heart in defeat
Keep your pride under in victory
Keep a sound soul, a clean mind and a healthy body.

If you ask Bobby how he knows that these rules are so basic, he’ll take you back some twelve years to the time he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and committed his life completely to Him. He will refer you to the New Testament passages such as John 3:16, Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23. You will become immediately aware of the fact that Bobby is a man who walks with his Lord and who possesses a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.

From his American Legion Baseball days onward, there was never any doubt in Bobby’s mind that he wanted to play professional baseball. Upon graduation from high school, he signed with the Yankees and was assigned to their Norfolk farm club.

He recalls these days: “This was my first time away from home – a big city, no one I knew, where to report when I arrived, a combination of things to discourage, to make me down-hearted and lonely – and then I received a letter from a former coach. In his letter he referred to one verse of Scripture, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).’ This renewed  my faith, brought me closer to God, and things were well.”

FCA golf group

Six Legends of FCA: Richardson (second from left) with Mike Kolen, former FCA president John Erickson, Albert Long, former FCA president Dal Shealy and former FCA president Dick Abel.

The Yankee star came to realize the importance of influence very early in his professional career. In his second year, during spring training, he was aware of a player who had come down from a higher classification and about whom there was much comment. Bobby says, “I wondered why. After I got to know him, I found out. He was a dedicated Christian – he had dedicated his life fully to God. Others on the team resented some of the things he stood for, perhaps because of the way they wanted to live. Outwardly, they resented him, but inwardly they have a deep respect and admiration that I’m sure drew them closer to God even as I was drawn closer.”

In the years that have followed, Bobby has always taken seriously the importance of his example to others. He has found that baseball has its temptations, just as other professions, and that the greatest challenge of all is to live for Christ in consistency and integrity. He refers often to the words of Christ, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”

In his climb to baseball’s summit, Bobby Richardson has never turned his eyes away from Christ. “I realize that God has given me the ability and the opportunity to play in the Majors,” says Bobby, “and any glory that might come my way belongs to Him.” He makes it clear that he is in baseball not only because he enjoys the game, but because he feels it is where he can best serve God.

Bobby sums up his life in the words of the well-known poem:

“Only one life,
‘Twill soon be past.
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.”

He adds, “It is not our profession or field that matters most, but what determines our success and our happiness is our faith in God and the growth of that faith.”

In our book, this Yankee is “more than a champion.”

Editor’s note: Bobby Richardson went on to become one of the game’s great infielders, playing in seven World Series and eight Major League All-Star Games, winning three World Series championships and earning five Gold Gloves. He remains the only World Series Most Valuable Player to earn the award while representing the losing team (New York lost to Pittsburgh in a seven-game thriller that saw the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski become the first player to end a World Series with a home run). Following his playing career, Richardson served as the head coach at the University of South Carolina (1970-76), Coastal Carolina University (1985-86 and Liberty University (1987-90). Throughout his playing career and continuing on through today, Richardson has served as a speaker at FCA events throughout the United States. In 1970, Richardson delivered the message as FCA led a chapel service at the White House. In 1998, Richardson was inducted into FCA’s Hall of Champions.

– FCA.org –

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