Friday, April 12, 2013

Branch Rickey and Ohio Wesleyan

As a student tour guide at Ohio Wesleyan University, I took perspective students and their families on walking tours of the campus. Every tour included a walk through (or at least past if time was short), the Branch Rickey Arena/Gordon Field House.  
These pictures just doesn't do the building justice.  The roof is so very 1970s and always reminded me of a circus tent. As we walked past or through the buildings, I would share  a few sentences about the famous Alumnus for whom the building was named.  
My spiel went something like this, "Branch Rickey is one of our our most famous graduates.  He was responsible for signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers." 

That was it. 

That was all I knew of the story.

With the opening of the movie 42, I am finally learning more of the story. Ohio Wesleyan is highlighting their connection to Rickey, which was much more than just that Rickey was a graduate of the school. He was a coach, an athletic director and a trustee.  
Ohio Wesleyan Baseball Team
Branch Rickey, student at OWU.
pictures from OWU digital archive

As I have read about the movie and the relationship between these two men, one of the things that has struck me is that both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson were Methodist! In an article from The United Methodist Reporter, this connection is highlighted.  Quoting from the article, 

Rickey says, “If he were white, we’d call that spirit. Robinson’s a Methodist. I’m a Methodist. God’s a Methodist! We can’t go wrong.”  

Even if I don't get to see the movie right away, I am just happy to learn more of this story from reading about it. 

One other note: For my friends from other locales, some of the movie was filmed here in Birmingham.  Here are two places where filming took place:  Rickwood Field and the Tutwiler Hotel