Bobby Richardson was a second baseman for the New York Yankees in the legendary span 1955-66. He played beside some of the teams most honored playersMickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. He writes about them all in Impact Player, his autobiography.
The major influences on Richardsons life came from his parents and wife, Betsy; baseball and his players, coaches and mentors; and Christ, from his youthful conversion.
Richardson reached baseballs pinnacle and his achievements include:
>Five-time Gold Glove Award winner
>Led the American League in sacrifice bunts twice
>Played in seven World Series
>Saved his teams 1962 World Series with an amazing line drive catch in the ninth inning against the Giants.
As a child, Richardson loved any sport with a ball and practiced endlessly. His mentor, Howard Stokes, would hit him grounders until he fielded 100 straight. But he was so enthusiastic that he would intentionally miss around ball No. 95 to get another 100.
Like many other pro athletes, Richardson was multi-sport talented and also excelled in basketball.
After graduation, 12 of the then 16 Major League Baseball teams recruited him, but since age 14 he loved one team after viewing the movie The Pride of the Yankees. He was overjoyed to play for two years on Yankees farm teams before being called up to the big leagues.
He tells some great team pranks. In a practice game he conspired with the umpire for a glaring wrong call at second. Then Richardson faked a tirade in the umps face; with Richardsons back blocking the dugout view, he put his hand in front of his face; the ump loudly slapped it, and Richardson grabbed his face and fell down. The two connivers soon erupted laughingalong with everyone else.
Richardson shares insights on his teammates. Even Mickey Mantle could have a playing slump, be depressed and consider quitting. Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruths home run record, played despite bad injuries (as did Mantle) but was so unfairly, severely booed by Yankees fans that he wanted to quit.
Richardson wasnt a power hitter but his respectable hitting stats were even stronger in the World Series. He still owns some Series records, such as having the most RBIs (12) in a single Series and being the only MVP selected from a losing team.
He was a team player and loved the camaraderie. While few players like bunting, as they want to impress people, he realized bunts could critically advance runners in a close game: I was a good bunter because I wanted to be because I knew that was a way I could contribute to the team.
While still playing at his peak, Richardson retired to spend more time with his family. Another motivator was that newer Yankees were less team first and more me first.
He next coached baseball for years at three universities: University of South Carolina, Liberty University and Coastal Carolina University.
Richardson testified in Billy Graham crusades, charity events and especially churches. He was president of the Baseball Chapel for 10 years and active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, including on its board.
Although uncertain how best to reach his teammates, he lived a consistent testimony and used friendship evangelism. After retiring, he kept up with teammates and had input into Mantles life.
Mantle long toyed with commitment to Christ and was searching but was too immersed in the world and alcohol. Since men in his family often died young from cancer, he decided to live it up while he could.
In 1994, Mantle finished alcohol rehab, and his son Billy died at 36 from substance abuse. Soon after Mantle got a liver transplant in 1995, he died of cancer. But shortly before Mantles death, Richardson carefully explained the Gospel and heard his confession of faith. Richardson helped lead his evangelistic funeral.
In Impact Player, Bobby Richardson, a former Yankee, writes his life story. Not being a huge baseball fan, I thought the first half of the book was a little long on statistics and play by play descriptions of ball games. However, I was impressed by the humility with which Bobby talked about his success. He shared as much about the success of other Yankee players (Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra) as he did himself because he firmly believes baseball is a TEAM sport. The success of the individuals was dependent upon the bonding and camaraderie of the team.
Bobbys desire in life was to make an impact for Christ as a major league baseball player. He shares many stories of opportunities he had to do that but again, I was struck by his humility because he also shared stories of lost opportunities and recognized that success he achieved was by Gods grace and mercy.
If you are a baseball fan, particularly a Yankees fan, you will love the book.
An impact player is one who makes other players feel great and successful off the field as well as on, provides comfort and support in difficult times and exhibits peace, humility, and love. This was Bobby Richardson! Shortly before his 12th birthday he accepted Christ's gift of salvation. He had a great family with fond memories of playing catch and attending baseball games with his father and even getting Stan Musial's autograph. Courted by the Yankees when he was in high school, he signed their contract upon graduation. Put unfortunately in a class B training program, he bombed because of inexperience on offense. He couldn't hit. He was homesick. He was too focused on baseball, not God. Finally when they moved him to the rookie league, he began hitting once more, made friends with a Christian player, and met a young lady, Betsy, whom he would later marry. He began winning games. His advisor told him baseball would give him a platform to reach people for God and he shouldn't give up. What great honor did he win although he was on the losing team? Who helped Bobby fine tune his hitting skills and impact his confidence? What coveted Yankee league mark did Bobbie reach? At one point Bobby made a leaping, one-handed catch that no other second baseman could make. What happened to the tight-knit infield group: Moose, Tony Kubek, Clete Boyer and Bobby? Why did Bobby feel the 1963 season was the most impressive season? What made the 1963 All Star Game in Cleveland a nightmare for Bobbie? What costly error did Bobby make in the game with the Cardinals that caused his team to lose? On Saturday, Sept 17, at the Bobby Richardson Day at Yankee Stadium when his team wasn't going to win the pennant, 21,000 came to the game including his wife Betsy, his children, his mother and mother-in-law. Who sang as part of the service and what did he sing? What was Bobbie presented with? At the end of his speech to the fans, what 5 words did he say? What new challenge was he offered? What did his sons do that made him very proud of them? What did he lose that he later rejoiced about? What words of encouragement did he give his friend Dick with brain cancer that should encourage all of us no matter what our circumstances? How supportive were these teammates? What close family did his family enjoy being with when the father became a Yankee player? What memories of Mickey Mantle did Bobby share? All this and more is in this great book. If you have a husband or brother or friend who loves baseball, this is a marvelous book to give them, especially if you want to give them a manly view of Christ in life today.