Sliding into Home: The Mick Meets a Roaring Lamb
Editor’s Note: I read this CCM Magazine article in November of 1995, then read it aloud, tears running down my face, to an avid fan of “The Mick” and the Yankees. I was overwhelmed by the awe I felt for God’s wondrous grace. Over the years I tossed many of my magazines, forgetting to save this special article. Through the kindness of a CSR at Salem Publishing in Nashville (they own the rights to the old copies of CCM Magazine), they found the magazine and article in the archives. It was the only copy of the November ’95 magazine left, so Janice took the time and effort to scan the article and email the PDF to me. I was given permission to reprint the article with attribution. As we approach Easter, a time when the slain Lamb of God conquered death and arose from the grave, a marvelous story like this reminds us of that resurrection power. Enjoy the read! Tami Jackson
By Bob Briner
A lamb roars. Sometimes we are allowed to see the effect of that roar immediately. A highly visible impact for God’s Kingdom is made. Jesus is shown high and lifted up in an area, in a segment of society where He has seldom been taken before. Christians who are witnesses to this kind of “roar result” are blessed and inspired.
There are other occasions when God in His sovereignty, allows the effect of a lamb’s roar to be invisible, unheard and indiscernible for years, even decades, before anyone is allowed to perceive its impact for eternity. Sometimes, when the impact does come, it is dramatic and awe-inspiring. When this happens we can only step back and say “Wow!” and marvel at the way God uses His servants to accomplish His will.
Recently, the entire nation was allowed to witness the results of a roar that was started more than 40 years ago, was all but forgotten, but then came slamming back into our consciousness with the impact of a locomotive. This roar was covered by network television, the wire services and the nation’s newspapers including, most prominently, the August New York Times. A nation was blessed. Jesus and His saving power were displayed. A lamb’s roar rang, echoed and resounded here on earth and in heaven.
In the 1950s two baseball players joined the mighty New York Yankees. One was a strapping muscular specimen who came with great fan fare. The other was a small man, a singles hitter on a team of sluggers. He came almost unnoticed. The slugger was Mickey Mantle. The little second baseman was Bobby Richardson.
In the ’50s it was not yet cool to be a Christian in sports. There was no Athletes in Action, no Baseball Chapel, no Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The very few Christians in pro sports were pretty much on their own. Bobby Richardson, a devout, straight arrow Christian, was certainly very much isolated among the rowdy, hard-drinking, hard-living Yankees.
Mantle, who had a locker nearby, referred to Richardson as the “milk drinker.” He kidded Bobby, but he also respected him. Mantle, known for his salty language, always watched it around Richardson.
Fast forward to the very recent past. Mickey Mantle has fought the always tough battle with alcoholism. (I was with him for two consecutive nights shortly before he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center to begin the fight.) He won the battle of the bottle, but too late to save his health. He had to have a liver transplant, and then a very aggressive cancer invaded his vital organs.
At this point, Mickey Mantle does not call his drinking or gambling buddies. He does not call his many celebrity show business friends. He calls the little second baseman. The 40 year old roar begins to build. He asks Richardson to pray for him over the phone.
Now the virulent cancer is known to be unstoppable, the deadly result a certainty.
The telephone is no longer sufficient for Mantle. He wants Richardson there with him in the Dallas hospital. Richardson comes, and as the New York Times reports it, Mickey said, “Bobby, I want you to know I’ve accepted Christ as my savior.”
The Times continues, “And Richardson learned that Mantle had been listening to him many years earlier.”
A lamb roars. A life of witness and integrity is lived. An American hero is snatched from the brink of destruction. A nation hears and reads about it. Jesus is glorified.
Mickey Mantle most often crossed home plate striding boldly, propelled there by power. This time as he crossed the only home plate that really matters and is called “safe” by the only Umpire who really counts, he slides in, avoiding an almost certain tag with a fall away slide, his toe only catching the very corner of the plate. He is home in heaven because a lamb roared and because of God’s marvelous grace. Grace! It is always by grace.
Since the Mickey Mantle episode has exploded in the nation’s press and in its consciousness, Bobby Richardson and his wife have been besieged. They have actually had to abandon their home and seek peace in a hideaway. They needed to have time to pray and to seek God’s guidance as to how to continue to minister. Bobby has always been a minister — when he was playing second base for the Yankees, when he coached baseball at major colleges, and when he served as president of Baseball Chapel.
He has been, is, and will continue to be, one of God’s most inspiring roaring lambs.
Reprinted by permission from Salem Publishing for CCM Magazine.
Bob Briner – Roaring Lambs
Bob Briner was a sports television pioneer, Emmy Award winning producer and evangelical Christian author.
He called Christians to become, “Roaring Lambs,” — people who believed that the Christian faith was relevant to all the problems faced by modern man and then to act on that conviction.
Rather than simply criticize Hollywood, the press, television and movies for its degradation of the moral fabric of our society, Bob Briner challenged Christians to go do something about it by joining such culture shaping industries and becoming influential leaders within them.
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