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Mystery: Decades-Old Bible Belonging to Legend Who Brought Jackie Robinson Into the Major Leagues Found in Calif. Library


"It's the first I've heard of the Bible."

Well here’s something cool: A Catholic Bible signed by the 1953 Pittsburgh Pirates belonging to legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey was found last week in a library in California, the Sacramento Bee reports.

For those unfamiliar with his name, Rickey is famous for pioneering the modern-day minor league farm system. However, he's probably best known for the role he played in ending one of baseball's most shameful chapters -- he signed Jackie Robinson, major league baseball's first African-American.

Jackie Robinson & Rickey Branch (Wikimedia)

"The Bible had been sitting in my shop for months waiting to get repaired," said Joanne Murphy, 65, the book repairer who found the Rickey’s Bible. "No one wanted it."

The Catholic Bible was signed by 30 ballplayers as well as team manager Fred Haney.

But how did Rickey’s Bible end up in a Sacramento library? Rickey's grandson, Branch Barrett Rickey, said it's a mystery

"It's the first I've heard of the Bible," Branch B. Rickey told the Sacramento Bee.

He did note, however, that there are a number of Rickey relatives currently living in California. But even they say they’re not sure how the Bible ended up in the library.

"Much of the stuff from my grandfather was parceled out among five daughters and a daughter-in-law," Branch B. Rickey said. "The division of who got what was very informal."

He added that maybe his grandfather had "given the Bible as a gift to a dear friend," but added "there's any number of speculations."

Oddly enough, of the remaining ’53 Pirates, none of them remember signing the Bible.

"I don't remember signing it, but maybe I did," former catcher Eddy Fitz Gerald told the Bee.

He added that the one thing he remembers is that the ’53 weren’t any good.

"It wasn't a very good team," he said. Indeed, considering the fact that the Pirates ended the year 50-104, “wasn’t very good” is a bit of an understatement.

A Bible signed by 30 players from the 1953 Pittsburgh Pirates, and manager Fred Haney, sits in the Sacramento shop of book restorer Joanne Murphy this week months after being donated to the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library. (Randall Benton/MCT/

But, again, how did Rickey’s Bible end up in the library?

The Bee examines a few possibilities:

Christopher Jakle, grandson of Rickey who lives in Sacramento, said he, too, doesn't know how the Bible ended up here, but noted that a number of the family's belongings had previously sold on eBay.

Jakle believes the buyer probably died and whoever inherited the Bible didn't know about its significance.


Branch Rickey – better known for his front-office roles with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers – did have a number of connections to Sacramento early in his career, according to local baseball historian Alan O'Connor. Rickey purchased the Sacramento Solons – the precursor to the River Cats – in 1935.

"He was on Riverside and Broadway all the time, watching players and talking to people," O'Connor said.

“Baseball collectors have told Murphy the restored Bible could fetch as much as $800,” the Bee report adds. “The Bible will be on public display next month in honor of Black History Month at the central branch of the Sacramento Public Library.”

Final Thought -- In case you’re interested, here’s a trailer for “42,” an upcoming film about Robinson, segregation, and the Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, that’s Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey):

Click here to read the Sacramento Bee’s full report.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image Randall Benton/MCT/

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