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Old Bible reveals stunning piece of U.S. sports history

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Bible, dating back to the 1950s, had lain around the dusty Californian book repair shop for months before it was opened, revealing a most welcome surprise. The 31 signatures on the Bible's first page in blue ink, along with "Pirates 1953" were a piece of baseball history. While that year's team from Pittsburgh finished in last place at 54-100, the signatures included a future member of baseball's Hall of Fame.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The book itself was once owned by a legendary Cooperstown enshrinee, Branch Rickey.
 
The Bible was just one of the countless materials donated to the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library. "The Bible had been sitting in my shop for months waiting to get repaired," the shop owner told newspaper reporters. "No one wanted it."

Signed by 30 players and manager Fred Haney from the 1953 Pittsburgh Pirates, the Bible was given to general manager Rickey. As manager, Rickey was best known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson six years earlier when he ran the Brooklyn Dodgers.

How did Rickey's Bible end up in a donation bin in Sacramento? Branch Barrett Rickey, Rickey's grandson said it's a mystery to him as well. "It's the first I've heard of the Bible," Branch B. Rickey said by phone from Texas.

Posthumously inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, Rickey died in 1965. About a dozen of the 30 Pirates players who signed the Bible, including Hall of Fame member Ralph Kiner and broadcaster Joe Garagiola, are still living. Of the five reached by The Sacramento Bee newspaper, none recalled signing the Bible.

"I don't remember signing it, but maybe I did," Eddy Fitz Gerald, a former catcher who lives in Folsom said.

President of the Pacific Coast League ranch B. Rickey said a number of his relatives live in California, including a sister in Davis and a cousin in Sacramento. Both said they didn't know about the Bible.

"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."

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

Baseball collectors told Murphy the restored Bible could fetch as much as $800.

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