Book Review – “Impact Player”

“Impact Player” by Bobby Richardson

“Former Yankee Bobby Richardson played alongside Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Joe Pepitone, and Yogi Berra during one of the most prolific dynasties in baseball history, and he remains to this day the only player from the losing team ever to be named World Series MVP.

In Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy On and Off the Field, Bobby shares his life story, including never-before-told tales from the Yankee clubhouse during the historic ’55-’65 pennant runs and World Series appearances. The book also features the unlikely friendship Richardson, a devout and outspoken Christian, shared with Yankee legend and renowned drinker and womanizer, Mickey Mantle.

The perfect combination of faith and baseball, Impact Player offers a rare glimpse into one of the most celebrated dynasties in the history of the game, and it paints a fascinating portrait of a life well-lived and the lasting rewards that come from knowing and loving God.”

For anyone interested in how the game of baseball used to be played, I recommend reading this book.  Not being a New York Yankee fan myself, I was a little apprehensive to review a memoir of one of their most famous players.  After reading the first few chapters, I wholeheartedly changed my mind!  Mr. Richardson played for the team when money was not a factor in winning.  Neither were egos, tremendously high salaries, and off season antics.

Bobby Richardson was born in Sumter, South Carolina and at age 12, became a faithful Christian.  He tried playing both football and basketball but quickly realized baseball was his true calling.  He practiced hard, joined his local American Legion team, and eventually his high school team.  He was scouted by many different teams but after watching the movie “The Pride of the Yankees” about Lou Gehrig, he decided that he wanted to be a part of that Yankee family.  In June of 1953, Mr. Richardson graduated high school and signed his first contract with the New York Yankees.

But getting to the majors was not an easy task.  He was bounced around from farm team to farm team, having to prove himself every step of the way.  He started at the bottom rung of the baseball ladder.  It took two years before he made his debut as a Yankee and four years before he would become a permanent starting major leaguer.  All the while, his tribulations were met with prayer and constant devotion to his faith in God.  Some years he felt like giving up but God always called him back to the field.

This book is filled with amusing and touching stories of behind the scenes in the Yankee organization.  He devoted time to discuss each player that were on his teams.  It is fun to read about these historic baseball players on an intimate level.  In those days, he states, Christian athletes were few and far between.  He never pushed his religion on his teammates and in turn they respected his views.  The Yankee team really was that family he saw portrayed on the big screen and it allowed him to be a shining light for Christ even when he wasn’t trying.  He would often run devotionals before games and at times brought in motivational Christian speakers for group meetings.

After his baseball career, he became a baseball coach for Liberty University and University of South Carolina.  He also has been asked to be a motivational speaker in his own right, touring the country speaking to athletes, churches, and ministries.  In his book he talks about his personal shortcomings and failures, a testament that all of us Christians are still human and prone to mistakes.

One of his greatest successes, besides his family, was Mickey Mantle.  I come from a baseball loving father who filled my thoughts with stories from the Golden Age of baseball.  I used to think he was gently exaggerating the truth of the time but after reading Impact Player, I know now he was not.  One thing he did get wrong was the truth about Mickey.  The press liked to gossip then too so his antics were never honestly reported.  Mickey was an amazing player and a wonderful life-long friend to Mr. Richardson.  Two chapters are devoted to Mickey and those two chapters are still running through my mind.  I am grateful to know the true man because he meant a lot to baseball and to public life after his retirement.  After reading the second chapter, “The Decision”, I broke down in tears and was moved to pray for Mickey and Mr. Richardson.  You see, Mickey accepted Christ as his Savior just a few days before cancer took him away from us.  Mr. Richardson had EVERYTHING to do with that!  Mickey fought the same fight most of us do but never realized he could still be a Christian in spite of it all.  My regret is that I was born to late to see him play.

Bobby Richardson and his wife still live in the same home in Sumter they bought so many years ago.  I hope by living in the same state that one day I will be able to meet him and tell him how much his stories touched my heart.  Baseball may have changed over the years but it will forever link us all together as fans of the greatest sport every played!

His parting words speak volumes about his faith and devotion:

 “I have enjoyed a remarkable rewarding life.  There have been struggles, no doubt, both because of the professional rat race and because of my own failure to walk by faith, trust God, and obey His Word as I should.  But the Lord has given me wonderful opportunities, and He continues to do so.

If my life is a testament to anything, it is to God’s mercy and grace.  I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve.

My aim in both baseball and life has been simple:  to make an impact by being used by God in the lives of others.

When accounts of my life are written, I hope two things will be said of me.  First, that I played baseball in a way that made my team better.  Second, and more important, that I lived my life in a way that drew others to my Savior.

To God be the glory.”

Tyndale Blog NetworkTo comply with the new regulations introduced by the FTC, Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. 

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5 thoughts on “Book Review – “Impact Player”

    • And finding out more private aspects of someone can certainly make or break your level of respect for them. It’s not just a made up story, it’s real life and can make you go “whoa”!

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