Baseball players aren’t just guided by discipline and athleticism — many have relied on their faith to get by. Learn about these players ahead.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, from their roots in Brooklyn to the present day in L.A., have remained a cornerstone of American culture. Established in 1883, they’ve won the National League 24 times and the World Series eight. It was at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field that Jackie Robinson broke the color line and integrated the major leagues. They were the team of New York’s city dwellers and the team of Southern California suburbanites for whom the future was wide open. And across the country’s two largest cities, Vin Scully narrated all their highs and lows. His lyrical and high-minded descriptions of the game were the soundtrack for 67 summers.
Perhaps less apparent as a defining feature of the Dodgers is the religious devotion among their legendary stars. One could compile a list of baseball players famous for their faith and never stray from the blue and white of the Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers.
Perhaps no one is more synonymous with the Dodger uniform than Jackie Robinson, who overcome unthinkable adversity to take the field and break the color line. A Hall of Famer on the field and a civil rights icon beyond it, Robinson’s Christianity guided him as he made history, a journey detailed in the book 42 Faith.
While the rival Yankees are known for their hitting, the Dodgers are an organization built around pitching — especially with the deep fences and dense sea level air of 1961’s Dodger Stadium. Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax won both the Cy Young and the Triple Crown (wins, strikeouts, ERA) three times in four years. But Koufax, especially in his native Brooklyn, was a hero for reconciling his career with his faith — an observant Jewish athlete, he refused to pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series when it fell on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.
Great Dodgers pitching continued into the 1980s with “the Bulldog” Orel Hershiser. In 1988, Hershiser set the record for scoreless innings at 59 — breaking the record of fellow Dodger Don Drysdale — en route to a historic upset of the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series. Hershiser was guided by his faith, reading the Bible and singing hymns to focus.
Following a near-dynastic succession of ace pitchers dating back to the Brooklyn days, the Dodgers struggled on the mound through the late 1990s and early 2000s, as attention shifted to the one-two punch of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson on the upstart Diamondbacks. The Dodgers’ tradition of excellence began anew in the 2008 season with the debut of hard-throwing left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who, with three NL Cy Youngs, three strikeout crowns, and a world championship, has already established himself as a legendary Dodger. Kershaw also rounds out our Dodger-centric list of baseball players famous for their faith, as a devout Christian who has long been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and who recently co-wrote a book with his wife on how faith can guide us.
The Dodgers don’t have a monopoly on players whose faith was important to them — Dale Murphy, Albert Pujols, Ian Kinsler, and others come to mind — but it’s a common thread among some of the Dodger great past and present.