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And to search for the Our American Stories podcast, go to the iHeartRadio app, to Apple Podcasts, or to wherever you get your podcasts. In January of 1919, a boy was born in Cairo, Georgia. It would go on to not only challenge and change American baseball and the segregation that existed there, but America itself. This man did this not only by the strength of his swing and the swiftness of his sprint, but by the firmness of his faith. Today, Robbie brings us Dr. Gary Scott Smith, professor emeritus of history at Grove City College, to tell us the story of Jackie Robinson. Before a lot of the events that we remember as part of the civil rights movement, including Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of the bus, including the famous speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall being appointed a Supreme Court justice, the March on Washington in 1963. Before these and a lot of other events, you've got Jackie Robinson integrating Major League Baseball. Baseball is, at this point, the predominant American sport. This is before the NFL has much cachet. This is before the creation of the National Basketball Association.
No other sport since that time, since, say, the 1950s or early 60s, has dominated the American sports scene. He was born in Georgia, very close to the Florida state line. He was the youngest of five children. His mother, essentially, during his growing up years, was a single mother because her husband, Jerry, essentially deserted the family around the time that Jackie was born. And soon thereafter, she moves the family to the North.
And so, she moved out there because of other family members who had gone there before her. She is a woman of very strong faith and is going to impress upon Jackie the importance of faith. She is a woman of very strong faith and is going to impress upon Jackie the importance of faith. Jackie grows up in Pasadena. Pasadena is a city that has very few blacks in it at this point. And his mother, she is forced to rely somewhat on welfare, but she's very astute in how she manages the family finances.
And so, she is a woman of very strong faith and is going to impress upon the family finances. And a couple of years after they moved to Pasadena, they're able to buy their own house. And they encounter various troubles in the neighborhood in which they live. A lot of neighbors don't like having a black family living there. They try to pressure them to leave. They even burned a cross in their yard at one point. But a couple of neighbors stuck up for them.
And eventually, they were able to be generally accepted in the community where they lived. He feels badly that his mother has to work so hard and that her life is so difficult and challenging. And in every way possible, he wants to help alleviate the burdens that she's feeling. And so, he engages in a variety of activities as a high school student to try to bring in some extra money to help the family. And actually, he leaves before graduating from UCLA several years later because he wants to bring in more money for the family. And despite the council of a lot of people not to do so, after the basketball season ends, he ends up leaving UCLA and takes a job with the government to try to enhance the income of the family and make matters better for his mother. So, yes, he had a big heart.
He cared deeply about his family. He's one of the few people in the history of all college sports to win letters in four sports. And he leads the Pacific Coast Conference in scoring. The two years he plays basketball at UCLA, he wins the long jump competition at the NCAA Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship. And in football, he put up numbers that are astonishing, 12.2 yards per carry. He also led the nation in a punt return average of over 20 yards per return. So his numbers are just off the charts in terms of what he does while he's there.
And with the exception of baseball, where he hits a measly 0.97, the one season that he plays. Carl Downs, at age 26, he comes to be the pastor of the Scott Methodist Church in Pasadena. And Jackie's 19 at the time, so they're only seven years apart in age.
He's established quite a reputation already as an athlete. And so Downs goes out looking for him, tells his friends, tell Jackie, I want to see him at church. Well, Jackie had grown up in the church, but he'd gone rather reluctantly. His faith was not yet personal to him.
It was mainly a matter of obligation and keeping his mother happy. But Downs befriends him. They establish a cordial and close relationship. They play a lot of sports together. And Downs is a very good athlete himself, not of the caliber of Jackie Robinson, but. And you've been listening to Dr. Gary Scott Smith tell the story of how he and his family tell the story of Jackie Robinson and the two big influences on his early life.
One, his mother, clearly. And the other is we're about to learn the Reverend Carl Downs. When we come back, more of the story of Jackie Robinson and his faith life here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country, and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.
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That's X-U-M-O.tv. And we're back with our American stories and Jackie Robinson's story. Dr. Gary Scott Smith was telling us how Jackie was raised by just his mother who instilled the importance of faith in her son in the midst of discrimination and financial hardship. But despite Jackie's work ethic and duty he felt for his family, the faith itself, it wasn't personal. Not until a minister called Downs enters Robinson's life during his college years.
Back to Dr. Smith with a story. As Jackie describes it, Downs is able to relate the Bible to everyday life. He makes Bible stories and concepts come alive. He doesn't preach down to them.
He's with them engaging in their activities. He gets Jackie to be involved in the life of the church including teaching a Sunday school class. And he basically helps Jackie come to faith in Christ. Helps that become a very significant part of his life. And Jackie's going to rely upon that trust and faith in God throughout the rest of his his adult life.
Many people have argued and I would concur that without Rachel there is no Jackie. Her support, her love, her encouragement, her backing was absolutely pivotal to his success. That he could not have done what he did and stood up to all the the abuse, the taunting, the on-field assaults that he faced without her.
She's a freshman when he's a senior. She's from the Los Angeles area. She grew up in in a black church and she has a strong faith as well.
And may not realize but she's still alive today at age 100. Initially she thinks that he's very cocky and conceited, arrogant. But as she gets to know him she realizes no it's really just self-confidence. And he really has a racial identity that's been instilled in him by his mother, by Carl Downs, by others.
He's proud to be a black man which was a very difficult thing in this time in American history with the amount of prejudice and discrimination that existed in American society. So they start dating and they hit it off. They're not going to end up getting married for five years after they first begin to date.
But Jackie's mother Mallie really likes Rachel and Rachel's mother Zellie really likes Jackie and part of it's the the faith that they both have that impresses their respective mothers. He leaves UCLA early. He takes a job with the National Youth Administration as an assistant athletic director at the California Polytechnic Institute. And his job there is basically to help train youth. Many had a background similar to him. They'd grown up in poverty.
They had been delinquents. Basically this program was trying to teach them a trade and and reorient their lives. And so he engages in this for several months. He finds the work to be rewarding but the fact that World War II has has broken out and it looks like the United States may be getting involved in it leads to a suspension of the the program. And so during the fall of 1941 he plays semi-professional football with the Honolulu Bears and while he's in Hawaii he also does construction work to make some additional funds. He does get out of Hawaii just two days before the Japanese bombed the military base there.
Then he comes back. He plays on an all-star basketball team. Works briefly at the Lockheed aircraft facility near Los Angeles. And then he gets drafted into the army in March of 1942. The initial assignment is to Fort Riley, Kansas.
Then he will be transferred to Fort Hood near Waco, Texas. He first experiences discrimination in that he can't get into the officers candidate school. Boxer Joe Lewis intervenes on his behalf and eventually he does get into that program and is commissioned a second lieutenant after he completes the training for officers candidate school.
He's a platoon leader. He's his unit's morale officer and he starts his career of speaking out against discrimination and trying to improve conditions on the base there at Fort Riley for other black soldiers. He experiences further discrimination when he can't play on the camp's baseball team because they don't want a black player. So then April 44 he gets transferred to Fort Hood and while he's there a very significant episode happens that is quite similar to what happens with Rosa Parks 11 years later. So a civilian bus driver orders him to give up his seat and mill the bus and go to the back.
But Robinson knows that there's a federal policy that prohibits segregation on army buses and so he refuses to do so. And then at the next stop he gets into a heated argument with the army military police and long and short of it he is court marshaled for disturbing the peace for conduct on becoming an officer for refusing to obey the orders of a superior officer and this trial becomes kind of a celebrated one. He gets help from the NAACP from the two California United States senators and especially from the black press and his faith plays a role in assuring him that the outcome of this trial will be is in God's hands and therefore he can be confident in what happens.
But so he gets he gets tried and there's a a jury of nine men eight white one black and basically he gets good testimony from some of the other officers who white officers who know him. He is found to be he's acquitted and while he is having his trial his unit actually goes to fight in World War II because it has a very high casualty rate in one of the major battles of the war the Battle of the Bulge in December of 44 in January of 45 and while because he doesn't go he is able to end up playing in the for the Kansas City Monarchs and the Negro Leagues. He didn't particularly enjoy playing in the Negro Leagues in part because the travel schedule was so arduous the conditions the players faced were very challenging they were traveling hundreds of miles on buses and because of the discrimination in American society they often had trouble finding places to stay restaurants that would serve them food so this was a difficult experience for them their salaries were low umpiring was according to Robinson very poor living conditions were despicable and he also didn't like the personal behavior of many of the other players in the Negro League a lot of heavy drinking a lot of sexual carousing that led him to conflict sometimes being kind of ridiculed by his fellow players and without that experience he undoubtedly wouldn't have been such an attractive candidate the Branch Ricky to integrate Major League Baseball. And we've been listening to Dr. Gary Scott Smith his book Strength for the Fight the Life and Faith of Jackie Robinson is available wherever you buy your books and by the way the impact of Reverend Downs on young Jackie Robinson well it's the best way to reach young people if you're so inclined and a Christian and that's to teach the Bible as it applies to everyday life. Rachel well without her we learn well there is no Jackie without her his life wasn't possible and of course Mother Malley that's why Jackie left UCLA early and decided to help support the family and he took a variety of jobs and ended up in the U.S. military and in a court martial but in the end he did it on principle he took a stand with the help of great lawyers and a code that the military established Jackie Robinson was able to be in essence the military's Rosa Parks when we come back more of the remarkable story of Jackie Robinson and his faith walk here on Our American Stories imagine air travel that's simple hassle free and fast that's surf air save hours on every trip avoid busy crowded terminals and fly from airports closer to your home no crowds no long lines no stress with surf air's private flights with surf air's private flights you're in control of your travel day not the other way around surf air.com the most convenient way to fly get a free quote on your next flight at surf air.com there's a better way to fly private the holidays are headed to your place with a special collection that's packing the cheer all on Xfinity Flex host a movie marathon with winter favorites like Love Actually and Home Alone unwind with big laughs from hits like The Office and Elf or snuggle up with something new like Holiday in Santa Fe or Holiday Harmony and keep festive tunes on repeat with North Pole Radio hosted by Santa from I Heart Radio whether you want to watch something fresh or familiar you can feel the holiday spirit with Xfinity Flex say what to watch into your Xfinity voice remote it's official the holidays are here and Zumo is at it again with free live and on-demand entertainment fill your home with the soundtrack of the season with the new I Heart Radio holiday music channels like I Heart Christmas and North Pole Radio snuggle on your couch to laugh and cry with holiday movies like these new Zumo originals my favorite Christmas tree and a royal Christmas match Zumo is always free no logins no signups no accounts no hassle go to Zumo.tv for some holiday cheer that's xumo.tv and we're back with our American stories and the story of Jackie Robinson and his journey to integrate major league baseball and the faith that gave him the strength to do it when we last left off Dr. Gary Scott Smith a professor emeritus of history at Grove City College was telling us about Jackie's experience in the negro leagues where he constantly faced discrimination from business owners on the road as well as abuse from his own teammates for not partaking in their particular brands of fun which made him what one man in the majors was looking for he played great he hit 387 he was selected to the all-star game that kind of called him to the attention of Branch Rickey who is looking for someone to he's Branch Rickey's the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers long time experience in major league baseball previously with the St. Louis Browns St. Louis Cardinals as a manager general manager had played a couple years of professional baseball as a catcher and Branch Rickey had a long-standing desire and calling from God that he felt to integrate major league baseball so he's looking for a candidate and he sends a his super scout to talk to Robinson and invite him to come to Brooklyn to to meet with him and there were certainly a number of other candidates but the problem was that they were either quite old like Satchel Paige is probably at least 40 by this point or they had never played they had rarely played against white competition which Robinson had done as a college student and his only concern about Jackie at this point was did he have the ability to not fight back in interviewing him he trots out a book by an Italian author about Christ and basically says you know the Sermon on Mount says you should turn the other cheek when you're confronted with people who want to abuse you is this something that you would be able to do and and Robinson who knew the Bible quite well responded well I've got two cheeks. Branch Rickey becomes convinced in large part based upon their shared Methodist faith that Robinson is the guy he's the one who's got the combination of personality and baseball smarts and ability that he's going to be able to pull this off better than any other potential candidate out there. The history of the integration of major league baseball was much more complicated than it's usually presented it's usually presented pretty much as just a black white issue but really there were a number of Native Americans who played in the late 19th and early 20th century and these Latinos who were playing who were generally passed off as as Spaniards they tended to be the lighter skinned Latinos and about 30 of them played between 1935 and 1945 so in essentially the decade before Robinson gets signed they're playing a lot of them for the Washington senators however this still had not opened the door for dark skinned Latinos or for African Americans and it's only after Robinson breaks the color barrier that darker skinned darker skinned Latinos like Minnie Minoso and and others are are able to play in major league baseball and in March 1945 the Quinn-Ives Act becomes a law it bans discrimination based on race creed color national origin it only applies to New York state but of course that's where Branch Rickey is in Brooklyn New York and there were a lot of groups that came together who supported it who applauded it including the Federal Council of Churches the American Jewish Congress some leading Catholics Thurgood Marshall who then is a attorney with the NAACP this the passage of this act also prompts the mayor of of New York LaGuardia to create a majors committee to integrate baseball and Rickey is one of the members who's appointed to that committee and also you've got at the same time the committee to end Jim Crow and baseball which has been organized by various forces and they're demonstrating outside of major league parks calling for integration of baseball and a lot of prominent Americans including Eleanor Roosevelt are endorsing this the variety of different groups that are agitating for and advocating for blacks to be able to play of those groups probably the most important are the black sports writers including a guy named Wendell Smith they're hammering away at the injustice of blacks not being allowed to play citing the fact that a lot of major league baseball players say hey we're okay with playing with blacks they are in a variety of ways trying to pressure major league baseball they're meeting with major league baseball executives are meeting with the commissioner trying to pave the way for Jackie to be able to play and without this pressure it's doubtful that major league baseball would have been integrated when it was and it began with Jackie joining the Dodgers minor league team the Montreal Royals so in spring training 1946 and the Robinsons have just gotten married they have a harrowing journey to get there because of discrimination bumping them off of flights it's it's a very difficult experience for them but there's a lot of support from ministers in the Daytona Beach area and there's a lot of interest in what's going on a lot of fans bigger crowds the norm will show up for the games and Robinson has a very interesting relationship with Clay Hopper who's the manager of Montreal who's grown up in Mississippi and and certainly exude some racial prejudice but Robinson grows on him by dent of both his personality and his performance and that helps and they end up having a quite good relationship Montreal was a very excellent setting for Robinson to break in this is one of the greatest minor league teams in in history they end up winning the the minor league world series they put up astounding numbers particularly offensively and Robinson has a stellar season beginning with his very first game when he goes four for five including a home run he wins the most valuable player award but he's under a lot of pressure still and a physician even warns that he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown in August of that year and Rachel to the rescue Rachel really helps him deal with all the pressure he's facing but he hits 349 he leads the lig and runs scored he steals 40 bases just a very very successful season the team goes 100 wins and 54 losses and about almost 300 as a team which is almost unheard of it's a matter of determining is he baseball ready and is he ready in terms of his mindset and at this point I think that Ricky had concluded that both things had converged and that Robinson could handle things on the diamond and he could handle the abuse that to which he was going to be subjected and the combination of those things made him decide this is the moment and you've been listening to Dr. Gary Scott Smith tell the story of Jackie Robinson's journey to desegregate major league baseball and he had a lot of help along the way including his bride she was essential also Branch Rickey a fellow Methodist who himself thought God had appointed him to desegregate the league and then of course there was his experience in the minor leagues was he ready was he ready for both the on and off the field challenges Branch Rickey finally thinks the answer is yes when we come back the rest of the journey Jackie Robinson's journey to desegregate baseball here on Our American Stories. Imagine air travel that's simple hassle-free and fast that's Surf Air save hours on every trip avoid busy crowded terminals and fly from airports closer to your home no crowds no long lines no stress with Surf Air's private flights you're in control of your travel day not the other way around surfair.com the most convenient way to fly get a free quote on your next flight at Surf Air dot com there's a better way to fly private the holidays are headed to your place with a special collection that's packing the cheer all on Xfinity Flex host a movie marathon with winter favorites like Love Actually and Home Alone unwind with big laughs from hits like The Office and Elf or snuggle up with something new like Holiday in Santa Fe or Holiday Harmony and keep festive tunes on repeat with North Pole Radio hosted by Santa from I Heart Radio whether you want to watch something fresh or familiar you can feel the holiday spirit with Xfinity Flex say what to watch into your Xfinity voice remote it's official the holidays are here and Zumo is at it again with free live and on-demand entertainment fill your home with the soundtrack of the season with the new I Heart Radio holiday music channels like I Heart Christmas and North Pole Radio snuggle on your couch to laugh and cry with holiday movies like these new Zumo originals my favorite holiday Christmas tree and a royal Christmas match Zumo is always free no logins no sign-ups no accounts no hassle go to Zumo.tv for some holiday cheer that's X-U-M-O dot TV and we're back with Our American Stories and our final segment on Jackie Robinson his faith and the beginning of his career in the majors when we last left off Dr. Gary Scott Smith was telling us about Branch Rickey and the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and his readiness to allow Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier and once and for all desegregate major league baseball back to Robbie for the conclusion of this story but just because Rickey thought Robinson was ready for the majors in 1947 didn't mean the majors were ready for him and that included his own teammates while they're in in Panama there's playing some exhibition games we have kind of a mutiny a lot of the Dodger players tell the manager Leo Derosha formulates a petition and they say if Robinson plays we're not going to play if Robinson plays we're not going to play well Derosha who is quite a character himself gets the team together at midnight in an army barracks in Panama and he says that they could wipe their with this petition and he kind of famously said I play an elephant if he could win for me and this Robinson is no elephant so anyway then Rickey meets individually with the leaders of this rebellion the next day and says hey if you don't want to play with Robinson we'll trade you and only at this point two of the players opt to be traded neither one actually was during the season and they both changed their minds about Jackie so it really helped that the team captain Peewee Reese refused to sign the petition and essentially after that things began to get better with his fellow teammates on the Dodgers the African-American sports writer Wendell Smith said if Robinson fails to make the grade it will be years before a negro makes the grade this is it the Boston Chronicle said triumph of whole race seen in Jackie's debut in major league baseball Colin Powell later you know first black U.S. secretary of state who goes to see him play as a 10 year old and even though he's a New York Giants fan arch rivals of the Brooklyn Dodgers he says we we prayed oh lord don't let him strike out because we were afraid if he didn't succeed it would be a mark against all of us tremendous weight upon Jackie's shoulders and he realizes that this isn't just for him this is for the entire African-American community a time magazine will go on to say at the end of the season that this was the toughest first year any ball player has ever faced sports magazine said that he had been the most savagely booed intensely criticized ruthlessly liable player in major league baseball history anytime he was on the field there were jeers there were cat calls there was name calling there would be black cats released onto the field there would be watermelon thrown onto the field rocks tomatoes Sambo dolls and then on the field you've got bean balls being thrown at him cleats being launched into his shin and chin there are even death threats against him so much so that the police department assigns a couple of detectives to accompany him from the ballpark to his his apartment after every game and these threats are against him they're against Rachel they're against their son Jackie Jr who was born in 46 so it's just an incredible amount of abuse to which he is subjected second week of may in 1947 and I call it the worst day of Robinson's entire major league baseball career so they go to Philadelphia to play this series against the Phillies Ben Chapman is the manager of the Phillies and he stated blatantly in advance of the series that they were going to verbally attack him and they did it was a harsher deluge of abuse than Robinson had experienced prior to this point a lot of racial slurs diseases dodger players would contract if they touched towels Robinson had used Robinson said it was the worst garbage I ever heard in my whole life including on the streets and in the army and he almost was ready to give up at this point but he decided that he would respond not with his fists not with his mouth but with his bat Chapman defended his actions basically saying hey this is the way we treat all her opponents and Robinson was very gracious he even agreed although reluctantly to pose for a photo with Chapman they held a bat together to imply that all was forgiven all was copacetic so it was a very ugly incident that that occurred this in Philadelphia during this four game series but not everyone was Ben Chapman Hank Greenberg was a Pirates first baseman he was a home run slugger and he was near the end of his career at this point and it was an accident that he had run into Robinson because of an errant throw from the pitcher to first base and then he ends up because of the error getting on second base and so he doesn't talk to Robinson then it's the next time around that he asked Robinson if he heard him and said he hadn't meant to knock him over as a Jew Greenberg had also experienced quite a bit of verbal abuse so he knew what it was like and he reached out in friendship and camaraderie to Robinson and this was a very deeply moving experience for Robinson there were there were incidences of Dodger players but also players from other teams like this who did reach out positively to Robinson during his first year probably the most famous one would be with Pee Wee Reese where they were mocking and ridiculing Robinson and and Pee Wee Reese the Dodger shortstop goes over and puts his arm around Robinson and basically just affirming his humanity mid-august you got Enos Slaughter who's a St. Louis Cardinal outfielder who is pretty pretty flamboyant and known for his rugged play and he cuts a seven-inch gash in the back of Robinson's leg when he runs over him when Robinson's stretching for a throw at first base and Hugh Casey who is a relief pitcher and a southerner who basically previously hasn't had a very close relationship with Robinson runs off the bench and charges against Slaughter and they have a bit of a brouhaha there were a number of incidents like this 1947 season that basically helped cement Robinson's place in among the Dodgers with his teammates because there's nothing like a good brawl I guess to help you identify with and feel closer to your fellow teammates. 1947 was not only Robinson's inaugural season but the coveted season was but the coveted rookie of the year awards as well which Jackie received due to his outstanding performance he certainly he hit almost 300 he led the national league and stolen bases he scored the second highest number of runs in the league ninth highest amount of hits his and the Dodgers won the pennant so and he was actually fifth in the most valuable player balloting that year statistically and value to the team he deserved the award then that's just setting aside the incredible circumstances that he faced in doing what he did when you add that in it's just absolutely mind-boggling and incredible what he accomplished but in making a case for him to win this award time and ebony both emphasized his character and they emphasized what a good family man he was how committed he was to his wife that he was an ex-sunday school teacher that he was morally upright he didn't drink he didn't smoke he went to bed early he avoided tobacco he drank milk you know all these kinds of things that that you would put forth as particularly in the 1940s and 50s exemplary moral character without his faith i don't think robinson would have been able to succeed he prayed every night on his knees before he went to bed he had letters from thousands of people who said they were faithfully praying for him he said things like i prayed as i never had before during 1947 season he did have some fellow christians on the dodger squad that that helped him in this regard his faith was deep and meaningful it was a personal he just didn't simply talk as often or as directly about having a personal relationship with jesus he added some of these other athletes today but it was it was a very important part of his life and and arguably without it he would not have done what he did and a terrific job on the production by robbie davis and a special thanks to dr gary scott smith his book strength for the fight the life and faith of jackie robinson is available wherever you get your books and what a year in 1947 must have been for him the pressure jackie was playing for every black american no pressure i prayed as i never prayed before jackie said of that year his faith was deep it was personal the story of jackie robinson his faith and how it was integral to the desegregation of major league baseball here on our american story when the world gets in the way of your music try the new bows quiet comfort earbuds 2 next-gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears they use exclusive bows technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love bows quiet comfort earbuds 2 sound shape to you to learn more visit bows.com imagine air travel that's simple hassle-free and fast that's surf air save hours on every trip avoid busy crowded terminals and fly from airports closer to your home no crowds no long lines no stress with surf air's private flights you're in control of your travel day not the other way around surf air.com the most convenient way to fly get a free quote on your next flight at surf air.com there's a better way to fly private the holidays are headed to your place with a special collection that's packing the cheer all on xfinity flex host a movie marathon with winter favorites like love actually and home alone unwind with big laughs from hits like the office and elf or snuggle up with something new like holiday in santa fe or holiday harmony and keep festive tunes on repeat with north pole radio hosted by santa from i-heart radio whether you want to watch something fresh or familiar you can feel the holiday spirit with xfinity flex say what to watch into your xfinity voice remote
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-13 07:24:17 / 2022-12-13 07:38:58 / 15