Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Review - "Rickey & Robinson"

I received this book as a Christmas gift (and Thank You again, George and Ann!), and finally got around to reading it in the post-holiday, post-vacation slowdown.

One might be tempted to say, "Another book about Jackie Robinson? What new can possibly be written on this topic?"  The one thing that would prompt me to overlook those questions would be the author, Roger Kahn, whose connections and closeness to the Brooklyn Dodgers of that era are well known, as best exemplified by his classic work, "The Boys of Summer".  Also, and I don't think that this can be overstated, the story of Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and the integration of major league baseball is a story that cannot be told often enough, so any contribution to the literature on the subject, especially by so noted an author is welcome.

The book does tell you some things of which one might not be aware, specifically the byzantine workings of the ownership of the Brooklyn Dodgers, how Walter O'Malley came to be a part of it, and his maneuverings that eventually squeezed Branch Rickey out in Brooklyn.

Kahn makes no secret about his admiration for Robinson, as both a ballplayer and a human being, and for Rickey in his role as the instigator of this huge societal change. He also expresses a great deal of admiration for Walter O'Malley, although in the end, Kahn does revert to "Great Satan"-type imagery for O'Malley because he moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn and out to Los Angeles.  Kahn also uses much of the book as a vehicle for grinding axes against many of his contemporary sports writers, Dick Young in particular.  While his assertions may be and probably are correct, is that really what this book was supposed to be about?  Kahn also lets you know that any other book or writing on this topic pretty much falls short of anything that he, Kahn, has written on the subject.  And for all his admiration for Robinson, at the end of the book he relates a rather prurient story about him, that to my mind had no need to be told.

On balance, though, "Rickey & Robinson" is an interesting and readable book about a part of baseball history that, as I mentioned, cannot be told often enough.

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