18 November 2014

Jackie Robinson & Alfred Duckett, I Never Had It Made

Jackie Robinson & Alfred Duckett, I Never Had It Made. NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.

Robinson is good enough to credit his long-time ghost-writer conspicuously; otherwise, we might wonder why a twentieth-century Black activist sounds like an Edwardian gentleman.

Most people will pick up an autobiography from a Hall of Fame baseball star expecting to read about baseball. People picking up Robinson’s book are already familiar with his role as the first Black man in organized ball since the 1800s, and would also expect to read about is struggle to integrate the game. And we do get that, for 134 of 287 pages. It isn’t how Robinson defines himself, and he doesn’t dwell on what is already well documented.

No, Robinson is writing to point out that he was a civil rights leader even after, outside of, baseball. We get a bit about family--nothing in the book is more personal or more moving than a frank assessment of his relationship with Jackie Jr. We get business and politics, fields into which his fame allowed entry, where he did seem to work diligently to change the culture and create opportunity for the disenfranchised. We also see inside disagreements with Malcolm X and fundraising for Martin Luther King. Overall, the book is a reminder that life goes on after the game is over, and that what comes next can--and should--be even more important.

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