From Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize–winning Breslin offers this slim biography on baseball manager and executive Branch Rickey, a man Breslin refers to as a œGreat American. What results is a well-rounded look at a man who not only reformed competitive sports but also influenced the norms of society by helping Jackie Robinson break baseball™s color barrier. Born to a tight-knit family in Ohio in the late 19th century, Rickey™s career as a major league player didn™t last long (as a catcher, he once allowed 13 stolen bases in a game), so he graduated from law school and became the manager of the St. Louis Browns. Yet his most far-reaching achievements happened decades later during his time in Brooklyn, when he shook baseball to its foundations by bringing Robinson to the Dodgers. Rickey as general manager knew there would be backlash and Robinson would be subject to rampant racism, but he was undeterred and never stooped to the level of those who attempted to sabotage his work. As he later told a group of students, œracial extractions and color hues and forms of worship become secondary to what men can do. Breslin™s gift for easy-to-read yet hard-hitting prose will touch even those who aren™t baseball fans. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* Branch Rickey grew up poor in Ohio but graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. Later, he invented baseball�s minor-league farm system and built winning teams in St. Louis, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh. Yet one accomplishment dwarfs all others: he integrated baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball's color line in 1947. The mistreatment of a college teammate fueled his altruism, but Rickey also knew black players would expand baseball�s fan base. Breslin, the acclaimed newspaper columnist and best-selling author, tells the Rickey-Robinson story in his own inimitable style, pointing out that before Rickey even selected Robinson, he aligned New York�s business and legislative power brokers into a supportive alliance. Much has been written about Rickey�s commitment to Robinson, but Breslin brings out the fact that the experiment might never have worked if Rickey hadn�t been such a shrewd businessman, challenging baseball�s racist ownership and gaining the backing of the game�s commissioner. And, yet, the heart of the story remains Robinson�s strength of character and Rickey�s understanding that it would take a very special person to endure the humiliation that would come with breaking the color line. This is a wonderful book, bringing new life to a much-told story; long a social activist, Breslin is filled with disdain for the small-minded and the haters, while exuding admiration for those who defy them. In a revealing epilogue that connects the dots, Breslin ends on Election Night 2008 in Brooklyn, at a polling place located at the Jackie Robinson School�the night Barack Obama was elected president of the U.S. --Wes Lukowsky