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Branch Rickey (Penguin Lives) Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 17, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
These "Lives" books are not meant to be exhaustive biographies. Generally, there are no indices, source notes. Rather, the author provides a quite selective bibliography for readers wanting fuller treatment. The mission of the "Lives" books, rather, is to sketch the full life, and home in on significant, inspiring acts of the subject that truly made a positive difference in the world. The several I have read, including this one, have the sense of a masterful story-teller chatting knowingly with me across a kitchen table.
Enter Breslin, an icon himself, who for more than 55 years has moved us to tears and laughter and greater understanding. His selection to treat Rickey really is "beautiful." By story's end, Penguin's choice of Rickey as the inaugural sports figure in the series--ahead of Robinson, Ruth, Thorpe--also seems totally appropriate. As Breslin shows, without Rickey doggedly pursuing his vision of integration against many foes, a decade (or more) might have passed unchanged.
What led Rickey to dissent from all 15 other baseball owners (Breslin provides their ridiculously pious and hypocritical "Statement on Race") and dedicate himself and his team to integration?Read more ›
This book is a nice entry into the life of Rickey, but I found it a bit lacking for my appetite. It is certainly well-written and to the point, but it doesn't seem to bring forth much more information than was revealed in the movie. I plan to check out books Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Barrier and Jackie Robinson: My Own Story.
Jimmy Breslin's paean of praise to Branch Rickey is the fourth and most recent title in the Penguin Lives Series to frame the American struggle to provide equality to Black Americans in terms of the people who helped make it happen. Biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Abraham Lincoln preceded Rickey's. Of the four, Rickey's contribution is perhaps the least celebrated, but by no means the least important. Had Rickey not hired Jackie Robinson to play second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, no telling when the color line in big league sports would have been breached and black athletes and others given the opportunities that had been withheld from them as a matter of law and custom from the day the first slave ship landed at Charleston.
Breslin tells the story as if he were holding forth in an Irish pub across the street from Ebbets Field. He writes in an easy, conversational voice which takes you in and makes you want to hear more. While many readers and fans know the highlights of the Rickey-Robinson story, what is not so well known is how much planning went into the groundwork to bring Robinson up to the majors. Among Rickey's challenges, the opposition of all the other owners in the major leagues, the need to persuade the New York legislature to pass a fair employment law, and the shrill opposition of many sports writers and politicians with Jim Crow sympathies.
Like the other books in this worthwhile series, it is short (146 pages) and to the point. Breslin hits the high spots in Rickey's remarkable life and in his mission to end the humiliation that marks second class citizenship wherever it is found. Rickey deserves all the praise that comes his way.
He seems determined to give you an, "aw shucks" approach to Rickey's life; as if you were sitting on the front porch having a chat. Factually, I think he did pretty well, since he drew on a couple of the books on his approved list for his tome. Not much research on his part was (evidently) needed.
No book is expected to be error-free. But I sat up straight when I read Breslin's statement that Jackie Robinson played in his first World Series in 1952. Any junior Robinson fan knows that he led the Dodgers to the Series in his rookie season of 1947, and most know that the team was back in 1949. Minimal research would have prevented this error.
Other than being a lot shorter than other Rickey bios, I don't see why this was written. In the past month I've learned more about Branch Rickey (and the Robinson part of his tale) from books by Red Barber, Arthur Mann and Harvey Frommer. Breslin's book absolutely isn't worth the cover price (I bought it used). I can't imagine using it as a resource in the future.
Jackie Robinson is my idol. And naturally, I hold Branch Rickey in great regard. There aren't a lot of Rickey books out there, but the others are better than this one. And many of the Robinson books are more informative about Rickey than this one.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book that gives the background on how Jackie Robinson made it into professional baseball. It was also the basis for the recent movie "42". Read morePublished 11 months ago by D-Stylz
I found many of the historical events to be corroborated by other accounts. There was a lack of transition between stories, but it wasn't really affecting the read. Read morePublished 13 months ago by B. Benoit
I was a little surprised how far in advance that Rickey start thinking about breaking the color barrier in baseball. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Larry Fitzpatrick
This great American writer captures the essence of Rickey, the baseball man, and of Rickey, the great American who changed America far beyond what he imagined. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jim Brown