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Branch Rickey (Penguin Lives) Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 17, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*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

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Lives
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (March 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022497
  • ASIN: B0062GK0LU
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,472,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Peter Hillman on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The wonderful "Penguin Lives" series has hit another home run with Breslin's insightful, entertaining and revealing treatment of the man who, as GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the late 1940's, had the courage and foresight to facilitate Jackie Robinson's extraordinary breaking of the sport's color bar.

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?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Book Mark on February 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
My interest in learning more and more about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey has ground exponentially since watching the well-done blockbuster 42 that appeared in my HBO-watch list. From Harrison Ford's role in the film, I felt that Branch was 85% in it for the money - did he really want to change the world? People are motivated by so many different things, and I was impressed that his religious faith and morals played such a big part.

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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David R. Anderson on April 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph C. Sweeney on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Highly recommended.

This 146 page bio of baseball great Branch Rickey is well worth a visit. Both knowledgeable fans and newcomers, young and old, will enjoy this witty look at one of the seminal figures in the history of the sport. Terrific book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
On the morning before John F. Kennedy's funeral, Jimmy Breslin went up to Arlington National Cemetary and watched Clifton Pollard dig Kennedy's grave.

That column --- it's a classic.

And it's one of many. New York corruption schemes. The `Son of Sam" killer. Riots. Rudy Giuliani.

Of course he won a Pulitzer.

Jimmy Breslin does not have a low opinion of himself. "Media," he likes to say, "is the plural of mediocrity."

He has a point. Media kicks people only when they're on the way down. Jimmy Breslin likes to kick them when they're riding high. Cardinal Egan couldn't bring himself to speak about abusive priests. "The man betrayed Catholics, and the Irish," Breslin wrote, "and he puts on his red hat." He savaged a then-popular governor: "'Society' Carey, his mind like sky...." The day after 9/11, when everyone else was chest-thumping, he told me, "Security will make you weep."

And now, in just 143 word-perfect pages, he has written a biography of Branch Rickey.

He didn't want to --- he was in his late 70s when Viking asked him to contribute to its series of brief biographies. But let him tell it:

"When they ask me to write a book about a Great American, right away I say yes. When I say yes I always mean no. They ask me to choose a subject, and I say Branch Rickey. He placed the first black baseball player into the major leagues. His name was Jackie Robinson. He helped clear the sidewalks for Barack Obama to come into the White House. As it only happened once in the whole history of the country, I would say that is pretty good. Then some editors told me they never heard of Rickey. Which I took as an insult, a disdain for what I know, as if it is not important enough for them to bother with.
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