Long before Jackie Robinson crossed baseball's color line, before Jack Johnson spawned a line of Great White Hopes desperate to take the heavyweight boxing crown back from a black man, Major Taylor was setting records and fighting bigotry in one of the most popular athletic arenas of the turn of the century. The "Extraordinary" in the title of this steady biography is not just spinning wheels.
Both a world and national champion, Taylor bicycled to glory on three continents. His name on the marquee meant added revenue and attendance. In Europe, he was a superstar, and treated like one. Yet he was mocked by fellow riders in America, shunned by his sport's establishment, and died forgotten and penniless in Chicago in 1932. Part of why Taylor should be remembered is the way he reacted to the hatred he had to ride against: "I always played the game fairly and tried my hardest," he wrote in his own autobiography, which Ritchie thoroughly mines, "although I was not always given a square deal or anything like it ... I only ask from them the same kind of treatment which I give and am willing to continue to give."
Ritchie does yeoman's service in reviving Taylor's story and giving it context with a carefully studied examination of what life was like for black Americans 100 years ago. More importantly, he reaches into the muck of the past and returns with a clear picture of an endangered species: the thoroughly decent human being. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
Ritchie (King of the Road, etc.) presents a moving biography of Marshall W. "Major" Taylor (1878-1932), a now nearly forgotten bicycle racer who was one of the world's premier athletes. Lionized in Europe and Australia, where he defeated reigning national champions, Taylor was the victim of racism at home in the U.S. He struggled throughout his 16-year racing career to earn a living in the sport. A quiet, deeply religious manhe lost income by refusing to race on Sundayshe was popular with the public but shunned by most of his white counterparts. Taylor's success on the racetrack, we're shown, was as much a tribute to his courage as to his enormous skill. After his athletic career ended his life was a series of personal and business setbacks; he died in a Chicago welfare hospital at age 53. Ritchie's sympathetic portrait should appeal to a broader audience than cycling enthusiastsit is the story of a genuine American hero. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.