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Jackie Robinson: A Biography Paperback – September 1, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In baseball and beyond, 1997 has been the year of Jackie Robinson, the 50th anniversary of his obliteration of the game's color line, and a time to reflect on a marvelous man whose heroism and decency cut far beyond the foul lines. Arnold Rampersad, a Princeton professor who's edited the poetry of Langston Hughes and the essays of Richard Wright, and collaborated with tennis great Arthur Ashe on his powerful memoir Days of Grace, steps up to the plate here with the first truly comprehensive Robinson biography. It's an important accomplishment, ripe with historical and social insight without losing sight of the human being at its core. Thoroughly researched--Rachel Robinson gave the author access to her husband's personal papers--and filled with fascinating new detail, the book, like its subject, consistently takes the extra base, thrilling with its overall skill, depth, and perspective. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The details of an extraordinary life in 20th-century America are brought to life in LeVar Burton's memorable reading of Rampersad's lauded biography (LJ 10/1/97). Robinson was skilled enough, reliable enough, and tough enough mentally and physically to shatter the color barrier in major league baseball. His is the story of all African Americans?to be acceptable by white-controlled society. With the sponsorship of Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson became the trailblazer for people of color in formerly white-dominated professional baseball. This work includes Robinson's acceptance speech on his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Essential for all audio collections.?Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034542655X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345426550
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mike Powers TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
In his excellent biography of Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson, author Arnold Rampersad has painted with a crisp and lively narrative an objective, balanced , and candid portrait of a legend. Here is seen the complex, driven man that was Jackie Robinson, "warts" and all. He was the proud and fiercely determined African American athlete, extraordinarily gifted in at least four sports; a sometimes overly sensitive man who despised racism always fought against it, even in the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1930s and 1940s, and even at the risk of conviction by military court-martial. He used an unconquerable will and ambition to became a football, baseball, basketball and track star at Pasadena Junior College; one of the greatest football running backs in UCLA history, and ultimately, under the guidance of legendary Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, the first African American professional baseball player of the modern era. Rampersad traces Robinson's struggle against racism during his early Dodger years; it is a poignant and compelling story.

The book also shows the more human side of Robinson: a quiet and sensitive man, and a political activist whose fight for racial equality was consistent throughout his life; a wonderfully loving husband but sometimes distant father; and a businessman of tremendous integrity. At Rampersad's hands, Jackie Robinson is a genuinely heroic and admirable person. This is a book which allows the reader to really get to know its subject. It is one of the finest biographies I've read in many years. Highly recommended!
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Back when people listened to baseball games on radio, I was one of two people in my school whose favorite baseball team was the Brooklyn Dodgers. The other person was my best friend Marie, who was Italian, and she didn't listen to broadcasts of the games. I did. In my memory, they are visual. I see Jackie Robinson sliding into third base and the Giants' third baseman (It was always the Giants) and the baseline coach stomping the grass with rage at the call. Robinson gets up, dusts himself off, grins. Red Barber, the announcer, laughs. From the time I was in the third grade until the Dodgers left Brooklyn, I was faithful to them. They were my team.

Looking back, I realize my attachment began as a political affair of the heart, an assertion of independence. I lived in Louisiana, and in Louisiana everybody was first of all devoted to the St. Louis Cardinals, then the closest thing we had to a Southern team, and to the New York Yankees. Squeaky-clean teams filled with dull Anglo Saxons, I thought. Winners. That was what drew the boys in my classes to the Yankees. A blond, somewhat round little Anglo girl myself, I wanted nothing to do with that. I loved underdogs, folks who came from behind to squeak out a win. Boys who were discovered in some Sunday afternoon cowfield in Oklahoma and went on to glory. I'd read all those John Tunis books, and that was my style---underdogs. Also diversity, though that was not the name for it them. A team with Italians, Jews, blacks, mixed in with white southerners, preferably. I was also a democrat. I was explaining this to my husband one day. "Italians, the Dodgers had Italians, like Campanello...." He interrupted me to tell me that in Campy I had a double-winner: he was both Italian and black.
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Format: Paperback
Professor's Rampersad's biography of Jackie Robinson is a book that's needed now. It's incredibly informative about the man behind the legend. (I think Roger Angell's blurb sums it up: "[the] book arrives just in time to save the man from his own legend.") However, Rampersad doesn't focus much on Robinson's baseball life, and he seems to be holding back judgment on Robinson despite the opportunities to do so.
Before digging in the dirt, I want to say that this book is crisply written and chock full o' facts about Robinson's life. Rampersad obviously had the full support of Robinson's widow, Rachel, and her views are constantly felt throughout the book. It's almost told from her point of view, in fact, and thus feels like a intimate, loving homage to the man.
But there are some issues and character flaws in Robinson that Rampersad shows or hints at, but never fully explores. For example, we never truly felt the force of the hatred leveled against Robinson during his efforts to integrate baseball. There are a few quick references to name-calling, a couple of pitches thrown his way, but what made Robinson so bitter, what filled him with the hatred that so obviously ate at him later in his career? It's implied, rather than shown, as if it were too terrible even to discuss. On the whole, the chapters on Robinson's baseball career are woefully thin. It's clear that Rampersad is not much of a baseball fan - including a few factual errors about the sport's rules and game play - and it's a shame, because baseball is as much about its stories as it is about its action.
And then there's Robinson's role as Civil Rights' leader, which Rampersad describes, but withholds all judgment on.
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