April 15, 1947, marked the most important opening day in baseball history. When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond that afternoon at Ebbets Field, he became the first black man to break into major-league baseball in the twentieth century. World War II had just ended. Democracy had triumphed. Now Americans were beginning to press for justice on the home front -- and Robinson had a chance to lead the way.
He was an unlikely hero. He had little experience in organized baseball. His swing was far from graceful. And he was assigned to play first base, a position he had never tried before that season. But the biggest concern was his temper. Robinson was an angry man who played an aggressive style of ball. In order to succeed he would have to control himself in the face of what promised to be a brutal assault by opponents of integration.
In Opening Day, Jonathan Eig tells the true story behind the national pastime's most sacred myth. Along the way he offers new insights into events of sixty years ago and punctures some familiar legends. Was it true that the St. Louis Cardinals plotted to boycott their first home game against the Brooklyn Dodgers? Was Pee Wee Reese really Robinson's closest ally on the team? Was Dixie Walker his greatest foe? How did Robinson handle the extraordinary stress of being the only black man in baseball and still manage to perform so well on the field? Opening Day is also the story of a team of underdogs that came together against tremendous odds to capture the pennant. Facing the powerful New York Yankees, Robinson and the Dodgers battled to the seventh game in one of the most thrilling World Series competitions of all time.
Drawing on interviews with surviving players, sportswriters, and eyewitnesses, as well as newly discovered material from archives around the country, Jonathan Eig presents a fresh portrait of a ferocious competitor who embodied integration's promise and helped launch the modern civil-rights era. Full of new details and thrilling action, Opening Day brings to life baseball's ultimate story.
Jonathan Eig is a former writer and editor for Chicago bureau of The Wall Street Journal and the former executive editor of Chicago magazine. He is the author of two highly acclaimed New York Times best sellers: Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season. Luckiest Man won the Casey Award for best baseball book of 2005, and Opening Day was selected as one of the best books of 2007 by the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Sports Illustrated. He lives in Chicago with his wife and children.
By the time the middle of the 1940's rolled around Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was already widely acknowledged as one of the smartest, most innovative executives in all of baseball. After all, it had been Rickey who had conceived the notion of a system of minor league farm teams to supply talent to the major league club. In addition, Rickey knew how to evaluate talent like no one else. It got to the point that other general managers did not want to deal … more