Engaging account of Jackie Robinson's groundbreaking rookie season.
Dec 1, 2008
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 with him for fear of getting snookered again. It was sometime around 1944 that Branch Rickey made up his mind that he was going to be the one to integrate Major League Baseball. Always seeking an advantage, Rickey was the first to fully understand that there was a wealth of untapped talent playing in the Negro Leagues. And so it was that before the 1946 season Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was Rickey's plan to bring Robinson along slowing with the hope of Robinson contributing to the big league club in a year or two. After a magnificent season at AAA Montreal in 1946 it was apparent to most observers that Jackie Robinson would likely find himself suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season" is Jonathan Eig's splendid account of that historic and memorable season. It is a book that will grab your attention immediately and never let go.
I was quite surprised to learn that Jackie Robinson had really not played all that much baseball before signing with the Dodgers. While in college at UCLA Jackie Robinson had run track and been a star football player. He only dabbled in baseball. But Robinson was widely recognized as one of the best all-around athletes in the nation. It was this athleticism that intrigued Branch Rickey. On August 28, 1945 Robinson and Rickey would meet for the very first time. After taking careful measure of the man Rickey was convinced that Jackie Robinson had the proper temperment to endure the difficulties that were sure to arise as major league baseball attempted to integrate its game. After just one year in the minors Branch Rickey deemed Jackie Robinson ready to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In "Opening Day" Jonathan Eig introduces us to Burt Shotten, the unassuming manager of the 1947 Dodgers and to the men who would be Jackie's teammates. Make no mistake about it: there was a ton of pressure on these men as well. Players like Eddie Stanky, Dixie Walker and Pee Wee Reese really had no idea what to expect in 1947. You will come to understand how the players coped with the drama unfolding all around them. And you see how a team that little was expected of would come together over the course of the long season and make this the most memorable season in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. But of course it is important to understand that "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season" is not just a book about baseball. For this is a story of courage and tenacity.
For one very special season Jackie Robinson took the whole world upon his shoulders. Rickey and Robinson were gambling that if this experiment was successful Major League Baseball would finally see the error of its ways and integrate the game. And it proved to be a risk worth taking. "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season" managed to hold my interest from cover to cover. Jonathan Eig is a wonderful storyteller and I simply could not put this one down. One of the best sports books I have read in a very long time! Highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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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...