Baseball's Great Experiment, Jackie Robinson and His Legacy


401 words

Title: Baseball's Great Experiment, Jackie 
Robinson and His Legacy; by: Jules Tygiel; 
Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0-19-510620-2; 
Paperback, 437 pages, US$14.95, CAN$22.50 

Reviewer: A. T. Connellan, "There 
are more readable books on the "Robinson 
Era", but none more authentic." 

Not Just Another Jackie Robinson Story

1997 marks 50 years since Jack Roosevelt 
Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as 
the first black player in organized baseball. 
Breaking the color bar affected American 
society as profoundly as the later U S 
Supreme Court's decision upholding 
desegregation in public schools. 

More importantly, on this anniversary, Jules 
Tygiel has authored the definitive account of 
the integration of white baseball by America's 
Negroes. Tygiel is an historian, a Professor 
of History, at San Francisco State University, 
and it shows.  

Over fifty pages of detailed notes and a 
Bibliography exhaustively support the book. 
He leaves no stone unturned in discovering 
quotes and narratives to buttress his 
chronicle of this defining period in US history. 
The result is an authoritative resource, but a 
dry read.

The romance of baseball is missing. 
Robinson's ferocity as a competitor is 
omitted, that fierce determination to win 
at all cost. Robinson was, by all other 
accounts, a thorough professional whose 
baserunning and bench jockeying drove 
opponents to helpless distraction. He 
returned kind-for-kind in the verbal warfare 
that is an essential part of 'the game.' He 
was, in short, a mean customer.

Tygiel, quite properly, treats Jackie Robinson 
for what he was, an ideal tool for the wily 
Branch Rickey. One of the cleverest 
administrators in the business of baseball, 
Rickey read the entrails of the market accurately. 

He ascertained that there was a huge 
unsatisfied market in America's colored 
population.  Rickey correctly determined 
that there was a financial carry-over from 
the Second World War economy that would 
fuel their participation as spectators.

He also was well aware that there was a 
supply of highly skilled, if unpolished, 
performers in the Negro Leagues who 
would play for considerably less and 
controlled much more easily than most 
of the white stars.

Whether he was the great humanitarian 
Tygiel, and others, made him out to be 
will be left to history. There is no doubt, 
however, that, as a promoter P. T. Barnum 
could have done no better. Branch Rickey 
led the way, and one-by-one the other 
owners followed his lead. Baseball, on 
and off the field, was changed forever -- for 
the better.

First published in 1983, and enlarged and 
reissued to mark the fiftieth anniversary of 
a turning point in American history, Baseball's 
Great Experiment, Jackie Robinson and His 
Legacy, should be on your bookshelf. There 
are more readable books on the "Robinson 
Era", but none more authentic.

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