Review: After Jackie

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Book Review


The next time you drive past a group of kids playing an impromptu game of baseball, slow down for a minute and sneak a peek.

Is there a little up-and-coming Barry Bonds in that group?  How about a budding Nolan Ryan or Hank Aaron?  Do you see extraordinary talent in the outfield or behind home plate?

Now look again, and consider this: there was once a time in the not-so-long-ago that the color of that player’s skin might have kept him from playing baseball, no matter what his talent.

That was before Jackie Robinson.  In the new book “After Jackie”, author Cal Fussman interviewed former players, family members, and people who knew Robinson, and he reflects on life for baseball pros and others since Robinson’s historic first gameday over sixty years ago.

Baseball, Mom, and apple pie have always been synonymous with America, and there was once a time, long ago, when the game was played here without any race consideration.  Fussman says that the game was integrated back in the early 1880s, but one man’s 1887 refusal to play with a Black team member resulted in segregated baseball.
It took some 60 years to change history back.

Branch Rickey III, the grandson of the man who hired Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers, remembers hearing stories of his grandfather’s anger at the injustices of racism. In 1904, Rickey remembers, a Black player from the Ohio Wesleyan baseball team was denied access to a hotel room.  The player’s distress was burned into the elder Rickey’s brain.  When Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson, his grandson says it was a thread that started 41 years previously.

Eleven weeks after Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League baseball, Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck signed Larry Doby.  After Doby came Monte Irvin.  Then Dan Bankhead.  Roy Campanella. And baseball was integrated.
But look at your favorite pro team now.  Fussman points out that African Americans are turning away from baseball. Why?  And what does the future hold for all those little Barry Bondses and Nolan Ryans you see on the neighborhood baseball lot?

With the World Series – and the end of baseball season - just weeks away, “After Jackie” is a nice way to end the summer.  Using memoirs, interviews, and remembrances of people who knew Jackie Robinson, played with him, loved him, or benefited from his dignified time in mainstream pro baseball, author Carl Fussman presents a sometimes-contradictory but always fascinating retrospective into baseball history and a sports-eye view of race relations.

While those interviews are priceless, don’t skip Fussman’s introductions to each chapter.  There, you’ll learn a little more background on the importance of what happened two generations ago, as well as some interesting baseball factoids that even the most rabid fan might not know.

If the Barry Bonds controversy is getting you down, or you’re looking at the end of the season with great trepidation, then pick up a copy of “After Jackie”.  For a baseball fan, this book is a major hit.

Book Details: “After Jackie” by Carl Fussman. c.2007, ESPN Books. $24.95 / $31.95 Canada . 244 pages



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