Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review of "I Never Had It Made"

Jackie Robinson's legacy will never be forgotten and this past spring, it was brought to life on the big screen to show a new generation what the man did for baseball and civil rights.   It was based on his autobiography, originally published just before his death in 1972 and it was re-published in electronic format to coincide with the release of the movie "42."  Here is a review on this book.

 

Title/Author:
“I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson” by Jackie Robinson and Alfred Duckett

Tags:
Baseball, autobiography, Dodgers, Robinson, history, politics, race

Published:
March 19, 2013 (e-book version) Original publication - 1972
 
Length:
320 pages

Rating: 
4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
Jackie Robinson is one of the few athletes whose importance and popularity transcended sports.  “I Never Had It Made” is an excellent autobiography on his life, his outspoken views on the state of civil rights for black people during his life and oh, yes, a little bit about his baseball career with the Brooklyn Dodgers as well.   

Most people know of his accomplishments on the baseball field and what he had to endure during his early years with the Dodgers, even those who are not sports fans.  However, it might not be known to most readers that Robinson was also active in politics for the Republican Party.  Given the history of the relationship between civil rights leaders and the GOP, that might come as a surprise, but Robinson does a good job of explaining why he did so and what the eventual outcome would be.

Robinson pulls no punches in this book.  Whether it is about race relations in society, the military or baseball, or his relationships with first Branch Rickey and then Walter O’Malley, or the tender passages written about his wife Rachel and their three children, the reader will know without a doubt how Robinson feels about that topic.
 
By writing his true feelings and not sugar-coating it or making it more palatable for those who might not be comfortable with such frankness, I thought that every subject he wrote about was told in a much better way. The reader learns about the topic, gets Robinson’s perspective, and can then make up his or her own mind.

The baseball sections of the book are very good as well.  There isn’t much description of on-field action or statistical analysis, however.  This is written from a player’s point of view and the views expressed are just as much about the business and the social life on the field as well as hits and runs.   It was just enough to satiate the sports fan in me, but because this book is so much more than just a sports book, it should be read with the objective of learning about other topics as well.

This book certainly will teach the reader a lot about that era in American history and a lot about Jackie Robinson, the man.   “I Never Had It Made” is an excellent book that many readers should pick up and enjoy.
Did I skim?
No.

Did I learn something new?
Yes, a lot.   Because Robinson recounted so many of his experiences in great detail, I learned so much about his convictions on race relations and civil rights.   I did have a casual understanding of his off-field life and activities, but I did not realize how involved he was with the civil rights movement and politics.  

Pace of the book: 
Fairly slow, but in a good way.  For a reader like me who wanted to learn so much more about the man, it was helpful to read the book slowly.

Positives:
There were so many in this book that it would be hard to list them all.  However, I believe they can all be covered by just stating that was a very outspoken man and this book reflects that trait. 

Negatives:
While this isn’t a negative for me, some readers might not be comfortable reading about Robinson’s candor on the controversial issues of his day.  There were two notable problems in the editing of the e-book version.  One was that a period was inserted prior to each use of the word “other.”  The .other (intended to show that edit) was that when the World Series was discussed, the phrase was not capitalized as it is elsewhere.

Do I recommend? 
Yes.  Going well beyond sports and baseball, this book is a good source of information on issues concerning race relations and some events of the turbulent 1960’s.   Whether the reader likes baseball, politics, history or biographies, this book is an excellent read for anybody who enjoys these topics.  

Book Format Read:
EBook (Kindle)

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