Great Time Coming: The Life of Jackie Robinson from Baseball to Birmingham by David Falkner

great timeThe popularity of the movie “42” made me decide to learn more about baseball’s Jackie Robinson, and I found this biography both interesting and informative.  It covers not only Robinson’s baseball career but his entire life.  I recommend Great Time Coming not only to baseball fans but to anyone who likes reading biographies, especially to those interested in civil rights history.

As a small child, Robinson moved with his mother and siblings from his birthplace in Georgia to a new home in California.  As he grew up, he developed amazing athletic ability – at Pasadena Junior College and then at UCLA, he was a star in four sports: football, basketball, baseball, and track.  Baseball was not even his strongest sport!

In 1947, after serving in the military during World War II, he was recruited by Branch Rickey, manager of the Dodgers.  Rickey, wanting to integrate baseball, knew that his first African-American recruit must be the right man on the field and also off the field.  Robinson’s athletic ability was obvious, but Rickey wondered if this potential recruit would be willing to turn the other cheek when white players and fans insulted him or even physically attacked him.  Rickey acted out one dramatic scene after another, testing Robinson’s reaction to racial slurs and discriminatory treatment.  When Robinson asked in amazement, “Do you want someone who would not have the courage to fight back?” Rickey responded, “I am looking for someone with courage not to fight back.”  Going against his instincts, which was very stressful for him, Robinson forced himself to be that man in order to pave the way for other African-American players, not only integrating baseball but helping to prepare the country for integration in other areas of life.

The book also follows Robinson’s contributions to the civil rights movement after his retirement in 1957.  In addition to speeches and fundraising, he attempted to influence the leaders of both political parties, such as Richard Nixon, John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and Nelson Rockefeller, to support civil rights.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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