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Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy
Synopses & Reviews
When it was first published in 1983, Baseball's Great Experiment received glowing praise from virtually all quarters. The Chicago Sun-Times called it "a thumpingly good baseball book," and Red Barber wrote in The New Republic that it was "by far the most comprehensive single book on the subject." "Eminently readable," added Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post Book World, "not only is this a book that is long overdue, but it turns out to be a book that was well worth the wait."
Baseball's Great Experiment tells the story of one of the most explosive and far-reaching episodes in American sports history, an event now enshrined in folklore. Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's color barrier in 1946 shook America almost as profoundly as the Supreme Court's decision upholding desegregation in public schools a few years later. But this book doesn't end with Robinson: Baseball's Great Experiment follows the entire saga of baseball integration through 1959, when the Boston Red Sox--the last all-white Major League team--brought up the black infielder "Pumpsie" Green from the minors. As Tygiel makes clear, the integration of baseball transformed not only American athletics, but American society as well.
Two characters tower above all others: Robinson the gifted athlete, and Branch Rickey, then president of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Tygiel goes behind the scenes to recount Rickey's meticulous planning--his motives, his search for the right player, even his handling of sportscasters. Against the backdrop of a postwar America unprepared for the Civil Rights struggle, the story proceeds from Robinson's chilly reception among teammates and opponents alike, through his daily ordeal of taunts and death threats both on and off the field, to his triumph as rookie-of-the-year, when he led the Dodgers to the 1947 World Series, and ultimate recognition as one of the greatest players of all time.
Robinson, however, was only the first of many blacks to play in the Majors, and Baseball's Great Experiment traces the complete, painfully slow process of desegregation, in the process telling the often neglected stories of men like Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and many other pioneers. Tygiel also offers a unique look at integration in the minor leagues, and the role that the lifting of the color barrier played in the battle against Jim Crow in the South.
Based on interviews with dozens of players and baseball executives, contemporary newspaper accounts, and the personal papers of those who were there, this is the moving story of true courage--an unforgettable re-creation of a bygone era in America.
In 1997 the American people will celebrate with great fanfare and publicity the fiftieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson's explosive entrance into major league baseball. Robinson has become a national icon, his name a virtual synonym for pathbreaker. Indeed, much has transpired between this young African-American's first bold strides around the baseball diamonds of a segregated America and General Manager Bob Watson's pride in assembling 1996 World Champion New York Yankees. Recognizing this monumental event in America's continuing struggle for integration, Jules Tygiel has expanded his highly acclaimed Baseball's Great Experiment. In a new afterword, he addresses the mythology surrounding Robinson's achievements, his overall effect on baseball and other sports, and the enduring legacy Robinson has left for African Americans and American society.
In this gripping account of one of the most important steps in the history of American desegregation, Tygiel tells the story of Jackie Robinson's crossing of baseball's color line. Examining the social and historical context of Robinson's introduction into white organized baseball, both on and off the field, Tygiel also tells the often neglected stories of other African-American players--such as Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron--who helped transform our national pastime into an integrated game. Drawing on dozens of interviews with players and front office executives, contemporary newspaper accounts, and personal papers, Tygiel provides the most telling and insightful account of Jackie Robinson's influence on American baseball and society.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -398) and index.
About the Author
Jules Tygiel, a native of Brooklyn, is Professor of History at San Francisco State University and founder of the Pacific Ghost League. He is the author of The Great Los Angeles Swindle: Oil, Stocks, and Scandal During the Roaring Twenties.
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