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GREAT TIME COMING by David Falkner

GREAT TIME COMING

The Life of Jackie Robinson, from Baseball to Birmingham

By David Falkner

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-79336-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 Like all fine sports biographies, this one is not merely about an athlete. It is the story of an extraordinary and quite human man who happened to play baseball. Falkner's (The Short Season, 1986, etc.) literate, balanced account strives to get to the facts behind the Jackie Robinson legend, even when it hurts. An outstanding high school athlete, Robinson had repeated scrapes with the law during his teen years in California and was a member of a youth gang. A football star at UCLA, he quit just prior to graduation in 1941 to play semi-pro baseball, basketball, and football. A cloud hangs over his military career, when he was often involved in racial incidents, especially his court martial at Ft. Hood, Tex., for a Rosa Parkslike incident on a bus (he was acquitted). When Branch Rickey signed him to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947, both men knew they had a fight on their hands. The press, the public, and many in baseball vilified them, and Robinson had to endure continuous torment. But the deal was contingent on his vow to remain silent and not fight back. Falkner adequately recounts Robinson's storied career, but he focuses more on the man off the field and how he coped with pressure and fame. Unexpectedly interesting is Falkner's examination of Robinson's life after retiring from baseball in 1956. Named by Roy Wilkins to chair the NAACP's Freedom Fund, Robinson soon found himself to be a rarity: a politically conservative black celebrity. He stunned everyone by supporting Richard Nixon in his 1960 presidential campaign and, later, by going to work for New York's Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller. His public confrontations with Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell came, ironically, at about the time he was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in honor of his historic, groundbreaking career. Intricately detailed and perceptively digressive, Falkner's work is as good as the best books by Donald Honig or Roger Kahn. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)