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Historian Tygiel (San Francisco State Univ.; Baseball's Great Experiment, 1983, etc.) has fashioned what he calls ""an alternative biography"" of the man who broke major league baseball's color barrier in 1947. It's hard to believe anything new could be added to the Robinson story, but Tygiel has uncovered a few previously unpublished pieces that shed new light on Robinson's historic signing with Branch Rickey's Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey provided the press with emotion-laden, probably apocryphal anecdotes to explain his signing an African-American. Published here for the first time is sportswriter (and later Dodger press secretary) Arthur Mann's ""exclusive scoop"" on the signing (which Rickey ultimately announced before Mann's piece could appear in Look magazine). According to Tygiel, the piece ""provides the first authorized account of Rickey's rationale for signing"" Robinson as well as an account of the behind-the-scenes action. Also published for the first time is an August 1946 report of a major league steering committee, ""most likely"" written by New York Yankees 'owner Larry MacPhail, that ""remains a damning document"" about segregationist attitudes held by many of the owners. Arranged chronologically, most of the material here is reprinted from Time or Look magazines, with a few interesting bits from sources such as the Pittsburgh Courier and the Baltimore Afro-American. Some of the great sportswriters are represented here, including Donald Honig and Roger Kahn. Also included are excerpts from Robinson's autobiographies that address his political and personal battles, such as his feud with Paul Robeson and the short, tragic life of his son. His exchange of letters with Malcolm X will prove interesting to social historians. While the writing styles and the quality vary wildly, and a few of the excerpts are from weak sources (e.g., Maury Allen's 1986 biography), this clever assemblage effectively tells the story.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dutton