There are certain people in baseball that when you mention their name you can get countless things that they are remembered for. Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey are two such people who are remembered for various things of monumental proportions that changed the game we love. From the integration of baseball to the development of farm systems they both left the game in a better state than when they arrived. Today’s book takes a look behind the scenes of their biggest and best remembered project the integration of baseball by a writer who witnessed it first hand.
When I saw this book my first thought was why do we need to go down this road again? Have we not covered every angle as to what transpired leading up to the implementation of the project in 1947? It has been almost 70 years since this happened, so what stone was left unturned? Yes it is possibly the biggest single event in all of baseball in the 20th century and something we as a society should remember for both its social and historical value, but why now?
Roger Kahn is an accomplished and talented writer whom I enjoy reading his work. He has created a book that recounts the historical events of Branch Rickey’s project, and shows events that someone without first hand knowledge may not have known. Kahn recounts conversations with Dodgers management, other writers and people he associated with at that time. Bits of information that may have been inadvertently left out of the story at the original time or maybe on purpose, I’m not quite sure. The conversations he is recalling in this book are with people who have passed away, so there is no real basis to refute the private off the record conversations that Kahn has had with others. The reader is left to decide how much faith the have in Kahn ethically and did these conversations really ever happen?
If you take the book at it face value and accept the stories he tells as fact, then the book becomes an enjoyable first hand account of a historical moment. If you look at the aspect that Roger Kahn is the last living person involved in all these conversations, and then question the accuracy of comments, then you will ruin the book for yourself. Being Kahn’s self-proclaimed last book, I am not sure how to take the conversations. I can see the book from both sides of the fence, but would like to think after all these years of reading Kahn’s writing that there is no reason to even ask the integrity question.
Baseball fans need to read this and form their own opinions. It may be hearsay to some degree if you look at the book from that aspect, but it still is an enjoyable read from the history standpoint. Also as Kahn’s last work it does have some historical value in its own right due to that fact.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Rodale