Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jackie Robinson – I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography (Ecco)

The forthcoming release of the biopic 42 about the epic story of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier to become the first black player in Major League Baseball has spurred a re-packaging and release of Robinson’s 1972 autobiography I Never Had It Made, the source of the movie.

Many will be surprised that while the book details the Robinson’s heroic career in the bigs, there is so much more to his story; including forays into politics, business, and the civil rights movement. While Robinson is known for biggest “first” before playing big league ball, his well-rounded athleticism made him the first ever four-letter man at UCLA. While Robinson’s athletic prowess is undeniable, it truly is only one part of dynamic and heroic man.

There is a surprising level of honesty laced through this story. While you would think that Robinson would have to be tough as nails to stare down racism and the challenges he faced on and off the field and in the worlds of business and politics, there is an at times heartbreaking vulnerability to his story.

Delving into Robinson’s forays into politics and the civil right movement, he details his public disagreements with Malcolm X, who he took to task for talking a good game rather than taking any actual actions to help African Americans in any way other than pointing a verbal finger of blame at the “white bosses” that X claimed had used Robinson. This insight into Robinson’s character, makes all the more absurd the introduction by Harvard professor and serial race baiter Dr. Cornel West in the 1995 re-release of this autobiography. West embodies all of things that Robinson would have railed against.

While it is baseball and the so-called “Noble Experiment” that Robinson is most famous for, I Never Had It Made displays a level of complexity and depth that most of today’s athletes could never approach, let alone comprehend.

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