Saturday, April 07, 2007
The Book Review: Jonathan Eig's "Opening Day" and other Fine Reads
April 15, 2007 marks the 60th anniversary of the breaking of the color line by Jackie Robinson (and Branch Rickey). And rightly so Major League baseball and book publishers have taken note of the significance of the time with activities and new publications."Opening Day" by Jonathan Eig (Simon and Schuster, $26.00, 323 pages) is the best of the lot as it explodes myths, creates new awareness, spins an almost hypnotic narrative arc from its first page:
"April 10, 1947, The telephone rang like an alarm, waking Jackie Robinson from a deep sleep" and its last page "...Given a chance to change the world, he never hesitated, He played hard and won. After that it was a whole new ball game."
Reading "Opening Day" we are transported back to another time, another place, another world by a master story-teller. Buy this book!
"Branch Rickey, Baseball Revolutionary" by Lee Lowenfish (University of Nebraska Press, $34.95, 686 pages) is a mother lode of info about the man who along with Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line. Lowenfish has done his homework here and it shows. We are with the man they called "the Mahatma" from cradle to grave. Scholarly, broad in its reach, this is the definitive book on the subject. A couple of small carps - the book is a bit pricey and also a bit repetitious. Scott Simon of NPR fame gives us "Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball" (Wiley, $12.95, 168 pages, paper). Originally published in 2002, this is one of those brought out as timely reading as the headline on its cover says: "Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Baseball's Integration."
For Red Sox fans especially - - a nice trip back in a kind of time machine is "Under a Grapefruit Sun" by Dan Valenti (Rounder, $27.95, 144 pages). This is a collection of photos and interviews and perception from the early 1980s when Valenti covered the Red Sox in spring training. This is a charming and enjoyable book, a look at much younger versions of Ted Williams, Roger Clemens, Yaz, Boggs and more.
Highly Notable: "The Voice: Mel Allen's Untold Story" by Curt Smith (Globe Pequot Press, $24. 956, 304 pages) is a book that belongs on your shelf. Detailed, definitive, dramatic - it is a splendid bio of the Hall of Fame Yankee broadcaster and "This Week in Baseball" superstar. Smith thankfully explodes some of the nasty myths about the man who was born in Alabama to Russian immigrants Anna Leibowitz and Julius Allen Israel. A lot of those genes went into the making of this man who had an impact on so many (Yankee) baseball fans. How about that!