While he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962 on his accomplishments as a lifetime .300 hitter and leader of an unusually successful and appealing team, Robinson’s status in baseball history involves much more than his statistics. For a middle infielder, Robinson was an outstanding hitter, peaking at the age of thirty when he was named his league’s most valuable player. Resourceful and a team leader, Robinson was also a tremendous competitor and a constant threat on the bases. Allen’s book contains interviews with such retired ballplayers as Joe Garagiola, Terry Moore, Harry Walker, Robin Roberts, and Ben Chapman (considered by many to be the most outspoken bigot during Robinson’s initial year in the National League); such Dodger teammates as Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Carl Erskine, and Don Newcombe; legendary Dodger broadcaster Vince Scully; and many more individuals who played with and against Robinson.
Allen, whose sympathies are clearly with Robinson and against prejudice, succeeds in re-creating the conditions that Robinson faced on the field, where abusive language and racial epithets were used to demean his play and his humanity. Off the field, he also faced tension and humiliation, sometimes enduring segregation but challenging it more and more as his stature grew and he realized that his advocacy of civil rights could make a difference.
Allen shows Robinson’s imperfections as well as his achievements. For example, several of Robinson’s opponents thought that Robinson was a show-off who would steal a base for no...
(The entire section is 643 words.)