(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Jackson’s life, as he describes it, is not a model for others but rather a record of hardships largely overcome by perseverance. He wishes to be remembered as a success, not only on the field, where his fame is assured, but also off the field, where he believes that he has succeeded in the demanding world of business. Although Jackson seldom parades the fact that he is an African American, he makes clear his awareness that others notice his color first and therefore prides himself on becoming a successful African-American man. Jackson writes little about his weak points, such as his major league record for strikeouts and his lackluster reputation as a fielder. On the other hand, his flair for hitting the dramatic home run in the clutch situation has tended to quiet later critics, exactly as it did during his career. The “dinger,” as Jackson constantly refers to the home run, always has covered a multitude of sins in baseball, and in no case more effectively than in Jackson’s.

Reggie is surprisingly full of Jackson’s feelings about other people, and he takes great pains to explain the frequently stormy relationships that a high-profile career tends to foster. He begins, however, with a tribute to his father, who always preached a positive attitude. Although undemonstrative in his love, Martinez Jackson always made his son feel safe and encouraged him when he felt defeated. Jackson credits Frank Kush, his football coach at Arizona State University, for pushing him to his physical limits. He recalls how Kush sometimes would run the same play again and again: “give the ball to Jackson.” Instead of calling the plays secretly, however, Kush yelled them aloud, so that the defense would be ready to destroy the ballcarrier. Only later did Jackson realize that he was being turned into an adult, and he came to think...

(The entire section is 751 words.)