Jackson’s autobiography is typical of its genre: highly personal, unsystematic, dependent upon the vivid re-creation of scenes and events long past, and rooted in the language and values of contemporary culture. Some may find the language offensive, though it provides a context of realism that will not be lost on young adult readers. One finds the story of a young African American—his growing sensitivity to racism, his struggle to overcome all the other problems confronting youth, and his determination to succeed—and an honest look at what his success cost him. It is an inspiring story that will encourage young people to face the obstacles in their lives, rather than to run away from them. Jackson’s success on the field, where he knew how to develop his physical talents, is contrasted with his admitted failures in personal relationships off the field, where he could not and would not openly express himself. Young people are presented with many examples reflecting the complexities of interpersonal dealings in reading Jackson’s accounts of his failed marriage and difficult relations with people. With the growing concerns about sexuality and related issues, it is also worthwhile for a successful professional ballplayer to admit honestly, in an unsanctimonious way, that he refrained from sexual relations until he was married, making it clear to young adults that social behavior varies from individual to individual despite race, class, or level of success.
Nevertheless, the focus of Reggie is upon the author’s exploits in major league parks, particularly in Yankee Stadium. The book will be necessary reading for any baseball historian of the post-1960’s era, not because Jackson draws profound conclusions or demonstrates keen insight but rather because of his prodigious achievement. Regardless of how it is told, the life of a man who hit 563 home runs will be of interest to young people trying to discover the secrets of success.