Harvey Frommer

RICKEY AND ROBINSON: THE MEN WHO BROKE BASEBALL'S COLOR LINE

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What They Have Said About the Book

Kirkus Review

In 1946, Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey signed a gifted black athlete, Jackie Robinson, to play for his club's top minor-league team, the Montreal Royals--the first direct challenge to baseball's color bar and, for many good reasons, a much-told tale. Frommer (New York Baseball, 1980) offers a pleasant, upbeat look at this unusual pair-up--chiefly, it appears, to keep the story alive. The strongwilled Rickey was a devout Methodist (excused, by contract, from having to work on Sunday) and a genuinely innovative executive (the originator of the farm system); he also had a sharp eye for diamonds in the rough. His mettlesome protÉgÉ Robinson grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Pasadena; starred in baseball, basketball, football, and track from grammar school through college; served as an Army lieutenant during World War II. At about the time that Rickey moved from the St. Louis Cardinals to Brooklyn, he began to tell other club owners, cagily, that ""mass scouting might possibly come up with a Negro player or two."" Robinson was his choice not only because of his playing skills but also because he had the character to take abuse, on and off the field, without boiling over. Rickey backgrounded the press too, and (controversially) warned the black community to be on its best behavior. After his ballyhooed 1947 Brooklyn debut, Robinson went on to superstardom--while critics charged that his appearance in the line-up was as much a matter of good business as good will. Other black athletes, however, cared little about Rickey's motives: they were simply grateful for the chance to play. The new TV medium was also a help at the outset, Frommer notes, in showing that Robinson was not a symbol but a hard-hitting, sure-footed competitor with an unmatched flair for daring on the base paths. Neither Rickey nor Robinson (who died in 1972, of diabetes) lacked for accomplishment after their span in the limelight; but Frommer wisely does not dwell on the anti-climactic years after 1956. The inspirational appeal of the story is still, in this version, its strongest selling point. (For more pith and snap, see Frank Graham, Jr.'s eye-witness account in A Farewell to Heroes, 1981.)

Pinstripe Press,

Rickey and Robinson
The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Barrier

Blending exclusive interviews with Rachel Robinson, Mack Robinson (Jackie's brother), Hall of Famers Monte Irvin, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Ralph Kiner and others, celebrated author Harvey Frommer evokes the lives of Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey and heralded baseball player Jackie Robinson to describe how they worked together to shatter baseball's color line.

"This book clearly illustrates the elegance and class that BOTH men showed on the field and off. Frommer has provided a fresh perspective and a testament to overcoming adversity in the face of ignorance. Rickey and Robinson is a must read for hardcore baseball fans everywhere." - The Pinstripe Press

National Baseball Hall of Fame,

National Archives and Record Administration, Washington, DC

What they have said about the book:

"My great respect, gratitude and warmth for your scholarly work and to preserving the legacy of my dear husband." RACHEL ROBINSON

"A vivid account of the two as genuine American heroes." WASHINGTON POST

"Touching." NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

"One of the best...brutally honest with no punches pulled." AMSTERDAM NEWS

"A fine and sympathetic biography." LIBRARY JOURNAL

"A worthy effort." MILWAUKEE JOURNAL

"Interesting, exciting book." JERSEY JOURNAL

"Thorough research, a vivid account." CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"Covers all the bases, briskly paced." SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER-CHRONICLE

"Frommer's analysis of Rickey's motives sets book apart...raises all the right questions in interesting ways." BOOKLIST

"An unusual and deeply moving book." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"The prickly pioneer path trod by the 65-year-old baseball executive and the 26-year-old infielder is covered quite well. Whether you lived the period or merely heard about it, you'll enjoy it even more if you read Frommer's book." ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH

"A celebration, a nostalgic account." EBONY

"What makes the book worth the price of admission is how he integrated the two lives of the principals." TOLEDO BLADE

"Pleasant, upbeat look at this unusual pair-up." KIRKUS

"A heroic story." PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

"A story of courage, desire and intensity, a celebration of two great men whose time had come." THE WAYNE INDEPENDENT

 

Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Barrier
by Harvey Frommer

"I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back."
- Branch Rickey

Harvey Frommer's Rickey and Robinson, recently re-released in paperback (Taylor Trade Publishing, $18.95), has lost none of its poignancy in the two decades that have elapsed since the first edition in 1982. The new forward by
Hall of Famer Monte Irvin underscores the history lesson that none of us should ever forget: Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey made Michael Jordan and Jim Brown and Wilt Chamberlain and a host of other African-American athletic superstars' careers possible.
Sure, the color line was bound to fall at some point, but this story is more than just a case of being in the right place at the right time. As Frommer details in Rickey and Robinson, Branch Rickey spent years planning the 'stunt' he pulled on 15 April 1947. He had a seven-step plan that started way back in 1943, that had been carefully orchestrated, with the player painstakingly chosen, at the expense of great financial and other resources, to maximize the possibility of the Experiment's success.

Frommer's book outlines not just the events of the meeting of these two men, but starts you out with their respective upbringings, their backgrounds and histories, so that the reades has the feeling that he has at least known, if not lived, some of the joys and hardships of these two mens lives even before the events that would forever associate their names int he record books. You get to learn about Robinson's family history in Georgia, and upbringing in southern California, as well as his exploits in collegiate sports and the Negro leagues. You get to learn about Branch Rickey's country bumpkin background, his religious and political convictions, and his achievements in St. Louis before he ever came to Brooklyn. You even get to learn what each of them did after they left the Dodgers organization, how their passions drove them to strive for what they believed in even when most ordinary men would simply have conceded to diabetes, or retirement.

For that matter, you may get a little too much in the way of details. Make no mistake, Frommer's thorough and engaging research is a trademark of his work. His quotes from Rachel Robinson, Roy Campanella, Walter O'Malley, Irving Rudd, Mal Goode, Pee Wee Reese, Monte Irvin, and so many others help the reader to feel like he's getting a first-hand account of the events from those who lived them. Heck, I guess you are. But if you start reading the book hoping only to learn what Jackie's first year was like, you'll be in way over your head. Besides, you should know better than to think that Frommer would leave you with so truncated an account of such a significant occurrence in American History. Shame on you.

The book, as always, is well written. Eloquent without being excessively verbose (I suppose I could learn a thing or two about writing from Frommer myself!), Frommer is nothing if not a great author, and shows no disdain for the vernacular. But he also has a sense of the importance of his subject, and does not leave stones unturned where there are questions. He doesn not play up mythological events (like Reese's alleged gesture of freindship toward Robinson in Cincinnati) and does not seem to take a side on most of the political and personal conflicts depicted in the book. In all, this seems a fair and even-handed account, if not without Frommer's (also trademarked) slant toward new York sports. Can't say that I blame him.

Now more than thirty years after Robinson's death at the age of only 53, more athletes, not just the black ones, would be well served to remember the debt they owe these two great men.

Reading Rickey and Robinson would be a good start.

Boy of Summer.com, May 14, 2003

"According to Harvey Frommer's fine book, Rickey and Robinson, Branch Rickey had an opportunity to sign Larry Doby too, but wanted other teams to integrate so passed him up. He was an important pioneer in his own right and by all accounts a terrifically decent man." Brothers Judd Blog

Black Athlete Sports Network

Rickey and Robinson

This N' That with Tony Mack:

Book Review: Rickey and Robinson

-"It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out where the strong man stumbles, nor where the doer of deeds could have done better. On the contrary, the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena -- whose vision is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives vallantly; who errs and comes up again and again; who knows the greatest devotions; the great enthusiasms; who at best knows in the end of the triumph of high achievement."

-- Theodore Roosevelt

Harvey Frommer lived in Brooklyn that summer in 1947 when two men, one black and one white, came together to right a long overdue wrong in the sport of baseball. Just two years removed from the end of World War II, the climate in America and the world had taken on a major change.

More than 50 years later, Frommer gives us a brief snapshot of the life and times of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Blending exclusive interviews with Rachel Robinson, Mack Robinson (Jackie's brother), Hall of Famers Monte Irvin, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Ralph Kiner, and others, Frommer evokes the lives of Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey and heralded baseball player Jackie Robinson to describe how they worked to shatter baseball's color line.

"Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Barrier" gives a vivid account on the lives of these two men and how their collaboration helped bring change to the game of baseball and to society. "Many Blacks had just returned home from the war, including Jackie", said Frommer. "They had just served their country in a war and were tired of being considered second-class citizens."

In an excerpt from the book, Frommer talks about that day in April when Robinson played his first game in Brooklyn:

"With the blue number 42 on the back of his Brooklyn Dodger home uniform, Jackie Robinson took his place at first base at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. It was 32 years to the day since Jack Johnson had become the first black heavyweight champion of the world."

Writer James Baldwin had noted: "Back in the thirties and forties, Joe Louis was the only hero that we ever had. When he won a fight, everybody in Harlem was up in heaven. On that April day the large contingent of blacks in the crowd of nearly 40, 000 had another hero to be "up in heaven" about, another hero to stand beside Joe Louis."

Frommer's book also examines the decisions and oppositions that existed during a time when black athletes underwent the kind of scrutiny that would be embarrassing to this day. In many instances, we can still see them existing in a subtle fashion now, but it showed how Robinson had to be the first to endure such indignities.

"Rickey and Robinson" is a dual biography tracing the convergence of the lives of two of baseball's most influential individuals in a special moment in sports and cultural history.

For anyone that wants to learn and grasp the period that these two men lived, this book does an excellent job of weaving that story.

I highly recommend that you check this book out.

 

Ethnic NewsWatch

Black Issues Book Review

Rust, Art, Jr.

Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Barrier by Harvey Frommer

Taylor Trade Publishing

Harvey Frommer's Rickey and Robinson portrays this duo in unison, His explanation of a six-step plan by Rickey for breaking the color barrier was carefully structured and well laid out. Rickey's foundation for his plan was started in January 1943 at the New York Athletic Club where "step one," gaining the support of the club's owners, was accomplished. "Step two" was the selection of a player with exceptional talent; "step three" required a strong character to deal with difficult encounters on and off the field. "Step four" was laying groundwork for favorable press. And steps "five and six" were the required assistance of the Negro community and acceptance of the Negro player by his teammates.

In April 1945, Robinson, fresh out of the army, was playing his first season with the Kansas City Monarchs. Rickey had received enthusiastic reports about Robinson from his scouts. The 24-year-old ballplayer's ability was homeunquestioned and his personal life was exemplary: He possessed a strong sense of pride in himself and his race.

I've read more than a dozen books on the Ricky/Robinson tandem and I must say that Frommer's is the best structured. He brings Robinson's persona alive, proving why he was the first black man selected to break the racial barrier.

Black Issues Book Review. by Art Rust, Jr.

When I was a youngster growing up on Harlem's "Sugar Hill," I saw all the great white players, never realizing I'd ever live to see a black man playing major league baseball. I loved the games at that time, but lived for the games after Jackie Robinson entered the picture. When Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson in 1945, I thought to myself, "why couldn't this have happened 10 years ago? I was a hell of a ballplayer, perhaps I could have made it."

In 1945, at age 19, I was a premed sophomore at Long Island University, and I wondered how Jackie Robinson would endure playing a game loaded with whites of the Southern persuasion. But Rickey, against the strong opposition of baseball- even against the advice of his own family-persevered. Prior to the signing, Rickey read and reread books on slavery, black and white relations, and by 1945 he was comfortable he had made the right choice. After many hours of conversation, Rickey discussed with Robinson the pitfalls, to which Robinson said, "Mr. Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who's afraid to fight back?" Rickey replied, "I want a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back."

From 1921 to 1944, the baseball commissioner was Kansas Mountain Landis. he was a verbose, tobacco-chewing, rib jabber, and an honest and egotistical man. he loved baseball, but he felt it was his duty to keep it a lily-white sport. In short, despite his love of the game, he had no intention of letting blacks into organized baseball. On November 25, 1944, Commissioner Landis died of coronary thrombosis. In April 1945, Senator Albert Chandler from Kentucky was selected baseball commissioner. Many historians, including myself, believe that if it had not been for the death of Landis and the succession of Chandler, the "Ricky/Robinson Experiment" coiud not have taken place at that time.

Harvey Frommer's Rickey and Robinson portrays this duo in unison, His explanation of a six-step plan by Rickey for breaking the color barrier was carefully structured and well laid out. Rickey's foundation for his plan was started in January 1943 at the New York Athletic Club where "step one," gaining the support of the club's owners, was accomplished. "Step two" was the selection of a player with exceptional talent; "step three" required a strong character to deal with difficult encounters on and off the field. "Step four" was laying groundwork for favorable press. And steps "five and six" were the required assistance of the Negro community and acceptance of the Negro player by his teammates.

In April 1945, Robinson, fresh out of the army, was playing his first season with the Kansas City Monarchs. Rickey had received enthusiastic reports about Robinson from his scouts. The 24-year-old ballplayer's ability was unquestioned and his personal life was exemplary: he possessed a strong sense of pride in himself and his race.

I've read more than a dozen books on the Ricky/Robinson tandem and I must say that Frommer's is the best structured. he brings Robinson's persona alive, proving why he was the first black man selected to break the racial barrier.

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