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The Robinson Effect
Stu Hackel
October 28, 2002
Two new tomes reexamine the legend of Jackie Robinson and what his breaking the color barrier meant to baseball and America
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October 28, 2002

The Robinson Effect

Two new tomes reexamine the legend of Jackie Robinson and what his breaking the color barrier meant to baseball and America

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Extra Bases
by Jules Tygiel
University of Nebraska Press, $17.95

Tygiel, A San Francisco State history professor who also wrote Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy in 1983, remains the preeminent voice on Robinson. Extra Bases comprises 13 scholarly essays on Robinson, race and baseball history, including Tygiel's compelling afterword to the '97 edition of Experiments which he writes, "The Jackie Robinson story is to Americans what the Passover story is to Jews: It must be told to every generation so that we never forget." Tygiel wonders about Robinson's legacy—does today's generation find Robinson relevant or a symbol of an "idyllic, if imaginary, past"?—but he suggests we can draw inspiration from his pride and courage in continuing mankind's struggles against its own inhumanity.

Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball
by Scott Simon
John Wiley & Sons, $19.95

"There's no need for a new chronicle about Jackie Robinson's arrival in major league baseball," Simon opines toward the end of this volume. So why write one? According to Simon, Sept. II forced Americans to reassess what a hero is, and the author wants readers to know Robinson deserves that honorific because he "gave his life for something great"—America's promise of equality. Did a black player taking the field in 1947 face the danger a firefighter encounters when entering a burning tower? Simon doesn't make that case, but he traces Robinson's bravery while excelling and lighting a path to social justice. Simon sometimes uses a sanctimonious tone and injects glib comic relief, oddities that clash with the significance of Robinson's feat.

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