Jonathan Eig's Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season recalls events of 1947 when, under intense media and public scrutiny, Robinson made history—as the opening day first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers and major league baseball's first African-American player. Eig sets up the reader nicely with personal background on Robinson, charting his multi-sport college success at UCLA, his stint in the Negro Leagues and his singular relationship with Branch Rickey, the legendary executive who determined that Robinson was the right man to break the color barrier. Then follows a blow-by-blow account of Robinson's inaugural season, including his experiences (both bad and good) with fellow players and fans throughout the National League. Robinson had a key role in leading the Dodgers to the World Series at season's end, while also winning the first-ever Rookie of the Year Award for his stellar play. Moreover, he proved that a black man could combine courage with skill and earn respect on his own terms. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Choice Reviews 2008 July
Robinson's 1947 rookie season in Major League Baseball was not his first season in baseball--he had played in the minors and the Negro League--but in 1947 Robinson confronted Major League Baseball's color line and, along with it, segregation in the US. Others, e.g., Arnold Rampersad (Jackie Robinson, 1997) and Jules Tygiel (Baseball's Great Experiment, CH, Dec'83), have written elegantly about Robinson, but Eig's intent in looking only at 1947 is to present the story of how Robinson, who carried the hopes and dreams of millions of black Americans, transformed--and redeemed--the US. Eig tells of Robinson's teammates, who first ignored him but came to respect and protect him, and of how bigots (Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter) tried to end "the great experiment." And he beautifully captures Robinson's pain, fears, loneliness, and ultimate triumph as he dragged the country forward, forcing it to confront its racism and hypocrisy. Eig reveals that one cannot understand the Civil Rights Movement without understanding Robinson's 1947 season. Eig quotes Martin Luther King Jr., who called Robinson "a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides." Summing Up: Essential. All readers, all levels. Copyright 2008 American Library Association.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 February #1
An entertaining and equitable examination of Jackie Robinson's groundbreaking rookie season.In 1947, major-league baseball was still the exclusive province of white players. Change was in the wind, however, and the progressive president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, was at the forefront for moral, practical and economic reasons. Rickey signed Robinson, making him the first black player in the majors. Eig (Luckiest Man, 2005) chronicles Robinson's journey from college-football star to baseball legend, with plenty of digressions to flesh out key participants (and a few too many tangential discourses on less important individuals). While the Negro leagues abounded with talented players, white Americans doubted their ability to handle the pressure of big-league ball. Understanding that overcoming that perception would require players to have more than mere talent, Rickey shrewdly chose a man who wasn't necessarily the most skilled black player available, Eig contends, but had the greatest will to win. Robinson's competitive streak outstripped even his considerable athletic gifts, and though he had a sullen, almost combative manner at times, his hide was thick enough to deal with blatant racism from both teammates and opponents, as well as the isolation that came with being forced to eat at different restaurants and stay in different hotels. The author combs through sportswriters' accounts of Robinson's landmark summer, supplementing his narrative with interviews with fellow players, spectators and cultural observers. Baseball fans will delight in a detailed account of the '47 Dodgers-Yankees World Series and revel in the portraits of some of baseball's more interesting characters, even if they don't always have much of a connection to Robinson.Those looking for a cogent analysis of Robinson's impact on the civil-rights movement and the tribulations faced by a man thrust into the role of trailblazer will be justly rewarded, but they'll have to sit through nine innings to get to it.First printing of 125,000 Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2006 December #1
What life was really like for rookie Robinson during the year he broke the color barrier in baseball; from a senior special writer at the Wall Street Journal. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 2007 February #1
Boasting a 125,000-copy first printing, this book will be published on the 60th anniversary of Robinson's breaking the color barrier with his first ML at bat. Veterans of the subject are not likely to find much new here, but that does not diminish the value of Eig's (Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig ) accomplished narrative or the moving story of a man who, in breathing integrity into baseball, probably sacrificed his own chances for a long life. Necessary for all general baseball collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/06.][Page 78]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.