A Short Book Review: “Breaking Ground: How Jackie Robinson Changed Brooklyn”, by Alan Lelchuk

Note: I was provided a review copy of this book by it’s publisher.

In “Breaking Ground: How Jackie Robinson Changed Brooklyn”, author and teacher Alan Lelchuk tells the familiar story of Jackie Robinson from a different perspective: that of the people of Brooklyn, especially his family, including his parents, Jewish immigrants from Russia. It’s a short book, more of an extended essay of 117 pages, and it’s an overall mixed bag.

First, the good. It is a unique look at Jackie’s time in Brooklyn told by somebody who was growing up there as it happened. While obviously colored by nostalgia and the passage of time, Lelchuk’s stories of how the diverse people of Brooklyn identified with Robinson are poignant. After all, many of them had suffered discrimination and persecution, and now their team had a similar outsider who was suffering from discrimination. There are also good stories about the effect Robinson had elsewhere in America, but it’s mainly about Brooklyn. You can really tell how much Jackie meant to them and Lelchuk.

However, this is far from a perfect book. At times, Lelchuk turns on the schmaltz a little too high or enters into “back in my day” ramblings, and still other times the English scholar kicks in a bit too much as he enters into comparisons of Robinson to fictional characters and other notable figures. It’s a bit too thick, given the subject matter, but thankfully they aren’t too numerous. Still, at times, it feels as if he is just filling space to make it long enough to justify being a book instead of an unusual long article.

Those cons are enough to keep this from being far from a must-purchase. Instead, it’s likely just for the Jackie Robinson completists out there. It’s not a bad book, but it most definitely isn’t for everyone.

(Blogathon ’16) Howard Cole: Thoughts on Retiring Roberto Clemente’s Number 21

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

First a shout-out to ESPN.com, if I may. There is no online publication as dedicated to baseball as ESPN.com, with more writers penning thoughtful pieces on a daily basis than most of their major competitors combined. Employing baseball writers, and lots of them, is a good thing.

There are almost too many scribes to commend without leaving someone out, but here are my favorites: Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Buster Olney, Mark Saxon, David Schoenfield, Mark Simon and Jayson Stark.

ESPN.com is in the midst of a fun series called “MLB 2.0 – Reimagining Baseball,” with topics such as the overuse of replay, international expansion, robot umpires (good grief!) and the DH in the National League #Sacrilege. Whether baseball needs reimagining is a fine question, but one for another day.

Although not part of the 2.0 series, Buster has an interesting piece titled “MLB should retire Roberto Clemente’s number.” ESPN Insider is required, but here’s the key phrase: “This is why the time has come for Major League Baseball to honor Clemente in the way that it did Jackie Robinson, and retire Clemente’s No. 21, for all teams and for all time.”

I get the sentiment and it’s a beautiful thought, but if I were commish for a day – and it happened to be decision day on this one – I’d pass on the idea.

There’s no need to compare Jackie’s contributions to Roberto’s. This isn’t about that. While I would have had loved to have seen Robinson play, I was lucky enough to experience Clemente a bit. On NBC’s Game of the Week, with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek, in All-Star Games and in the World Series, primarily. And I loved him.

If I saw him as a child in Los Angeles I don’t recall, and that bothers me no end. I remember that awful New Year’s Day in 1973 like it was yesterday. I’ve also learned to take note of Roberto’s birth-day more so than, well, that other day.

Clemente is worthy of having his number retired. I just don’t think it serves the purpose intended.

From my perspective as a life-long Dodger fan, there was something about Jackie Robinson’s number being retired throughout the sport that bugged me. Made me jealous, actually. I mean, it was cool and all, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Why do the Giants get to celebrate Jack in this way? What did they do?” More importantly, I thought, “why the Boston Red Sox – the last team to integrate in 1959 – of all teams?”

And what about teams like the Rockies and Marlins, who might stick the glorious number 42 on a façade someplace 450 feet from home plate?

Pittsburgh is a great baseball town, and Clemente is such an important part of everything the organization does there. Why not allow the Bucs and their fans to have Clemente to themselves? To hold him close.

Similarly, while retiring a number does serve as a fine reminder of a Hall of Fame player who has come and gone, so to does keeping the number in use, with players from Clemente’s native Puerto Rico especially in mind. Ruben Sierra wore Clemente’s number 21 at several stops during his career, including at Texas, Oakland, Detroit and Seattle, for example, and I believe with distinction.

Houston Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa has said just last week while accepting the 2015 Rookie of the Year Award that he would like to wear his idol’s number 21, and can you think of a better player to carry the banner?

Let’s keep the spirit of Roberto Clemente alive in as many ways as we possibly can, shall will. With a little deference to the Pirates, and to the young men from Puerto Rico too, while we’re at it.

And remember, glove conquers all.

Howard Cole has been blogging about baseball since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Review of “42”

“Continuum Global News” will return next week, but better late than never, here’s my review of 42:

Jackie Robinson was, without question, the most important baseball player of the 20th century. While Babe Ruth may have been the most transcendent star, and Curt Flood proved a pivotal figure in the game’s labor history, Robinson’s effects did not simply stop at baseball. No, his effect was felt far beyond the diamond. How important was Jackie Robinson? Well, no less than Martin Luther King Jr. declared him an important member and symbol of the civil right movements. And, least we forget, Robinson was a great ballplayer as well, a career .311 hitter, a six-time All-Star, the Rookie of the Year in 1947 and MVP of 1949. Who knows what type of career he may have had (he didn’t make his MLB debut until age 28) if not for segregation and the war?

So given this, it’s sort of surprising that it’s taken this long for a modern biopic on Robinson. There was a biopic starring the man himself in 1950, and a TV movie about his court-martial in 1990 (starring Andre Braugher as Robinson), but nothing else. But, I guess good things come to those who wait, because 42, although far, far from perfect, is a fine movie that does well at honoring Robinson while also educating those who perhaps are not as familiar with the story.

(MORE AFTER JUMP)

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Quote of the Day for April 15, 2013

This is a new feature where I will post a quote every day. From now on, expect three to four posts every day, sometimes five: MVP of Yesterday, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day and a unique post or two.

Today’s quote:

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Jackie Robinson

The Meaning of Jackie Robinson

The true meaning of Jackie Robinson (who would turn 94 today) is often forgotten.

I, like many others, have grown up in a sports world where it has not mattered what the color of a player’s skin was, only his talent. It matters not whether the player is Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Polynesian, or a mix of the above. All that matter is simply whether they can play. This is not just true in baseball, but in other sports as well. It is a meritocracy: If you are good, you are good, and if you stink, then you stink.

While there are, of course, still some cowards out there who continue to throw out racial epithets from the safety of anonymous accounts on the internet, they are just that- cowards. They know that what they are trying to peddle no longer is welcome in the American fan-scape.

And, although it is something of an exaggeration to say this, Jackie Robinson can be thanked for this. As not only did he show that talent knew no race, but he also showed dignity and courage doing it. He defeated those who hated and heckled him by simply ignoring them, not by giving in and returning their hatred.

A good example for any and all who have faced bullies. And something that has led to a better country, both on the field and off.

Happy Birthday, Jackie Robinson.

And now, another trailer for “42”

While I’m not going to do the grand analysis of the first trailer, here’s the latest trailer for the Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford. Keep an eye open for Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher, Alan Tudyk as Phillies manager/racist dirtbag Ben Chapman, and Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) making a bit of a reference to how MLB now honors Robinson every season.

Analyzing the “42” Trailer Far Too Closely

While certainly there is plenty to talk about today, whether it’s the Pirates’ crazy player development “training” or the whole thing about Melky Cabrera, but instead, I’m going to be putting a spotlight on something else: a movie trailer.

The trailer, to be more specific, for 42.  As the title and the fact you are on a baseball blog suggests, it is a movie about Jackie Robinson. It has a good pedigree, written (and directed) by Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland, and with Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. Emmy nominee Christopher Meloni plays Leo Durocher. Somewhat wisely, Robinson himself will be played an unknown names named Chadwick Boseman, who’s previous roles have been on TV and an appearance as Floyd Little in the Ernie Davis biopic, The Express. A good move, really, as I worry that if a “star” were to be playing Robinson, it would overtake the story of Jackie Robinson. Let me put it another way: If Will Smith were 15-20 years younger and was cast in this movie, people would be watching the movie thinking about Will Smith, not Jackie Robinson. And that would not be a good thing.

Anyway, here’s the trailer. After it (and the jump), my thoughts:

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