Rickey & Robinson by Roger Kahn

Dodger history is full of some amazing characters. Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, and Roy Campanella are amazing examples. Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey are probably my top characters. Vin Scully is without a doubt the most revered man in Dodger history, if not baseball history. Unfortunately there are no definite works by Scully or about Scully, so until then, I continue my pursuit of Robinson and Rickey.

Much has been written about Robinson and Rickey throughout the decades. Together they changed the world. Robinson obviously never had it made and he endured the worst, but without Rickey there would be no 42. I am not too sure how much more I could learn about these two. Robinson is always portrayed as a gentle yet mostly restrained fighter and hero. Rickey is given a more complicated personality. At times Rickey is portrayed as a saint that fights the good fight of integration. Other times he is portrayed as an opportunistic businessman that sees integration as an easy way to get talented ballplayers at a cheaper price while drumming up ticket sales. I like to compare Rickey to President Lincoln, who is often depicted as being either indifferent to slavery or a staunch abolitionist. The truth can be messy.

Roger Kahn, known for the work Boys of Summer (which at the time of this review, I have not read), here writes the so-called untold story of baseball integration titled Rickey & Robinson. Given the title, I was expecting an in-depth look at the relationship between these two titans in baseball history. I know Rickey and Robinson had a great respect for each other even though they did not see eye to eye on many things. So I was quite surprised when I was over a hundred pages into the book and Rickey and Robinson had yet to be in the same room. Granted there is a stage that needs to be set; the American landscape looked a lot different in the 1930’s and 40’s, but this means over the half the book does not include our two main characters.

The book is still interesting. There is not a lot of different information here, just a different perspective. It is fun to read a lot of first hand accounts between Kahn and the Dodgers. This book is not a just a history book, but the personal interactions between the author and these legendary figures. I think this book should be called Sportswriting in Brooklyn: the untold stories of integration in baseball.