The real and painful struggles of the black players who followed Jackie Robinson into major and minor league baseball from 1947 to 1968 are chronicled in this compelling volume. Players share their personal and often heart-wrenching stories of intense racism, both on and off the field, mixed with a sometimes begrudged appreciation for their tremendous talents. Stories include incidents of white players who gave up promising careers in baseball because they wouldn’t play with a black teammate, the Georgia law that forbade a black player from dressing in the same clubhouse as the white players, the quotas for the number of blacks on a team, and how salary negotiations without agents or free agency were akin to a plantation system for both black and white players. The 20 players profiled include Ernie Banks, Alvin Jackson, Charlie Murray, Chuck Harmon, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, and Bob Watson.
Veteran Newsday sports reporter Jacobson sticks mainly to the facts in this story of the African-American players who followed Jackie Robinson's lead into the major leagues. In his portraits of these 19 greats-who range from stars like Hank Aaron to lesser-knowns such as Mudcat Grant and Ed Charles-Jacobson bemoans the fate of so many might-have-beens and celebrates the success of the lucky few who actually received their just rewards. The hardships were legion, with almost every player recounting the difficulties of traveling a segregated country in the pre-civil rights era, when black athletes often couldn't patronize the same restaurants or the same hotels as their white teammates. In 1962 the St. Louis Cardinals helped bust down Jim Crow laws in Florida by buying their own hotel in St. Petersburg to avoid the problem during spring training. Although Jacobson's pen is a pedestrian one, he imparts a good many details on almost every page, due to the incomparable character of the men gathered in this honor roll of bravery. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved