The movie 42 left me wanting more, so I picked up this biography of Robinson. I knew much of the baseball part of the story (though I hadn’t realized how injured he was), but I knew nothing of his childhood, his troubles in the Army, or very much about his post-baseball life. Rampersad covers it all in this exhaustive and only somewhat biased biography. Robinson’s efforts to contribute to the Civil Rights movement, to develop meaningful businesses, to support Rockefeller’s (and, for a time, Nixon’s) political career, and his and Rachel’s struggles with their oldest son, Jackie Jr., are all quite interesting.
The problem is that those moments are rarely more than that. Perhaps in an effort to be concise and / or perhaps in an effort not to be too biased, much of this biography comes across as summary. In fiction, I’m told, there should be an effort to balance scene and summary. Even though there are plenty of possible and remarkable scenes in Robinson’s life, Rampersad stays detached. Even the first meeting with Rickey comes off as perfunctory.
So, yes, I learned a lot. Enough to think that Robinson deserves a mini-series (do they still make those?) and not just one movie. In a while, I’ll turn to Robinson’s version in I Never Had It Made and see what that adds to his amazing story.