Friday, June 3, 2022

JUNE 2022


This year marks the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Major League Baseball (MLB) rookie season (1947) as well as the 50th anniversary of the untimely passing (1972) of this truly remarkable man.  I just finished reading a newly released biography titled TRUE: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson, by Kostya Kennedy and published by St Martin's Press.  This book is an unconventional but innovative biography in that it examines four transformative years in Mr Robinson's inspired life:
1946, his first year playing minor league ball for the Montreal Royals; 1949, when he won the Most Valuable Player award in just his third season of his MLB career with the Brooklyn Dodgers; 1956, his final season; and 1972, the year of his untimely passing.  Each of these four chapters are titled after the four seasons - Part One:Spring (1946), Part Two:Summer (1949), Part Three:Autumn (1956) and Part Four:Winter (1972).  Hauntingly, if not appropriately, there is a "fifth" chapter titled The Afterlife, which affirms in the author's words, "Whatever the context and circumstances, Jackie Robinson remained true -- true to the effort and the mission, true to his convictions and contradictions."

While the organization and content of the book evokes The Holy Bible's Ecclesiastes 3 ("To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven ..."), it also gives fresh, new insights and deeper context into information about Mr Robinson's life.  This is accomplished by a vivid writing style that brings to life these four transformative years through interviews with fans and players as well as surviving family members who witnessed Robinson's impact in both public and private venues.  One such example is the memorable steal of home plate by Robinson in Game One of the 1955 World Series (eventually won by the Dodgers in seven games vs the Yankees).  In a very close play, the umpire ruled it safe, much to the vehement chagrin of Yankee catcher Yogi Berra.  The image of Robinson sliding in safely conveys a sense of determination, defiance and triumph in the face of adversity.  In the ensuing decades and long after the passing of Jackie Robinson, the "out, safe" exchange continued whenever Berra would encounter Rachel Robinson (Jackie's widow).  Typically, in his gregarious manner, Berra would say "Out" when he would see Rachel, and in return, with a gentle smile she would say "Safe."  This lifelong exchange had a special poignancy in 2015 when at a celebration for Berra's 90th birthday, Rachel greeted the Hall of Fame Yankee catcher by sweeping her hands out, palms down, giving the "Safe" sign while Berra replied by giving the "Out" sign with his right hand.  The two then gave each other a big smile and embraced.

In reading this wonderful biography, yours truly vividly recalled the beautiful eulogy delivered by the Reverend Jesse Jackson in 1972 at the memorial service for Mr Robinson.  The Reverend Jackson movingly described Robinson as "...the Black Knight in a Chess game.  He was checking the King's bigotry and the Queen's indifference.  He turned a stumbling block into a stepping stone ... and his body, his mind, his mission cannot be held down by a grave."  The closing chapter of TRUE features a photograph of Robinson's grave site depicting Mr Robinson's very own words as his epitaph: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

As a man of faith, a lifelong fan of Jackie Robinson and one who loves baseball, this biography affirms that this truly great man is Safe at Home.  Please join us here at the Galaxy Nostalgia Network by celebrating the inspired life of Jackie Robinson not only by checking out this new biography but also through acts of charity to others.