Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eig whiffs in Opening Day

Books now read in ’07: 60
Title: Opening Day
Author: Jonathan Eig
Genre: Baseball
Date Completed: 6-23
Pages: 275

In 1997 Jackie Robinson A Biography by Arnold Rampersad appeared. Five years later, in 2002, Scott Simon, of National Public Radio fame, wrote Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball. Rampersad’s fine effort is clearly the definitive biography of Robinson, the first African American to play Major League baseball in the modern day, while Simon’s tidy volume neatly put Robinson’s accomplishments into a social and cultural perspective.

Consequently, it’s difficult to understand exactly what need Jonathan Eig’s Opening Day -- subtitled The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season – fulfills. Eig does focus on that historic first season, bracketing his account of that season with a brief introduction of the pre-Major League Jackie and a quick round-up of his career following that first season and his subsequent retirement.

There’s nothing new here. Eig’s prose is serviceable, but not evocative or compelling. He’s not, for example, Roger Angell. (For that matter, who is.) Nor does he do for Robinson what Jane Leavy did for Sandy Koufax in her book of that name. I’m not suitably disciplined to resist a baseball analogy in summarizing this book – Opening Day is the literary equivalent of taking a third strike looking.

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