Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Blog - Double Play by Robert B Parker

Several years ago I heard a program on NPR which talked about Hank Aaron. Aaron was the man who broke Babe Ruth's home run record. The program recalled the many threats that Aaron received. Some of them were from fans of Ruth who did not want to see his record broken. Most of them were race related.

Double Play (2004) is about another courageous man who broke "the color" barrier in major league baseball; Jackie Robinson. In 1947 Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The novel is a piece of historical fiction. It follows the path of Joseph Burke, a returning WW II veteran, who eventually ends up being Robinson's body guard.

A parallel story runs through the book. It is the story of Bobby Parker who was 9 when the United States entered the war. He was 15 when Robinson became a major league ball player. As most American boys of that era he was an avid baseball fan. He followed the statistics in the paper and listened to games on the radio.

The story is interesting, but examining the racial tension of that era is more intriguing. Both the white and the black fans and players felt threatened by this change. Robinson was in a position where no matter how angry he might feel about some of the abuse he received, he had to remain calm and ignore it. He had to be the perfect gentleman so that this experiment in crossing racial borders had a chance to make it.

Reading the book was a good reminder that we have come along way since 1947 in how Blacks are treated in the US. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before we accept all minorities as fellow citizens.

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