Margaret's Reviews > Double Play

Double Play by Robert B. Parker
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's review
Aug 09, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery, baseball, authors-op

Double Play is an excellent fictional portrayal of how Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Joseph Burke is a WWII veteran whose wife leaves him while he's in the hospital recovering from serious wounds; after leaving the hospital, he works as a boxer and a bodyguard and is eventually hired by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers to protect Robinson in his first year in the majors. Repercussions from Burke's previous job, guarding Lauren, the self-destructive daughter of a powerful local businessman with Mob connections, spill over into his work for Robinson, and Burke has to play off various criminal organizations against each other in order to protect Laurie and Jackie. Interspersed with the tight, fast-paced narrative are short chapters in which Parker reminisces about his boyhood, growing up during the war, and his love of baseball and the Dodgers.

The events of the book are of course largely fictional, but Parker's take on Robinson's character is spot-on (and I say this having recently read Robinson's autobiography). Parker shows very clearly the terrible pressure Robinson was under during those early years with the Dodgers, when he was under directive by Rickey not to respond in any way to the taunts and threats that came his way, no matter how awful they were. Even Burke, who's almost entirely distanced himself from emotion after the war and his divorce, cannot but admire Robinson's courage, and their relationship, though fictional, is moving and believable.
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