Jackie Robinson famously said that a life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives. As we celebrate Robinson’s 100th birthday in January 2019, Stealing Home profiles nine figures whose lives were altered by the “great experiment,” as the integration of baseball was called then. Profiled here are Rachel Robinson, the stoic but thoughtful wife; Branch Rickey, the mercurial but far-sighted manager/owner of the Dodgers; Baseball Commissioner ”Happy” Chandler, who quietly paved the way for integration; Clyde Sukeforth, the scout whose assessment of Robinson was crucial to the player’s success; Red Barber, whose own views on integration were altered by Robinson’s example of grace under pressure; Wendell Smith, the prominent black journalist who helped Robinson navigate through the trappings of a racist society; Burt Shotton, who managed Robinson during Robinson’s majestic MVP season in 1949; Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers captain who united the team behind Robinson; and finally, Dixie Walker, the veteran Dodgers star who vowed never to play alongside Robinson, but who was eventually so moved by Robinson’s courage that he spent his last years working to improve the skills of such African-American players as Maury Wills, Jim Wynn, and Dusty Baker. As Joe Cox concludes, “Perhaps the ultimate measure of the glory of Robinson’s quest is that it converted those inclined against it to see all men as equal, at least on the great field of baseball.”
Joe Cox is the author of Almost Perfect: The Heartbreaking Pursuit of Pitching’s Holy Grail and The Immaculate Inning: . A member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Cox is a coauthor of several other sports books. He lives with his family near Bowling Green, Kentucky.