GoodReads Synopsis: I Never Had It Made is Robinson's own candid, hard-hitting account of what it took to become the first black man in history to play in the major leagues. I Never Had It Made recalls Robinson's early years and influences: his time at UCLA, where he became the school's first four-letter athlete; his army stint during World War II, when he challenged Jim Crow laws and narrowly escaped court martial; his years of frustration, on and off the field, with the Negro Leagues; and finally that fateful day when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers proposed what became known as the "Noble Experiment" Robinson would step up to bat to integrate and revolutionize baseball. More than a baseball story, I Never Had It Made also reveals the highs and lows of Robinson's life after baseball. He recounts his political aspirations and civil rights activism; his friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, William Buckley, Jr., and Nelson Rockefeller; and his troubled relationship with his son, Jackie, Jr. Originally published the year Robinson died, I Never Had It Made endures as an inspiring story of a man whose heroism extended well beyond the playing field.
My Thoughts: I picked up this book thinking I'd read about his struggles to be the first black man in major league baseball, but I got so frustrated because there was so little baseball in it! I knew nothing about Jackie Robinson before I picked up this book, but I quickly discovered that he was very involved in the civil rights movement and politics. Of course, I assumed that there was more to him than baseball, but that's the part of his life that I had known about, and that's what I wanted to read about. But Donny was right when he told me that it was Jackie's autobiography, and this is what he wants readers to know about him. So, I calmed down and enjoyed it a little more after that realization. It was interesting to see his view of the time period and the civil rights struggles. But, I was still so frustrated with the writing. There were so many stories in the book that needed to be several pages instead of just a paragraph (like the 1955 World Series that the Dodgers won over the Yankees in the seventh game). And the storytelling itself wasn't great-- there needed to be more dots to help me connect the events (for example, he told of his son going to Vietnam then, without any explanation, he mentions his son was in a military hospital. Never any details of how he got there.). This happened several times, and it made me wonder who in the world edited this book and didn't see that there needed to be more.
What I did love is his perspective. Unlike a lot of the civil rights leaders of our time (and even his time), I found him to be incredibly genuine. He was always consistent in his beliefs. He spoke out against other black leaders who were spurring on anti-Semitic behavior because in his mind, racism was racism-- Jew or black or Asian. It didn't matter to him-- they were all to be treated equally. He was also big enough of a man to admit when he was wrong on some issues and was open to discussion on them. I ended up with a lot of respect for him.
All in all, I thought the book was good. Not well-written by any means, but still worth reading for the autobiography that it was.