From the author of "The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron" comes a biography of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, baseball's epic leadoff hitter and base-stealer who also stole America's heart over nearly five electric decades in the game.
Bryant, a senior writer for ESPN and author of an acclaimed biography of Henry Aaron, proves astute on what made Henderson tick and what the media continually got wrong about the mercurial star ... Bryant does some of his best work along the fault line of race and culture, an area he covers well in most of his writing. He addresses the Great Migration that brought Black athletes including Frank Robinson, Bill Russell and Vada Pinson to the Bay Area. He calls out the racist overtones of those who made fun of the way Henderson spoke ... Henderson ultimately had the last laugh: Today he’s seen as an all-time great. Bryant’s book shows how he got there, and the hits he had to take along the way.
The best way to stay away from the Rickey stories is to keep them to a minimum. Baseball is Mr. Bryant’s main focus. This is not a personality book. There are few family details, either from Rickey’s upbringing in Oakland or from his marriage. There are no detailed descriptions of any of his houses, meals, workout routines, tastes in clothes, vacations or holiday celebrations. His agents don’t talk. His non-baseball friends don’t talk. This is a baseball book, a chronicle of Rickey’s excellent work between the white lines in the biggest games in the biggest stadiums in America. Is that enough? It sure is ... The most important Rickey story of all is that, over the course of his long career, he was one of the most consistently high-performing players that baseball has ever seen.
... a deep and definitive look at one of the greatest to ever play the game of baseball ... Bryant – a gifted writer who spent a good chunk of time covering baseball in the Bay Area during Rickey’s myriad stints there – gives us a soup-to-nuts rendering of the man, from his humble beginnings in Oakland to his rapid ascent into stardom to his arrival the apex of the baseball world to his slow evolution into a hardball folk hero. The triumphs of Rickey are here, but so too are the tribulations, as we’re given insight into the struggles that marked Rickey’s life both on the field and off it ... Thanks to a stunning number of interviews – including some with the man himself – Bryant is able to assemble a complex and comprehensive look at a complicated legacy. The roots of so many criticisms of Rickey were born of racism, both inherent and explicit; Bryant doesn’t shy away from that reality, acknowledging that many in baseball at that time viewed Rickey’s behaviors and style of play as somehow less than simply because of the color of his skin .. .It’s all woven together into an engaging package, a fascinating read for anyone who loves baseball. Bryant’s affinity for both the game in general and his subject specifically results in a book that, while even-handed, is also something of a love letter to what baseball was once upon a time. It’s not romanticizing, or at least, not exactly, but rather, an affectionate look back at an imperfect time in which a force of nature fundamentally altered what it meant to be on first base ... I found “Rickey” to be a marvelous read. As someone whose own baseball fandom coincided with much of Henderson’s stardom, I was always going to love this book. But the truth is that any fan of the game will find much to like.