Jackie Robinson (Equal Rights Leaders) by Don McLeese

By Don McLeese

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These guiding principles applied forcefully to all professional sports, not only baseball. Lost in the transition were team stability, owners’ patience in building franchises, players’ patience in working their way up the ranks, and, some would say, overall fan loyalty. Money now had to be made fast by everyone involved. Branch Rickey, the general manager who built, player by player, some of the most legendary baseball clubs in history, the visionary who created the minor league farm system into which a young Eliot Asinof and Mickey Rutner were signed, would barely recognize today’s business model for the game.

By 1941, Asinof was 22 years old, a college graduate, former minor league player and, like his mentor Hank Greenberg, enlisted in the service well before the attack on Pearl Harbor, probably in anticipation of America’s struggle against German Fascism. By early 1946, he was age 26, and the war appears to have been his real-life graduate school. It was during the war that he began to write as a journalist, however tentatively, under the informal tutelage of Dashiell Hammett. It is no wonder then that Asinof ’s generation produced a bumper crop of great American writers.

A. 8 The closest Hollywood has ever come touching this kind of subject matter was in 2002 with the far more benign and conventionally inspirational treatment of the Jim Morris story as dramatized in The Rookie (see Chapter 2). Hollywood executives may be right about one thing, though: general audiences are probably not quite ready to face the grim realities of a more typical and far more widespread minor league experience, one so faithfully depicted in Asinof ’s “fiction”— stories in which the lines between reality and imagination are blurred and barely distinguishable.

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