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THE BEST BOOKS OF 1996 | BIOGRAPHY

JACKIE ROBINSON An Intimate Portrait By Rachel Robinson With Lee Daniels Harry N. Abrams: 240 pp., $29.95 : STEALING HOME An Intimate Family Portrait by Sharon Robinson, HarperCollins: 213 pp., $24

December 29, 1996|ROGER KAHN

Now, two new books are appearing to celebrate Jackie Robinson. His widow, Rachel Robinson, has written "Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait." The other, by his daughter, Sharon, is titled "Stealing Home: An Intimate Family Portrait." To judge them fairly, you do best to keep the subtitles in mind.

With the help of journalist Lee Daniels and an editor, Rachel has produced a beautifully illustrated book, full of touching and poignant moments. Sharon, without a collaborator, has written the remarkable story of a young black woman coming of age in a white, suburban Connecticut neighborhood--in a household dominated by a celebrity father and a loving mother who was nonetheless a dedicated career woman.

As the first black baseball wife, Rachel accepted indignities sadly but quietly. In her book, she recounts some of these and writes evocatively of Jackie's impoverished boyhood in Pasadena.

Jackie Robinson played like hell, hitting, running, stealing home, sticking his jaw into an umpire's face with no apology for being black, none at all. As Branch Rickey, the former Dodger president who summoned Robinson to destroy apartheid baseball, put it: "That fellow is all adventure on a ball field."

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