Let me start by saying that I enjoy listening to biographies to learn about different people and how they impacted our world, no matter the focus. I’m not a big fan of sports events or personnel, but I can say that the name Jackie Robinson often bubbles to the top with others like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, and many others who affected Major League Baseball. Yet, I can honestly say, this is the first biographical piece I have listened to involving Mr. Robinson and I found it fascinating. “Strength for the Fight: The Life and Faith of Jackie Robinson” was written by Gary Scott Smith and exceptionally narrated by Shamaan Casey. The audiobook was both an eye opener as to the greatness, even outside of baseball, along with much tragedy this one man had to endure during his life. Even though there may be many other works covering Mr. Robinson’s life, this one seemed to be a more focused view of his religious influences and his overall faith in God no matter the situation, good or bad. If you are one that likes biographies or want to learn more about America’s number one sport of baseball history, I recommend you give this audiobook a listen. Even if you have previously studied this man, I think you will also learn something new about the person who desegregated Major League Baseball in a time of horrific race wars.
For me, I was mostly taken back by the battles this man fought to see Major League Baseball desegregated and what he had to endure for this to come to fruition, by no means was this an easy task. As he started to achieve success in this goal, many from his own race began turning on him and even call him a sellout. It seemed like he would never be able to win, and much of his life was plagued by these perceived swings in his alliances. I found his joining with the Jewish community to unify the races quite fascinating as the Jews were also a people group being segregated for their heritage. However, in all this turmoil, Jackie would hold fast to his God and believe that he was destine for greatness only by the power of his creator. Even with this belief, Jackie would work and train harder than many others knowing that such worldly changes require focus and effort along with the level of scrutiny he would be under. While listening, you begin to see the mental and physical scars this man had, and this did not even account for the tragedy he would face in his own life with the loss of one of his children.
I was a bit nervous when I started listening as I felt it was going to overlay a more modern view of racism on top of this historic person. The introduction had me worried that the book would only focus on race, and we would not get an overall perspective on this man who made history, not only in Major League Baseball, but also in his many life endeavors. It was quickly apparent that his faith is what drove his decisions and supported him in his trials. Even though some of his theology took a backseat to his social/political efforts, he still held fast to his beliefs. I found the section covering his early years, often involved in both gangs and some form of trouble fascinating. In his later years, he used these earlier life experiences to help those that were in a simular situation. I was quite amazed at the number of failed and successful enterprises he started after his baseball career along with his popularity being used to lead some of the US leaders around politics and the divide of race.
For the audiobook’s nearly eleven hours, the author kept me engaged and wanting to listen to more about this man and his role in making history. The writing and flow of the audiobook was well thought out and researched. Again, with me not being a big Major League Baseball fan, I was still captivated by all that this one man was involved in and the many trials he faced from an early age up until his death. I found the author’s focus on the religious side of this man also refreshing and enlightening. The only negative aspect is the author’s overuse of the acronym MLB instead of using the full term of Major League Baseball. In the audiobook’s narration this began to get on my nerves by the time I reached the end of the book. Maybe it could have been addressed by the narrator, but I understand why they stick to the text alone.
Let me turn my attention to the audiobook’s narration in this part of the review. I have listened to quite a few of Shamaan Casey’s works and I can say that, from a narration perspective, have enjoyed them all. I like his smooth and deep voice which flows gently as one listens. I do recall one or two spots where the audio appeared to have been patched/plugged, but both times were not anything that pulled me out of the story. The audio volume was overall consistent and for its length, it seemed to have been recorded all in one sitting, which I’m sure was not the case. This shows both professionalism and skill in the work of the narrator. Always a narrator I will listen to for years to come.
For parents and younger listeners, I would say that this biography could be enjoyed by most ages. There are a few heaver aspects around his political and religious events that may not be easily understood by younger audiences. Other than that, I think anyone will learn something new about this historic man and I would recommend it to any who may be interested.
In summary, a biography that can be enjoyed by people even if they do not love the sport. His work in changing the game of baseball was only the tip of the iceberg when held up to all that he accomplished during his life. The narration was right up there with some of the best, and I do like the deeper and suave voice of Mr. Casey. If you give this audiobook a chance, I guarantee you will learn something new about this great man of not only baseball history, but US history as well.