Millions of America’s youth dream of playing major league baseball or in a college bowl game on New Year’s Day. Growing up in Arkansas during the Great Depression, Ransom Jackson had no idea that one day he would not only play in back-to-back Cotton Bowls for two different colleges—the first and only player to do so—but that he would also become known as “Handsome Ransom,” all-star third baseman for the Chicago Cubs. He was in Chicago in 1953 when Ernie Banks became the first African American to play for the Cubs. He was in Brooklyn in 1956, the year Jackie Robinson retired. In 1957, Jackson was the last Brooklyn player to hit a home run before the team moved to Los Angeles. Jackson’s major league career spanned the entire decade of the 1950s, a time when the landscape of baseball changed dramatically as teams moved to new cities, built new stadiums, and integrated their rosters.
Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer is an autobiographical account of Jackson’s fascinating journey from his boyhood days in Arkansas to playing in the major leagues, where many of his teammates were future Hall of Famers.The book “is a long over-due memoir of life in baseball in the 1950s,” Dr. Harvey Frommer writes in SportsBookShelf. “We are brought back to a time of eight teams in each league, more intimate relationships between teams and players and front office in an era before free agency. There is humor, pathos, detail and headlines in this winner of a book. TERRIFIC READ.”
Handsome Ransom Jackson is a fun and nostalgic visit to the past, with Jackson sharing such memories as spring training with the Cubs on Catalina Island, befriending a Mafia boss in Massachusetts, batting behind Hank Sauer and getting knocked down by pitchers retaliating for Sauer’s home runs, rooming with Don Drysdale on an historic baseball tour of Japan, and sitting in the dugout in LA with Dodger teammates looking for movie stars in the stands. In addition, Jackson remembers being brought to Brooklyn to take over third base for the aging Jackie Robinson, and quickly discovering that nobody replaces a legend like Jackie.
Pictured in header at top of page: Ransom Jackson and Jackie Robinson at spring training in Vero Beach, Florida, in 1956.