Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born in New York a day after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier, and he never forgets the UCLA predecessor who made so much possible for him.
"The prevailing racial attitude of the day held that blacks lacked the athletic skill, courage and intelligence to play against whites," Abdul-Jabbar recalls. "Yet, every time Jackie took the field, he played with an intensity and skill that immediately set him apart from the average second baseman.
"Even fans who hated black people were forced to admit that Jackie Robinson was a superior athlete, and every time that happened, another part of the racial barrier crumbled. His fierce competitive nature and his ability to intellectually master the game were examples for young athletes like me to emulate."
Abdul-Jabbar, the all-time NBA scoring king who turns 66 next Tuesday, wrote that in his foreword for "Fortitude: The Exemplary Life of Jackie Robinson." HarperCollins and Major League Baseball Advanced Media on Tuesday announced the release of that enhanced e-book with multimedia capabilities jointly produced for just $3.99 on iPad, Kindle and Nook. It is not available for iPhones.
"Fortitude" comes in the days leading up to this weekend's "42" movie and then Jackie Robinson Day on Monday, and it marks the second title in the new MLB.com PLAY BALL BOOKS series published in collaboration with Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins.
In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
Written by Lyle Spencer with contributions from MLB.com reporters, "Fortitude" features more than 20 minutes of interactive video, including rare archival footage, career highlights and interviews with, among others, Rachel and Sharon Robinson, Hank Aaron, Tommy Lasorda, Ralph Branca, former U.S. President George W. Bush and Henry Louis Gates, as well as thoughts through the years from Willie Mays and many more.
Thomas Tull, head of the Legendary Entertainment studio that produced the movie, said at the Jackie Robinson Foundation's annual fundraising dinner last month that his mission is to make sure today's generation knows the history of the man who broke baseball's color barrier on April 15, 1947. Indeed, "Fortitude" also goes a long way toward meeting that objective, making it fun and educational for families to share the story in an affordable and interactive way.
Think of it as a digital companion to the movie, loaded with enhanced elements, including 20 minutes of videos of highlights and interviews, plus beautiful photography. Download and read it before the movie so you have a background of details, and flip through "Fortitude" after you've been to the movie to stay in the moment and continue the national conversation. It offers nine snapshots of Robinson from events famous and obscure, nine examples of victory through dignity and tests of time in which his soul proved consistent and triumphant.
"Fortitude" follows the release of "Defending the Title," issued just before Opening Day, which covers the complete story of the Giants' 2012 world championship season, as well as a history of great dynasties and the team's chances of becoming the first club to repeat since the Yankees of 1998-2000. It also is now available at $3.99 on iPad, Kindle and Nook.
Kevin Pollak, San Francisco's native son, writes the foreword for that e-book, sharing memories of watching Mays and Barry Bonds, of being on the field for Game 1 batting practice at the last Fall Classic, where he called a few innings for MLB.com.
You can tap, flip and pinch your way through both of these e-books, part of the magic. Read about Buster Posey and click the video for HD satisfaction, especially brilliant on a tablet, use the clickable index of videos, and in the Giants book enjoy a nice payoff at the end with a 2012 World Series Trivia challenge.
The agreement between Ecco and MLBAM calls for the production of a new e-book at regular intervals throughout the baseball season and the off-season. MLB.com reporters and columnists will be authoring the e-books and MLBAM is supplying video, stats and other production assets.
"Our partnership with HarperCollins in this new venture symbolizes our commitment to producing content for fans that is distinctive and memorable, in a format that blends great writing, historical footage and multimedia capabilities to bring Jackie's era and his achievements to life," said Dinn Mann, executive vice president, content, MLBAM.