The inspirational story of African American trailblazer Kenny Washington, the first player to reintegrate the NFL.
On September 29, 1946, football star Kenny Washington made history. When he trotted onto the field for the Los Angeles Rams, Washington broke the color barrier in the NFL.
In Walking Alone: The Untold Journey of Football Pioneer Kenny Washington, Dan Taylor reveals Washington’s immeasurable impact on his sport and beyond. Legends of the game hailed Washington as one of the greatest players in football history. He was also a baseball star, and Taylor recounts never-before-told details of the efforts to make Washington the first Black player in big league baseball along with Jackie Robinson. Taylor also delves into the heinous verbal and physical abuse Washington was subjected to, his refusal to play in the South, and how he positively impacted ignorant teammates and rivals through his character and talent.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, there was no more popular athlete in Los Angeles than Kenny Washington. Walking Alone chronicles for the first time the life story of this trailblazing football legend.
Dan Taylor is a former award-winning television sportscaster. He is the author of Fate’s Take-Out Slide in collaboration with George Genovese, A Scout’s Report: My 70-Years in Baseball, Rise of the Bulldogs, and Lights, Camera, Fastball: How the Hollywood Stars Changed Baseball. Taylor is involved with the television broadcast team for the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League and is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Pacific Coast League Historical Society. He resides in Fresno, California.
1. Blue, the Break, and an Accent
2. A Mea Culpa
3. Anticipation and Animosity in Westwood
4. Do We Play?
5. The Pass
6. The Most Dangerous Player in the Game
7. Jackie Joins the Team
8. Unparalleled Ovation
9. Unadulterated Hokum
10. Bing, Boxing, and Bright Lights.
11. A Star Among Stars
12. The Drawing Card
13. Diverted By War
14. A Memorable Homerun
15. I Gotta Have That Washington
16. The Join Jackie Dilemma
17. Cutting Into His Skills
18. Dawn of a New Day
19. Like Old Times
20. Calling It A Career
21. Back to the Big Screen
22. A Baseball Shot at Last.
23. There Will Never Be Another
About the author
Taylor writes the first solo biography devoted to swivel-hipped tailback Kenny Washington (1918–71), who was the best known of the four Black athletes (the others being Woody Strode, Bill Willis, and Marion Motley) who broke the color barrier in American pro football in 1946. Washington was every bit the pioneer that his onetime UCLA baseball and football teammate Jackie Robinson was, but Washington’s legacy has been much more obscured, Taylor posits. (Though in recent years, Washington has been included in three group biographies that focused also on Strode, Willis, and Motley.) Washington was already 27 and hampered by bad knees by the time he was finally signed by the Los Angeles Rams in 1946, but teammate Bob Waterfield still called him the best player he ever saw. Based on archival research and the author’s interviews with Washington’s surviving family members, Taylor’s book is a fine read that elucidates Washington’s impacts on football and civil rights. A long-overdue thorough treatment of a largely forgotten giant in sports history; it should be widely read.
Dan Taylor has written a comprehensive and excellent biography shining a light on remarkable talent and the impact Washington had as well as the challenges and racism he overcame. It brilliantly captures the American sporting landscape of the late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and the difficulties of black athletes at the time. Walking Alone is well researched, well written and an enjoyable engaging read.
A life as remarkable as Kenny Washington's deserves a spotlight as bright as the one Dan Taylor shines with this book. Finally, one of America's great trailblazers gets his due. This is a must read.
7/31/23, Pigskin Dispatch: Dan Taylor discussed the book on the podcast.