The Life of Baseball's First Black Major Leaguer
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 A biography of--and tract on--Moses Fleetwood Walker, baseball's first black big-league star. Walker was born in 1857 to a modestly prosperous family living in the relatively liberal and integrated eastern Ohio town of Mount Pleasant. Had he never picked up a bat while a student at Oberlin College, he would probably still have been an estimable figure in African-American history: In addition to being a proficient catcher (the sporting tabloids of the day offered effusive, albeit grudging, praise for his defensive prowess), he was the holder of patents for an artillery shell prototype and several other inventions, as well as the author of Our Home Colony: The Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America, an influential treatise. However, the light-skinned Walker lived precariously along the fault lines of America's racial tensions--a fact that Zang, a freelance journalist and sports historian, makes clear in many heavy-handed passages throughout the book. He was a touchstone for the many white fears and suspicions that surfaced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, often in the guise of pseudo- scientific studies. After baseball's 1889 interdict on blacks, Walker got into trouble--some of it incidental, some not. He was tried for homicide and acquitted, but he was not so lucky in a postal fraud case; he wrote Our Home Colony during his prison term. After that, Walker was a moderately successful entrepreneur until his death in 1924. Like many pioneering black figures, he has achieved greater recognition posthumously, receiving honors from Oberlin and elsewhere. During his life, it's clear that Moses Fleetwood Walker was as much the victim as the embodiment of the American Dream. Impassioned, but occasionally florid and meandering.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8032-4913-6
Page count: 170pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995