INVISIBLE MEN: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues by Donn Rogosin

INVISIBLE MEN: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Aspects of Negro league baseball, 1920-1949, illustrating its role in black life. Rogosin has utilized this material for a dissertation, a National Public Radio series, and a Smithsonian exhibit--and there are elements of all three, for better and worse, in his treatment. His first chapter states his cultural-institution-in-the-black-community thesis and presents highlights from the history of Negro league ball: its 1920 founding by Chicago ballplayer/manager/entrepreneur Andrew ""Rube"" Foster; its Depression resurrection by Pittsburgh ""numbers"" racketeer Gus Greenlee; its WW I peak and precipitate demise with the end of the color bar in ""organized"" play. Subsequent chapters--on topics from recruitment to integration--are more nourishing. Take professionalism: ""The demand that players act as role models was carried to extremes""--with dress codes, curfews, private Pullman cars, and major league equipment. But Negro league ball was ""a more thoughtful game""--emphasizing speed (that famous base-stealing) and rejecting ""the Babe-Ruth inspired long-ball game."" Or take the urban clime: ""the entire 1938 Negro National League was run by the numbers boys. And numbers girl"" Effa Manley, wife of Newark Eagles owner Abe Manley: ""illegitimate white offspring in a family with mulatto children, a black stepfather, and a white immigrant mother""; scourge of Eagles' managers; NAACP and Citizens League for Fair Play militant. Or take the shunting aside of ""comedy-centered baseball"" as demeaning--and blacks' disgust with the movie Bingo Long. A book of sidebars, almost--on black sportswriting, Latin-American play, and the ""bittersweet"" end additionally. The last partly replicates Julius Tygiel's recent, thoroughgoing before-and-after integration history, Baseball's Great Experiment (p. 614). The tales of celebrated players are mostly familiar from previous historical narratives. But this is high-interest material set out with YA directness and ingratiating sincerity.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0803259697
Publisher: Atheneum