A broad survey of African-Americans in baseball, from the end of the Civil War to the era of Jackie Robinson and the last of the barnstormers.
Though far from “unsung” considering Kadir Nelson’s soaring We Are the Ship (2008) and the plethora of both general histories and individual biographies available, black players from Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson to less-prominent ground breakers such as Moses Fleetwood Walker, Rube Foster, and Toni Stone certainly merit another tip of the cap. Unlike Nelson, Doeden doesn’t pull readers out onto the field of dreams. Instead, mixing in notable games and spotlight player profiles, plus plenty of team and individual photos, Doeden offers a fluent if standard-issue chronicle of the rises and falls of significant Negro Leagues and independent teams in the wake of professional baseball’s exclusion of African-Americans. (Other minorities get no more than a few references and an intriguing group portrait of a diverse “All Nations” team from around 1915.) Also, in a closing “Legacy” chapter, he brings his account up to the present by analyzing, albeit in a superficial way, the modern decline in the percentage of African-Americans in the ranks of the modern major leagues.
It’s conventional fare, but it’s systematic and at least a little broader in scope than older titles. (notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)