A Complete History of the Negro Leagues

Ribowsky, Mark.  A Complete History of the Negro Leagues: 1884 to 1955.  Revised and Updated.  New York; Citadel Press, 2002.

There is much dispersed information about professional African-American baseball during the segregated years prior to 1947.  What is often referred to as “blackball” did not have a parallel history to major league baseball and it is hard to succinctly summarize.  While the game was the same, the structure of the “leagues” and seasons were vastly different.  Terms like the Negro World Series and East-West All-Star game would seem to have clear parallels in whiteball of the era, but this would not be getting the story straight.  Luckily, there have been several attempts to gather the history of blackball, or the “Negro Leagues”, into one source.  I have not read all of these titles to make a fair comparison, but I would recommend Mark Ribowsky’s A Complete History of the Negro Leagues.

Along with telling the history of the various leagues, Ribowsky does a wonderful job of telling a history of race relations in America and baseball.  He does not sugar-coat the history of blackball, which came into existence because of segregation in the separate-but-not-equal age of America.  He details the segregation of baseball in the 1880s and the different strands of racism that grew out of this (for example, there were numerous African-American teams that pretended to be Latin players for the enjoyment of the mostly white crowds).  Along with racism, the teams themselves were not necessarily sportsmanlike, with long traditions of raiding players from other teams and organized crime connections.   Most of the owners seemed to be tied to some sort of numbers racket.  A reoccurring theme is that the game was not great, but it was all that was available because of segregation.
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