"A history of the game from the perspective of its development as a business during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, with much minute information on the financial side of early black baseball. He convincingly places the fledgling industry in the context of the emergence of a black middle class after the Civil War and black migration to the North. He shows how, given the relative poverty of blacks in Northern cities, the black game had to appeal at first to white audiences and often be run by white entrepreneurs. A constant theme is how black advancement was achieved through negotiated gains in which not a few concessions had to be made. But the central, most profound story is blacks' struggle to realize the most American of ideals, freedom and self-determination, in a hostile environment."—The New York Times
Here is the first in-depth account of the birth of black baseball and its dramatic passage from grass-roots venture to commercial enterprise. In the late nineteenth century resourceful black businessmen founded ball teams that became the Negro Leagues. Racial bias aside, they faced vast odds, from the need to court white sponsors to negotiating ball parks. With no blacks in cities, they barnstormed small towns to attract fans, employing all manner of gimmickry to rouse attention.
Drawing on major newspapers and obscure African-American journals, the author explores the diverse forces that shaped minority baseball. He looks unflinchingly at prejudice in amateur and pro circles and constant inadequate press coverage. He assesses the impact of urbanization, migration, and the rise of northern ghettoes, and he applauds those bold innovators who forged black baseball into a parallel club that appealed to
whites yet nurtured a uniquely African American playing style.
This was black baseball’s finest hour: at once a source of great ethnic pride and a hard won pathway for integration into the mainstream.
Michael E. Lomax is associate professor of sport history in the Department of Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues.
Series: Sports and Entertainment
6 x 9, 272 pages