Entries Tagged as 'Negro Leagues'

Book Review: Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert

satchdizzyrapidrobertI’m in the middle of reading a pretty decent book right now.  It’s called Satch, Dizzy and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson authored by Timothy Gay. 

Unless we’re baseball historians, most of us have the notion that interracial baseball simply did not happen before Jackie Robinson’s momentous year when Branch Rickey made the decision to integrate baseball.  Gay’s book, Satch, Dizzy and Rapid Robert documents in detail how blacks and whites played the game of baseball throughout the 20th century, mostly manifesting itself in barnstorming sessions after the American and National Leagues had finished their seasons. 

Gay covers in detail the careers of Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller (hence the name of the book) even above and beyond the interracial baseball angle.  We get a quite thorough bio of each of their lives.  That said, I think Gay uses the three as a vehicle to discuss the issue of barnstorming baseball between whites and blacks and how it affected both Negro Leagues and “white” baseball.  Gay talks about Negro Leaguers Oscar Charleston, Turkey Stearns, Cool Papa Bell as well as white ballplayers such as Mickey Vernon, Leo Durocher. 

I have just finished the chapter on Bob Feller which I found fascinating mostly because I’m surprised how little I knew about him.  His media-perceived arrogance, his financial shrewdness, and his opposition of the reserve clause, for example.  Our family passed by his hometown of Van Meter, Iowa last year and didn’t have time to stop.  We’ll be going by there again this summer.  This time, I’ll insist.

Timothy Gay’s book, Satch, Dizzy and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson is published by Simon and Schuster.  It’s definitely worth a look for anyone who is interested in baseball history or even race politics. 

Minnie Minoso: ‘Respect the Game’

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(From L to R:  Bernardo Ruiz, Dr Adrian Burgos, Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso, and Fernando Perez)

I went to tonight’s ‘Fireside Chat’ put on by the University of Illinois Latino/Latina Studies program.  The topic was Pioneering Latinos: Building a Legacy on and Beyond the Playing Field.  Hosted by U of I professor Adrian Burgos, the panelists on the stage were impressive. 

pioneering latinos 048Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso, who played for the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians during the integration of baseball, headlined the event.  At age 86, he’s still pretty vivacious.  Minoso (left), a Cuban national and was the first black to play baseball in town of Chicago (He received an award presented by Dr Burgos on behalf of the U of I Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Planning Committee marking the 60th  anniversary of that event), told a lot of stories from his days with the White Sox.  A overriding theme throughout the night with Mr Minoso was ‘respect the game’. 


Another panelist came from a slightly different perspective.  Fernando Perez is a current baseball player drafted by the Tampa Rays and was recently traded to the Chicago Cubs.  Perez (right) is no dumb jock.  He graduated pioneering latinos 056-1 from Columbia in American  Studies and Creative Writing.  Not only that, he’s apparently put some of that learnin’ to good use.  He’s published a couple essays in the past few years and written for a blog for the New York Times (here’s an example of his work from 2009).  I found Perez quite thoughtful and well-reasoned especially considering his youth.  Seeing that he’s been traded to the Cubs, now I just hope he can hit.  


pioneering latinos 044Finally, Bernardo Ruiz is the director of the film ‘Roberto Clemente’.  I must admit I have not seen ‘Clemente’ yet but now I want to.  Ruiz (left) said that he made the movie  because there was not a film out that adequately addressed Clemente and his life.  He wanted to tell his story.  He encouraged people to not stop there as there other stories around Latino baseball that still need to be told. 


It was nice to see former Negro League pitcher and Champaign native Ernie Westfield in the audience.  It was even better when Dr Burgos introduced him  pioneering latinos 033and had him read a poem before the panel discussion.  Westfield (right) is a hidden treasure in Champaign-Urbana.  No, I’m not a big poetry fan but I could listen to Westfield’s poems any day. 

Thanks to the Department of Latina/Latino Studies and Dr Burgos for putting on the Pioneering Latinos event.  I know Burgos is a great fan of Mr Minoso (and he said so at the event).  This must have been a fulfilling project for him. 

  More photos of the event here.

Latino expert Burgos interviewed by UI press

Author, University of Illinois history professor, and local Latino baseball expert, Adrian Burgos was interviewed by the U of I News Bureau on the immigration issue.  The topic of SB1070 as well as documentation issues came up in relation to baseball.

Burgos is the author of Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line.

Buck O’Neil & Black Baseball in Chicago

Last night while watching the Blackhawks win big over Calgary, I was flipping the channel to my TV, and what should I see, but baseball! Needless to say, I stopped flipping, and my eyes became transfixed on the images on the screen. Channel 20 in Chicago was airing the premiere of Buck O’Neil & Black Baseball in Chicago, an encore showing will air November 13th at 7:30 PM, again on channel 20.

The late, great, Buck O’Neil talked about his days in the Negro Leagues and becoming the first African American baseball coach in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs. O’Neil said, he never really resented not being allowed to play in the big leagues, because the best ballplayers of the day were in the Negro Leagues. Bob Kendrick, the Director of the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, stated how upset he was when Buck didn’t make it into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown before his death. Seventeen former Negro Leaguers were inducted in the last induction before O’Neil’s death. Buck didn’t feel sorry for himself at not getting in, but rather was thrilled 17 others had made it, according to Kendrick.

The documentary brings the past to life. It talked about the Double Duty Classic, which features the best young high school African American ballplayers competing in this East/West Classic, named after Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe. It also shows the statue of Buck O’Neil that resides in the HOF, and there’s a lifetime achievement award named after O’Neil. Buck was the first winner of this award. Back in the day, the East/West Classic was the Negro Leagues All Star Game, was played at Comiskey Park in Chicago, would draw 50,000 fans, and featured the best African American ballplayers playing all out.

The show talks about how O’Neil managed Ernie Banks for the Kansas City Monarchs and then coached Banks with the Cubs. Buck also talked Billy Williams out of quitting after experiencing racism in Texas before coming up to the Cubs. Jermaine Dye, of the Chicago White Sox, came up with the Kansas City Royals, commented how fortunate he was to have met Buck O’Neil, while coming up to the big leagues.

There is also mention of the Chicago Baseball Museum, a work in progress, that can be checked out at www.chicagobaseballmuseum.org Also, if you can, checkout Buck O’Neil & Black Baseball in Chicago when its encore performance airs on Thursday the 13th on channel 20.

Former Negro pitcher to speak at Champaign Public Library September 14

Westfield at a poetry reading during "Read Across America" in 2006.


For those in the C-U area this weekend, take the opportunity to see former Negro League pitcher Ernie Westfield speak at the Champaign Public Library this Sunday.  He will talk from 2:00-2:45pm.

"Tennessee Ernie" Westfield played for six years for the Birmingham Black Barons and had the honor of being the starting pitcher for the East Team in the last Negro League All-Star game in 1960

He is also a pretty good poet, too.

You can find details (and a map) of the event on Sunday at CPL’s website. 

Black Latinos and Baseball

Zealot friend and author of Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line, University of Illinois professor Adrian Burgos has come through again with a thoughtful piece on the effect of black Latinos in the scope of the integration of baseball. 

You can read it on Baseball Musings


John Danks Today, April 15th, was John Danks’ 23rd birthday, even with my birthday transposed, I’m older than he is. Danks was starting for the White Sox today versus the A’s.

But that wasn’t what I was thinking about as I got dressed for a big day of baseball. It was Jackie Robinson Day at all MLB Ballparks across America. Minnie Minoso was receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Negro League Hall of Fame. The Negro League Hall of Fame was Buck O’Neil’s place in KC. It’s a travesty and a shame that Buck passed without getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Maybe his stats weren’t the greatest, but Buck was! O’Neil built the Negro League Hall of Fame and kept the Negro Leagues’ memory alive. He was also the first black coach in the majors, with the Cubs. Minnie Minoso also needs to get into the Hall before he passes, he looks great, but he’s not getting any younger, none of us are.

Joining me behind home plate today was Tade (Buehrle’s game the day before was the first game he missed all year) & Steve (another huge Sox fan, who comes as often as he can). Dick & Bea were also there, Dick told a Bubba story that had Tade & I laughing so hard, we were crying. Visited with Mike & his brother over at the caramel corn stand. Seeing it was a day game I stopped in to see Nancy Faust. Nancy looks as good as ever, a blonde, as cute as could be, and friendly! I sympathized with Nancy at the passing of her mother, who would have been 94 this year, she had cancer, and died shortly after her son-in-law, Nancy’s brother-in-law, died of pancreatic cancer. Why do bad things happen to good people?

Well John Danks celebrated his birthday by firing goose eggs at the A’s. The White Sox really flashed the leather behind JD Jr. Alexi Ramirez cutoff a sure double into right center, whirled, and fired to second to easily gun down a shocked Emil Brown. Brown saluted Ramirez as he headed back to the dugout. Joe Crede made a diving stop toward the line, got to his feet, and threw one into the dirt, that was scooped by Nick Swisher. Then there were a couple of dandies turned in by Orlando Cabrera, our new SS, I think I’m gonna like this guy. Carlos Quentin launched a three run bomb into the leftfield stands. The score was 4-0 when Ozzie Guillen lifted Danks in favor of Scott Linebrink with two out, a runner on 1st, and John at 95 pitches thrown. Linebrink allowed the first two runners to reach in the 9th, was replaced by Bobby Jenks, who allowed a sac fly, and a doubleplay closed it out.

I was off to the Red Line to catch the 2nd game of my doubleheader at Wrigley. Judy had a bleacher ticket waiting for me at the courtesy dropoff window.

Heroes of the Negro Leagues watercolors


ArtInsights has an interview with artist Mark Chiarello who is featuring his watercolor exhibit entitled “Heroes of the Negro Leagues” on March 29 at the ArtInsights Gallery in Reston, Virginia. 

The watercolors were originally packaged as a set of trading cards in 1990 and are now featured in the exhibit as well as appearing in a hard cover book with the same name. 

Put me in the “I don’t know art but I know what I like” category.  And I do like these.  Read ArtInsight’s interview with Chiarello and look at his online gallery.  If you’re so moved, you can buy the book

(hat tip: Boing Boing)

Running into Ernie Westfield

It’s pretty cool when you can say that you ran into a former Negro League player on a trip to the mall. 

I took the kids to the local mall in Urbana and ran across Ernie Westfield.  He is best known as a starting pitcher in the last East-West Game in 1960.  Westfield, a Birmingham Black Baron, pitched for the East team in that classic

But today, Ernie was behind a table, selling some of memorabilia.  He informed me about the Congressional act last year to make May 20th Negro League Recognition Day.

Westfield is a friendly guy and always greets everyone with a smile.  He’s a poet now and occasionally does readings

If anyone is interested, check out his website.  He has plenty of memorabilia available for sale. 

O’Neil award a step in a right direction…

…but it’s still not enough.

buck oneil

Negro League player, coach and ambassador for the game Buck O’Neil will be honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum with a Lifetime Achievement award. A statue of O’Neil will be erected near the entrance of the museum.

(MLB Commisioner Bud) Selig noted that a special committee spent 18 months seeking a proper way to pay homage to O’Neil after he was not in the Negro League inductees.

Eighteen months? It took them 18 months to come up with this? Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, who was on the committee, came up with this double speak:

“In some ways it’s going to be bigger than getting a plaque in the Hall of Fame,” Morgan said, denying the move was made to right what many saw as a wrongful exclusion of O’Neil.

Sure, Joe. Easy for you to say. You have your plaque up in the hallowed halls. Morgan continues:

“I don’t think it’s really righting a wrong. I think it’s doing something for someone who was a great amabassador for the game. That’s why you see this.”

Ironically, this isn’t the only time Joe has weighed in on Buck O’Neil.and the Hall of Fame. After Buck was denied induction a year ago, Morgan addressed the situation the most tactful way he could, ” “If you’re asking me, ‘Do we lower our standards to get more people in?’ My answer would be no.”

Forget Joe. Let’s get Buck O’Neil in the Hall of Fame not just the museum.