Raceball : How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game by Rob Ruck (2011, Hardcover)
- Pub. Date: March 2011
- Publisher: Beacon
- Format: Hardcover , 288pp
- ISBN-13: 9780807048054
- ISBN: 0807048054
From an award-winning writer, the first linked history of African Americans and Latinos in Major League Baseball
The colliding histories of black and Latin ballplayers in the major leagues have traditionally been told as a story of their shameful segregation and redemptive integration. Jackie Robinson jumped baseball’s color line to much fanfare, but integration was painful as well as triumphal. It gutted the once-vibrant Negro Leagues and often subjected Latin players to Jim Crow racism. Today, Major League Baseball tightens its grasp around the Caribbean’s burgeoning baseball academies, while at home it embraces, and exploits, the legacy of the Negro Leagues.
After peaking at 27 percent of all major leaguers in 1975, African Americans now make up less than one-tenth—a decline unimaginable in other men’s pro sports. The number of Latin Americans, by contrast, has exploded to over a quarter of all major leaguers and roughly half of those playing in the minors. Award-winning historian Rob Ruck not only explains the catalyst for this sea change; he also breaks down the consequences that cut across society. Integration cost black and Caribbean societies control over their own sporting lives, changing the meaning of the sport, but not always for the better. While it channeled black and Latino athletes into major league baseball, integration did little for the communities they left behind.
By looking at this history from the vantage point of black America and the Caribbean, a more complex story comes into focus, one largely missing from traditional narratives of baseball’s history. Raceball unveils a fresh and stunning truth: baseball has never been stronger as a business, never weaker as a game.
Ruck (The Tropic of Baseball) states the cold, hard facts of the Major Leagues' racist history, its vast economic benefits from the demolition of the once-proud Negro Leagues, and the current Latin player influx in his new book. Ruck, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, explores how baseball fever spread through Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin countries. He traces the forgotten link between the great Negro baseball stars, including Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, and their Caribbean counterparts touring outside the U.S. before appreciative fans in the 1940s. Neither the Negro nor Latin player desired playing stateside because of the rigid Jim Crow laws, until the end of WWII, when America broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson's entry to the big leagues. Ruck's gutsy account of this major sport with a tarnished past is thought provoking, arguing that "the integration of Black America has cost the price of its soul plus a crucial part of its social cohesion." (Mar.)
Rob Ruck teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. Author of Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburgh and The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, his documentary work includes the Emmy Award–winning Kings on the Hill: Baseball’s Forgotten Men. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Maggie Patterson, his coauthor for Rooney: A Sporting Life.