Monday, November 05, 2012

Book review - Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert.

Timothy Gay's 286 page Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert is subtitled The Wild Sage of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson. With the exception of part of the last chapter, that's exactly what Gay covers.

Most casual baseball fans are aware of Jackie Robinson's role in breaking the color line in baseball. What they may not be aware of is the role interracial barnstorming tours composed of Major League and Negro League players played in preparing the way for Jackie.

While the book touches on several interracial tours it focuses on the tours featuring the pitching legend Satchel Paige. Paige was willing to play anywhere and for anyone, if the price was right. He even played on integrated teams in the Dakotas years before Branch Ricky had heard of Robinson.

The first of Satchel's regular white barnstorming partners was Dizzy Dean. Dean was fair with the Negro League stars who traveled with him and wasn't afraid to buck Commissioner Landis to do the traveling. Dean also wasn't afraid to loudly proclaim the black players he played with to be of Major League quality.

After Diz ruined his arm Satch was solicited by a young fireballer, Bob Feller. Feller and Paige would continue their tours until just after Robinson broke into the Majors. In spite of his later reputation as being opposed to integration, Feller was fair with the black players on his tours and often treated them better than the owners of the Negro League teams. He also lost a number of contests to them.

Timothy Gay has written an interesting book for any baseball fan or student of American history to read. Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert pulls back the curtain on a forgotten but vital link in the integration of Major League Baseball. It is well worth the reading.

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