Sports

The Inglory of Jackie Robinson's Times

Popular new movie fails to resuscitate the sports pioneer's important 1964 book on civil rights and baseball.

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When I was a baseball-fanatic child growing up in baseball-mad Long Beach, California in the baseball-crazed 1970s, there was one book about the national pastime that towered above the rest: Lawrence Ritter's charming, evocative, and profoundly influential 1966 oral history, The Glory of Their Times.

Ritter, an economist at New York University, was moved by the 1961 death of all-time baseball great Ty Cobb to track down as many turn-of-the-century professional ballplayers as he could find to testify about the forgotten sights and smells of a bygone era, in much the same way that the Lomax brothers tracked down American folk musicians in the 1930s and '40s.

The Glory of Their Times has never gone out of print since. There is no list of "best baseball books" that doesn't include it, and rightly so. As the baseball writer Bill James has observed, four of the 22 players interviewed for the first edition—Stan Coveleski, Goose Goslin, Harry Hooper, Rube Marquard—were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame within five years of its publication, despite questionable qualifications (particularly of the latter two) and no prior momentum of their candidacies. Jim Carouthers summarized Glory succinctly and accurately in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001): "Often imitated, never excelled."

So you can imagine my surprise to discover over the past two weeks a powerful, indelible oral history of baseball that predated The Glory of Their Times by two years. What's more, it was written by a man whose biopic was the number-one movie in America this weekend: Jackie Robinson.

The misleadingly titled Baseball Has Done It was not some kind of gee-whiz celebration of the sport's integration, but rather a forceful attempt to document the human struggles involved in baseball's trailblazing desegregation—through first-person accounts from black and white players and coaches ranging from Henry Aaron to Alvin Dark—and apply the lessons learned to the raging civil rights debate of the day.

Reading the book in 2013 brings not just a sharp slap of a reminder about how disgustingly racist much of this country still was back when my parents' generation was already having children, it also calls into question just why a contemporaneous history of great ballplayers discussing their struggles faded into immediate obscurity while Glory's paean to segregation-era baseball rocketed to instant fame.

"The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue today," reads Robinson's brushback pitch of an opening line. "We Negroes are determined that our children shall enjoy the same blessings of democracy as white children. We are adamant: we intend to use every means at our disposal to smash segregation and discrimination wherever it appears. We are staring into the face of our oppressors and demanding by what right of skin coloration do they consider themselves our superiors."

It's that last sentence that captures Robinson's furious and focused competitive essence in a way that 42, like most understandably worshipful discussions of Jackie's barrier-breaking, can't quite convey. Who the hell are you, he was always demanding to know, to think you are better than me?

Even growing up in the comparatively more tolerant environs of Pasadena, California, Robinson looked at life's various playing fields and made a calculated choice. "When I was about eight I discovered that in one sector of life in Southern California I was free to compete with whites on equal terms—in sports." And oh, did he compete—in soccer, softball, tennis, and ping pong, in addition to the three non-baseball sports he dominated at UCLA: football (where he led the nation in punt-return average), basketball (where he was MVP of the West Coast Conference and two-time scoring leader), and track (where he was the national champion in the long jump).

With all this sports achievement, academics took a necessary back seat. But in some of the book's most chilling passages, this was a rational choice in a country that racist. "My brothers, their friends and acquaintances, all older than me, had studied hard and wound up as porters, elevator operators, taxi drivers, bellhops. I came to the conclusion that long hours over books were a waste of time," he writes. "Those who argue that improved educational facilities for Negroes will solve the civil rights problem fail to understand that unless Negroes can use their education to the fullest extent in competition with whites, the crisis will continue unabated."

The movie, like most accounts, translates Robinson's competitive aggression largely (and thrillingly) through his nerve-rattling exploits on the basepaths. While more than defensible, considering that he was probably the most disruptive baserunner since Ty Cobb himself, the choice reduces Jackie's on-field intelligence to a mix of hyper-athleticism and daring. In fact, he was a much more interesting ballplayer (and man) than that.

When Bill James created the Defensive Win Shares metric a dozen years ago, one of his surprising findings was that Jackie Robinson played historically high-quality defense at not one but three positions: second base, third base, and left field. "If it's a statistical illusion of some kind," James wrote, "it's an illusion that chases him all over the diamond. Never underestimate the power of intelligence, particularly when that intelligence is combined with athletic ability, determination, and a formidable competitive instinct."

Even while starting his career at the very late age of 28 (most Hall of Famers are in the big leagues by 22 or so, and the most common peak ages are 26 and 27), Robinson left massive footprints in the record books. He won a batting title, led the National League in on-base percentage and stolen bases, and finished in the top 15 in Most Valuable Player award voting his first seven seasons. By the new comprehensive statistic of Wins Above Replacement, he was the best player in the Major Leagues in both 1949 and 1951. If you take the five best seasons of every second baseman in baseball history and compare them to Robinson's five best years, only four other players come out ahead. And those were Jackie's only five seasons at the position.

As the Canadian libertarian writer (and baseball fanatic) Colby Cosh observed in a terrific 2007 essay, "After 60 years of Jackie Robinson as plastic dashboard icon, it is hard to envision him as anything but a piece in a racial chess game. How many of the baseball fans reading this could describe his swing, like you probably can for 30 or 50 or 100 present-day batters?"

And it's not just Robinson's actual baseball performance that has somehow received short shrift in the canonization process. It's the fact that his famous marching orders from Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey to turn the other cheek at the torrent of initial racist abuse only lasted two years, and not his whole career. 42, typical of the genre, covers the years 1946 (when Robinson played for AAA Montreal) and his rookie big-league season of 1947, but in doing so it misses both Robinson's contentious court martial of 1944 (when he refused to move to the back of an Army bus), and his first gloves-off season, when he fought abuse with abuse and (perhaps not coincidentally) won an MVP award.

There is something inherently attractive about the narrative of successful nonviolent campaigns against white majoritarian tyranny. What monstrosity it exposes! What heroism it requires! But could it be that white audiences in particular enjoy and enhance that tale, even to the exclusion of less pacifist narratives, because it goes down more comfortably? Are we doing Jackie Robinson an injustice by portraying him more as saint than fighter?  

This question haunts my late-in-life experience of reading Baseball Has Done It, a book I wouldn't have even known existed if had I not conducted an Amazon.com search on former Angels outfielder Leon Wagner, one of the two dozen or so players to tell his story within.

Nostalgia, the kind so effectively communicated in The Glory of Their Times, always tells us something about the era in which its produced. That a book inspired by the racist (and also very competitive and complicated) Ty Cobb came out in the turbulent mid-1960s selling a more pastoral vision of the baseball's good old days can no longer, in my mind, be separated from the fact that Jackie Robinson's similar telling of a more contemporary but much less comforting story fell on deaf ears just two years before. And that gap remains today: The Glory of Their Times was ranked 9,449 at Amazon when I checked this morning; the paperback edition of Baseball Has Done It (featuring an intro by Spike Lee) clocked in at 674,347.

I suspect that we still want Jackie Robinson to be noble, not furious, just as we would rather quarantine baseball desegregation to a single event in 1947 rather than examine how ballplayers were still excluded from hotels and restaurants, and subjected to soul-destroying racism, well into the 1960s. When your face is unlovely, it's always more fun to look at old photographs than the bathroom mirror.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Baseball Has Done It is Jackie Robinson's report that during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1962, "No one mentioned that I was the first Negro in the Hall of Fame, or that another bastion of prejudice had fallen. No one was thinking about such things that day." He says this as a point of pride, that the quality of his performance—the content of his baseball character—was evaluated on its own merits, and found victorious.

On a day where every Major League baseball player will be sporting Jackie's retired number 42 on their backs, while moviegoers flock to see his courage in turning the other cheek 66 years ago, let's hope that soon we will feel comfortable enough to evaluate the entirety of Jackie Robinson's character. Because it's complicated, and awesome.

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  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention

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  2. Wanna know who got fucked?

    Larry Doby, who integrated the AL a few months after Robinson and also faced a ton of shit. But the AL doesn’t celebrate Larry Doby Day, etc. This is also double crap beacuase Doby and Robinson communicated and leaned on each other throughout the season- they are key parts of each other’s integration story.

    Doby and Satchel Paige also led the Indians to the ’48 World Series, and thus are the first black guys with World Series rings.

    But Doby had to be let into the Hall by the fucking Veteran’s Committee.

    1. A lot of quality candidates have been elected by the VetCom. Lots of absolute crap too.

      In general, the writers have rarely let an awful candidate in. The problem is, they have done it by being a bit too stingy, and this has led to pressure multiple times for the Vets to go overboard.

      Im afraid the pressure due to expansion and the current backlog is going to cause the same thing to repeat itself for the 3rd or 4th time in history soon.

      1. Standing alone, do career numbers of 253 home runs, 970 RBI, 1,515 hits and lifetime batting average of .283, merit Cooperstown inclusion?

        How about only one season with 100 or more walks and RBI?

        How about only two seasons with 100 or more runs and RBI?

        1. I’m pretty sure his numbers are better than at least 2 of the Tinkers-Evers-Chance trio, and they got in because of a goddamn catchy ditty.

          1. Phil Rizzuto hit .273 with 40 career home runs and got in.

            Bill Mazzeroski got in after hitting .260 with 138 home runs, pretty much only because of his walk off home in the 1960 World Series.

            There are some fucking stupid people from that era who are in the hall of fame.

            1. Rizzuto’s not that obscene. He was an elite defense and baserunning guy that was one of the best offensive players at his position in his era (admittedly a low bar) and lost 3 years of his prime to the war.

        2. He had 3 seasons of 100+ runs (plus 3 more in the 90s), 5 seasons of 100+ RBI, and 2 seasons of 100+ walks (and 4 more in the 90s). Those are good numbers.

          He’d make my HoF on those numbers alone, though I’m a peak-leaning guy who likes power-hitting center fielders who can draw a walk.

          1. He’d make my HoF on those numbers alone, though I’m a peak-leaning guy who likes power-hitting center fielders who can draw a walk.

            This is the kind of quote that only happens in baseball discussions. I’ve never heard a football discussion result in someone saying ‘He’d get in on those numbers alone, although admittedly I am partial to bow legged, left handed quarterbacks who specialize in the shotgun formation.’

            1. Apples and oranges. What I am saying here is that the features I lean toward in valuation aren’t random characteristics that please my sense of aesthetics, but rather aspects that I consider more valuable than traditionally cited numbers such as batting average and number of 100+ thresholds in various counting stats.

              1. In many respects, Doby’s numbers are just not outstanding.

                To put it in perspective, Doby had just one season in which he had 100 walks AND 100 RBI. He had just two seasons in which he had 100 runs AND 100 RBI.

                By way of contrast, Mr. Jimmie Foxx had SEVEN seasons in which had 100 walks AND 100 RBI. Foxx had ELEVEN seasons in which he had 100 runs AND 100 RBI.

                In my view, JiM Thome has been a much better ball player than Doby was. Sure, I have had the pleasure of watching and following all of Thome’s career. Nevertheless, how do you compare Doby’s double 100s with Thome’s?

                Thome has had NINE seasons in which he walked more than 100 times and knocked in more than 100 runs. He has also had EIGHT seasons in which he has scored more than 100 runs and also knocked in more than 100.

                1. The number of seasons in which a positional player has multiple 100s is, in my view, a far more effective and telling measurement than a generalized “aspects which I consider more valuable” metric.

                2. If Jimmie Foxx is going to be the offensive standard there are going to be an awful lot of players that fall short.

                  1. True, but I offered Foxx as evidence between the correlation of seasons of multiple 100s and greatness.

                    I offered Thome as further evidence of my point.

                    There are many others who were better ballplayers than Doby who are not HOF material.

    2. At first I would have guessed that a lot has to do with Mr. Robinson being an elite baseball player and assumed Doby was an end of the lineup, run of the mill starter. After looking up Larry Doby, he wasn’t some lollygagger. 7-time All-Star. Pretty impressive stuff. He DID get screwed.

      1. It’s hard to believe he would have been the first black man on an AL team if he was a lollygagger.

        The player’s ability was a huge reason Jackie Robinson (and Doby) were brought into the majors, despite what Welch is trying to say in this piece.

        1. There’s no “despite” here at all.

          1. I must have read it that way, maybe because I took it as more of a movie review than a stand alone piece.

      2. They were both elite, but Robinson was better at a more premium position (particularly for that era). Also, he was more important to breaking the barrier because showing the other owners what they’re passing on in the form of a 28 year old elite player hammers the point home a bit better than a 23 year old typical rookie.

        I agree that Doby should get more ink than he does, but Borderline HOF, let in on the strength of his signature achievement sounds about right to me.

    3. The history of Civil Rights is replete with glaring blind spots like that. Not only are some icons (MLK, Rosa Parks) raised above others (TRM Howard), but the people and organizations that supported these icons and did much of the groundwork for their achievements are largely ignored.

      OTOH, nobody gives a shit about the AL, and rightly so.

      1. They’re slowly moving towards introducing the DH to the NL and making interleague play a weekly event.

        It’s total rubbish in my opinion.

        1. Fuck that noise. The DH is the greatest abomination in all of sports.

          1. ^THIS^

            1. RAY-CIST!

              Orlando Cepeda
              Robert Bonds
              Oscar Gamble
              James Edward Rice
              Donald Baylor
              Ruben Sierra
              Maurice Vaughn
              Reginald Martinez Jackson
              George Scott
              Frank Thomas
              David Winfield
              George Bell
              Jesse Barfield
              Albert Bell
              Edward Murray

              and

              BIG EFFIN POPPY!

              1. Yeah! I’m a Sox fan, so the DH pretty much saved me from having to watch Frank Thomas stumble around the field and look sad every time a ball passed through his legs!

                1. Yeah, God forbid these professional athletes have to learn the fundamentals of the game.

                  Imagine if the NBA allowed for a designated free-throw shooter. You’d have guys incapable of running up and down the court and playing defense put on the roster because they could make shots uncontested.

                  1. Yeah, God forbid these professional athletes have to learn the fundamentals of the game.

                    How many two-way players in the NFL today? Shit, the NFL is so specialized it’s completely boring to me.

                    If you really want to make an argument about the DH, the “skills” part is the weakest one. Eight pitching changes in a 9-inning game is the argument against the DH. Hell, you can find decent hitting pitchers all over the college ranks and the first thing that happens in pro ball is they take them out of the batting lineup so as not to jeopardize their investment. It’s been that way since Branch Rickey conceived of the “farm system”.

                  2. As it is now, you have guys running up an down the court who can not shoot free throws.

                    As in all athletic endeavors, most people tend to overrate the really simple propositions like running and jumping. The latter two are, imo, the least impressive measures of athleticism.

                2. And wasn’t Frank doing PED testing well before it was mandated?

                  1. Yeah, Thomas was never on steroids or anything. The guy was naturally massive ever since he was in college. I mean, he played tight end at Auburn. I remember the time he broke his bat and hit a home run.

                    If he hadn’t gotten hurt, Thomas could have put up really unbelievable numbers.

                    1. Hence… she shoulda taken steroids….

                    2. *HE*

          2. If I wanted to see players swing wildly without putting the ball into play, I’d go to a little league game.

            As a fan of an AL team, we’ll give up the DH when pitchers learn how to hit.

            1. Most AL teams have at least one shitty position player that can’t hit, so what’s the difference?

              1. Those shitty position players who can’t hit will still usually hit .230-.240. There are pitchers who hit.050.

                That’s the difference.

                1. There are lots of decent hitting pitchers that can hit over .150. Combine that with being able to move a man along with a bunt and that makes them just as valuable as the schmuck that bats 9th in an AL lineup.

                  1. If that were true, then why do AL teams score an average of half a run more per game?

                    Because pitchers are sure as hell not just as valuable as the average 9 spot hitter.

                  2. There are lots of decent hitting pitchers that can hit over .150. Combine that with being able to move a man along with a bunt and that makes them just as valuable as the schmuck that bats 9th in an AL lineup.

                    This is Tony-level stupid right here.

            2. If I wanted to see players swing wildly without putting the ball into play, I’d go to a little league game.

              So you don’t care a whit about how the DH has taken all the strategy out of baseball?

              1. I grew up watching AL baseball post-DH. National League baseball strikes me as incredibly and unbelievably dull.

                Admittedly, the NL team in my town is the Cubs, which probably has something to do with my anti-NL bias.

                1. National League baseball strikes me as incredibly and unbelievably dull.

                  No….Test cricket between India and Pakistan is incredibly and unbelievably dull.

                  1. Test cricket between India and Pakistan almost any teams is incredibly and unbelievably dull.

                    20/20 is fun, though.

            3. Hitting isn’t the only way for a batter to contribute to offense. Eating up pitch counts and sac bunts are both things that pitchers are good for. And every once in a while you’ll see a surprise single from an assumed easy out.

              If I wanted to watch lumbering pantloads who were only good for one thing, I’d subscribe to Epi’s webcam.

              1. Also, whenever a pitcher hits a homerun, they get as excited as a kid in litte league. It’s awesome.

                1. Also, whenever a pitcher hits a homerun, they get as excited as a kid in litte league. It’s awesome.

                  Yep. Clayton Kershaw hit the game winning homerun on Opening Day while pitching a complete game shutout.

                  That’s in of itself is far more exciting than anything a 2nd baseman batting ninth in an AL lineup will do all season.

                  And it was great to see Hyun-Jin Ryu get four hits in front of all his family in Arizona on Saturday.

              2. You don’t subscribe already?!? I was counting on you to up my numbers!

                1. Actually I thought I was subscribing for most of last year. But it turned out to be the elephant seal enclosure at the Audubon Aquarium.

          3. It effectively ruins the only strategic role the manager has, the situation when he is, as Vin Scully would say, ‘locked on the horns of a dilemma’ in having to decide whether to pinch hit for the pitcher.

          4. The DH is the greatest abomination in all of sports

            I though that was the forward pass in football.

            1. Or possibly the elimination of side-outs in volleyball.

            2. Ever since a dropped pass in the end zone stopped being a touchback, the game has been pretty much ruined.

          5. I thought that was the snowman from the Himalayas!

      2. Hmm. I though nobody gave a shit about the NL. Is that sort of like “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”.

        1. Listen, now that the Dodgers have an obscene payroll and a bunch of injury-prone prima donnas but still can’t play baseball for shit, the NL has its own version of the Yankees. That makes the AL redundant and therefore obsolete.

          1. You know what would be really fun? Taking a sedated Hugh to Yankee Stadium wearing all Red Sox gear and a tape recorder that just plays “even the Mets are better than the Yankees” over and over again, and sit him down in the nosebleed seats and then let things develop as they will.

            1. Undergirding your hypothetical is the assumption that the nosebleed fans do not embrace the NAP.

            2. Oh please Epi, the charade would be up as soon as they saw that I was unconscious.

              I mean, who would believe a Red Sox fan would go to a game just to scream insults and pass out from intoxication?

              1. Good point, Hugh. For that to be believable we’d have to be at Fenway.

              2. I’m guessing anyone who’s been to a Red Sox game.

            3. But… the Mets are better than the Yankees.

              I mean, in terms of the well-being of your eternal soul, not winning. Oh, also, our third baseman isn’t owed another 50 million or more on a contract he’ll never play up to.

              In closing, Fuck the Yankees.

              Sincerely,
              A Mets Fan.

              1. You didn’t need to sign it that way. Literally every self-respecting baseball fan hates the Yankees. It’s the only thing we can all agree on.

                1. FUCK YOU!

                  PRIDE, POWER, AND PINSTRIPES!

          2. Meh, they still have outstanding pitching. I mean not many teams can lose a $150 million dollar arm and still have a deeper rotation than the rest of the league.

            But for some reason that offense doesn’t click.

          3. And now that the Mets are apparently broke, live in the shadow of the Yankees, have horrible ownership, and will find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the Red Sox have been made obsolete!

      3. And reading about Larry Doby, you really start to like Joe Gordon, a great 2B from the late 30s to 1950 who was the first guy on the team to befriend Doby, the only one willing to play catch on Doby’s first day. We forget those people too.

        1. The Bobby Grich of the 1940s!

    4. It’s called the hall of fame, not the hall of objectively good baseball players. Robinson is undeniably more famous.

    5. Always disappointed that the VetComm didn’t elect Buck O’Neil before he passed (or ever, actually).

    6. Welday Walker was fucked even worse.

    7. Welday Walker was screwed over worse.

  3. Not a single customer review?

  4. “New Jackie Robinson Movie Probably Has Scene Where People Yell Things And He’s Upset And Wants To Fight Back But Doesn’t”

    http://www.theonion.com/articl…..ere,32042/

    1. Perfect

  5. Ughh I had this one girl talking to me, and compared Danica Patrick to Jackie Robinson. I laughed in her face. She didn’t understand why.

    1. You don’t remember that once race where all the other drivers told her to “go back in the kitchen” and then attempted to sabotage her car?

    2. You should have slapped her.

    3. Even if the analogy was appropriate, wouldnt it be Janet Guthrie, not Danica?

      1. Shirley Muldowney, anyone?

    4. fucking women drivers!

  6. We went to see Evil Dead instead. I already know how Jackie Robinson turned out.

    1. Well, how was it?

      1. I quite enjoyed it. Of course, I had applied bourbon to my brain before seeing it.

        1. I haven’t seen a movie sober in at least 5 years. But the question is: is the chick in it hot?

          1. Just imagine what she could do with her tongue.

          2. Yes. The females were all attractive. The nurse character, portrayed by Jessica Lucas, glowed on screen. She had the best female role in the film. There was plenty of gooey violence, including blood, puke, and even a couple pants pissing. Amputations, mutilations, and decapitations. It was typical of the first Evil Dead, but definitely re-packaged for 2013. And of course, there will be sequels.

            1. Was the blood all funny colors again?

              1. Yeah. It ranges from the totally evil black blood, to chunky strawberry preserves barf blood, to a very serum/blood rain mixture.

            2. As long as “Hail to the King, Baby” and “This is my boomstick!” are part of it.

    2. Yes, but have you seen Jackie Robinson hit that ball?

  7. Jesus Christ, fucking ElBloombito is a moron.

    “Number two, I would argue if you want to sell your gun to your son, maybe you have a problem in your family,” he said. “Why don’t you just give?I don’t know if you should have a gun or not, but if you have a commercial transaction of $100 with your son, there’s something wrong in your family.”

    http://cnsnews.com/news/articl…..our-family

    It’s like he doesn’t understand that a transfer of ownership is a transfer of ownership…regardless of any kind of remuneration.

    1. And he also seems to be imagining a father taking his son on his first hunting trip and demanding $100 for the rifle or something. Not considering that a father and son can sometimes just act like two adults engaging in a transaction.

      1. Somebody tell Bloomy that people without a billion dollars need to teach their kids the value of a dollar.

        Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this guy? Did he suffer a stroke when nobody was looking or something?

        1. statism is a brain disorder

    2. if you have a commercial transaction of $100 with your son, there’s something wrong in your family

      Says the man who uses $100 bills to wipe his ass.

      FFS, my father will hit me up for $20 to share parking at a ball game.

    3. fucking ElBloombito is a moron

      In other news, grass is green and the sky is rumored to be blue. And in a shocking development, water is apparently wet. Film at 11.

  8. It’s the fact that his famous marching orders from Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey to turn the other cheek at the torrent of initial racist abuse…

    Sad that Branch Rickey is seemingly only remembered for giving that order, and not the fact that he was a business man who had the courage to integrate baseball. I don’t think it takes anything away from Robinson to note that without Rickey, baseball probably wouldn’t have been integrated but for a few more years.

    1. Leo Durocher also deserves lots of credit for making it clear that the other players had to accept Robinson. He was quoted as saying:

      “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin’ zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.”

      1. Both guys basically make the same point in the movie, to its credit. Harrison’s all “money ain’t black & white — it’s green!”

        1. There’s no doubt that Branch Rickey was doing it for the profit potential. Which speak volumes about the market and racial bias.

          Also, I’d recommend this book to any baseball fans. It’s dated now, but it’s a fascinating read – literally “inside baseball” – about a side of the sport that you don’t get to hear much about.

  9. I sure hope someone will finally write a book or an article about the desegregation of baseball. What a completely ignored subject area.

    1. Or, better yet, a fawning bio-pic about the first black major league player. The fact that it’s been ignored for so long is further proof of how far this country still has to go in pursuit of racial equality.

      1. I’m also on the lookout for some brave writer or film-maker to finally tackle the immigrant experience in America. 200 years and not a peep.

        1. “I don’t see no Americans. I see trespassers, Irish harps. Do a job for a nickel what a nigger does for a dime and a white man used to get a quarter for. What have they done? Name one thing they’ve contributed.”

          1. “Alright, we’ll give some land to the niggers and the chinks. But we don’t want the Irish!”

    2. Hey SugarFree, serious question:

      Library of Congress, Dewey decimal, or something else entirely? I’m curious on your thoughts for card catalogs.

      1. Fuck the fucking Dewey Decimal system. Fuck it.

        1. “Oh yeah, the decimal system. That guy Dewey really cleaned up on that scam!”

          -Kramer from Seinfeld.

      2. Dewey Decimal is elegant and surprisingly useful, but unequipped for modern times. And it bungles the handling of fiction. LoC is better for big collections and co-location (the books by an author, a biography of that author, and criticisms of the author’s work should be clustered), but a bit opaque in usage and reliant on a schema to implement. (Even a DD novice can make a number to 3 decimal points for any given work of non-fiction in just a few minutes.)

        Honestly, though, the advent of proper subject tagging and location coding makes them both obsolete. If you can virtually bring subjects together and you can find them on a shelf for retrieval, then all the extra work required to maintain a DD or LoC collection is really only to serve people who would like to physically browse a subject matter, a service that is less and less in demand. Of course, it also suggests a return to the closed stack system (if the stacks can’t be browsed, why let people wander them?)

        1. …the advent of proper subject tagging and location coding makes them both obsolete.

          Yep. Metadata for the win.

          1. And there is no reason why a closed stack library can’t be run on an accession system instead of DD/LoC.

        2. Closed stacks woudl suck. The best thing about college was having a huge library that you could wander through and browse.

          1. Oh, I like that too, but the infrastructure to make it possible is labor and money intensive. Shifting and shelf reading are incredibly time-consuming and tedious.

        3. Of course, it also suggests a return to the closed stack system (if the stacks can’t be browsed, why let people wander them?)

          This brings up a good point. I know that for my university library, being able to browse was essential, as I often had no idea what specific book I wanted, just a general idea on subject matter. But for general leisure, I almost always know exactly what I want and grab that book as soon as I can find it.

  10. I would like to see a movie about Paul Brown integrating football without giving a shit about integration, just signing black players because he liked kicking ass. Or maybe a movie about the Redskins’ owner not signing any players until 1962, despite his team sucking because of it.

    1. See also: Boston Red Sox, 1949-1959.

    2. Of course, no one gave a shit about pro football back then except gamblers. Pretty much like today.

      Seriously, I do wonder if the Black Sox scandal set back integration in baseball by a couple decades. Landis was nothing if not a bureaucrat – he pretty much felt his job was to avoid controversy at all costs.

  11. Welday Walker needs a movie too.

  12. One can give good and bad reasons for having an DH (“You expect the
    quarterback to also be the guy to kick extra points?”) but one thing is sure: both leagues should have the same rule as it distorts statistics.

  13. “The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue today,” reads Robinson’s brushback pitch of an opening line.

    I would think that would be the reason the book is ignored today. There may not be a color barrier anymore, but elitism is even stronger today. Today Jackie Robinson would be subject to background checks and drug tests.

  14. That a book inspired by the racist (and also very competitive and complicated) Ty Cobb…

    Not to go too far out of my way to defend Ty Cobb, but I think this is a bit of a myth. A substantial amount of the evidence of Cobb’s supposed racism came from Al Stump, who we now know was a liar and a forger who had no qualms about making shit up for self-serving reasons.

    It seems more likely that Cobb (who by the end of his life supported allowing black players in baseball) was just an asshole in general, and his views on race were no more hateful or regressive than was typical at the time for a white guy from the South.

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  17. This question haunts my late-in-life experience of reading Baseball Has Done It, a book I wouldn’t have even known existed if had I not conducted an Amazon.com search on former Angels outfielder Leon Wagner, one of the two dozen or so players to tell his story within.

    Never read it although I own a hc copy signed by the author.

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  20. There may not be a color barrier anymore, but elitism is even stronger today. Today Jackie Robinson would be subject to background checks and drug tests.

    A good point. We are seeing massive civil rights violations today which go by the boards, especially with the drug war. We can add in the TSA idiocy at the airports. Think that Americans would have put up with any of this back in the 1950s?

    “The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue today,”

    Agreed. We need to see an end to:

    Affirmative action
    Speech codes
    Hate crime laws
    Court ordered busing
    Diversity requirements
    Black studies programs
    Court ordered racial gerrymandering
    Government set-aside contracts for minorities
    Taxpayer subsidies to minority advocacy groups
    The administration pushing disparate impact policies

    These all discriminate based on race, or violate civil rights.

  21. Missing from all the articles about Jackie Robinson and the film “42” is the story of the protest movement that began a decade before Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. The black press, the Communist Party, activists like Paul Robeson, and progressive politicians and unions joined forces to protest baseball’s segregation and push for integration. Several books tell this story, which I discuss in my article in the Atlantic last week, “The Real Story of Baseball’s Integration That You Won’t See in 42,” linked here:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/ent…..-42/274886

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