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Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball's Color Line Hardcover – April 2, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The plains states were particularly hard hit during the Depression. Between the economic issues and the drought, small farms folded by the hundreds, and the relief programs were underfunded and poorly run. Still, in the midst of it all, there was a need for people to be entertained and briefly forget their troubles. Neil Churchill, a Bismarck, North Dakota, car dealer, decided a baseball team was just the thing to help his neighbors forget. So, in an era when the Major Leagues only fielded teams east of the Mississippi, and the rest of the country made do with town- and company-sponsored semipro teams, Churchill’s plan was met with great enthusiasm. When he assembled his roster, Churchill picked the best players he could find, and some of them were black! Remember, this was more than a decade before Jackie Robinson would play in the majors. Award-winning journalist Dunkel has not only researched and presented a virtually forgotten but very significant piece of sports history, he has also done it in a very entertaining, narrative-nonfiction style. The principals, particularly Churchill and his players (including Satchel Paige) just simply come alive. Baseball fans will cherish this book, and it will become required reading among those who feel we can better understand today’s racial tensions by looking to the past. --Wes Lukowsky


“A tale as fantastic as it is true, as American as racism and baseball. . . . Dunkel’s extensive research shows—there’s enough detail here to satisfy the most rabid fan—and his portraits of Troupe, Paige, and Churchill are lively and warm.”—Boston Globe

"A delightful read. This is a tale worth telling."—Washington Post

"Dunkel tells one of the great untold stories about baseball history, one that almost sounds too good to be true."—Chicago Tribune

"Dunkel's enthralling narrative of Bismarck's talented collection of white and black players falls into the 'must-read' category."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A terrific book. . . . It is funny, it is sad, it is spellbinding, required reading for anyone who loves baseball, who loves a vivid story well-told. . . . Color Blind is crammed with characters . . . laced with joy, rocked by sadness, framed by the civil rights struggle. . . . If you want to understand America, you have to understand baseball.”—Philadelphia Daily News

"Give an exceptional storyteller an exceptional story to tell, and you just might wind up with a book as good as Tom Dunkel's Color Blind."—Gene Weingarten, Washington Post columnist and feature writer, two-time winner of The Pulitzer Prize

"Dunkel writes with a passion and flair that matches the gritty, hardscrabble North Dakota landscape and culture of the Great Depression. His meticulous research and clever writing blows the dust off a forgotten—but important—chapter in baseball history. A fascinating addition to baseball’s library."—Tampa Tribune

"A little-known but charming narrative that affirms baseball as a cornucopia of good stories."—Daily Beast

Color Blind is an amazing story of black and white that should be read all over.”—John Thorn, Official Historian, Major League Baseball and author of Baseball in the Garden of Eden

"[A] wonderful book. Color Blind captures Satch and his Negro League pals at their absolute rollicking best. What a fabulous addition to the literature of our national pastime!"—Timothy M. Gay, author of Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson

“Very entertaining. . . . Baseball fans will cherish this book."—Booklist (starred review)

"Dunkel delves into the history of players, towns, and baseball itself in constructing this portrait of a harmonious team rising above a segregated society. . . . a story that transcends championships, and an inspirational reflection on an otherwise dismal human rights history."—Publishers Weekly

“Tom Dunkel’s wonderfully reported book Color Blind casts a spotlight on a long overlooked but fascinating corner of baseball history.”—San Antonio Express-News

“A rich history.”—Bismarck Tribune

“Dunkel well describes the loosey-goosey, not quite minor-league level of America’s regional teams in the 1920s and ‘30s, with ballplayers bouncing across the map to join one team and then another. . . . A happy story.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Painstakingly researched. … [here] is Paige in all his maddening glory . . . against a sepia backdrop of drought, dust storms, and swarms of grasshoppers at the depth of the Depression.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120120
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a long-time freelance magazine writer who made a mid-career detour into newspaper work at The Baltimore Sun, then returned to freelancing. No area of special interest. I traffic in sports, politics, health, adventure travel and general-interest features. My credits include The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Slate, Wall Street Journal and National Geographic Traveler. My first book, COLOR BLIND, was published in hardcover in April 2013. The paperback release will follow in April 2014. COLOR BLIND is an offbeat-but-true story about an integrated, semipro baseball team that played in North Dakota during the Depression, led by the inimitable rubber-armed pitcher Satchel Paige

I earned a masters degree in journalism at New York University, but Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. has been home for many years. I play softball, cycle, run and read in my spare time. The cycling and running often take place late at night on the National Mall...when the tourists are gone and the rats come out to play.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Thach on April 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was one oif the best books I have had the joy of reading on baseball. I was getting jazzed up to see the new movie about Jackie Robinson and I saw this book and decided to read it thinking it was about The Robinson era. It was so much more. In fact Color Blind provided a whole new backdrop and context leading up to the Jackie Robinson story. I must admit I thought I knew a lot about baseball having grown up in a farm twon where at ages 4 and 5 we were hitting stones with sticks from the woods thinking about how someday we would swing a baseball bat in the Little League.

Color Blind is a great combination of the history of the sport from the 1870s through the Robinson era through the midwest lens of Bismarck, ND far away from the East Coast I grew up. Tom has a great way of describing the hard times in the early 1900s into the depression years when baseball was a place to forget troubles and cheer and bet on your home team. His use of metaphor and analogies to describe towns, people and climates made me smile several times and laugh out loud at others. Most interesting of all was the way he brought legends like Satchel Paige and other lesser know but exceptional players such as Quincy Troupe and Hilton Smith to life through the exceptional way they played the game while being treated like second class citizens. Neil Churchill was a great character around whom most of the story is told. A man who would bet on anything and thankfully kept betting that it was more imoportant to have the best team rather than was might have been perceived as the right color.

I really enjoyed the book. It was a fun, easy and interesting read I recommend to all who want to dig deeper than the Great Robinson Story....but I am going to see that to

Nicely done Mr Dunkel
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By TLRun on April 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before there was Jackie Robinson, in the middle of the depression and drought, in of all places, little and unheard of Bismarck, ND, there was the greatest integrated baseball team ever in 1935 consisting of future Hall Of Famers Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith. Add in Ted `Double Duty' Radcliffe and Quincy Troupe, you had the core one of the finest integrated baseball teams ever assembled. This team would go on to win the National Semi-Pro Championship in 1935. The author tells of the adventures of local Chrylser automobile dealer/manager Neil Churchill who went out and recruited these guys to come to Bismarck, ND.
The author tells the story that is more than just baseball. The book is about people, race relations, the depression, hardships. As if everyone had something to prove that they belong, the author tells wonderful stories of the town and the characters. The story telling is wonderful and makes you yearn for a more simpler time of life. It is an amazing story that anyone would enjoy told by the author - Tom Dunkel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dan on April 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book. Mr Dunkel captures the essence of life in the upper Midwest during the 1930s. With the background of a racially integrated Semi-pro baseball team,he details the history life along the Missouri river and towns in North Dakota. This was before Jackie Robinson when professional baseball was racially segregated.True chronicles of Custer, Sitting Bull,local leaders and baseball players(most from the Negro leagues) are richly detailed.The central character of the book is Neil Churchill, a local car salesman, who spends most of his own money attracting the best baseball players from the Negro leagues to come to Bismarck North Dakota.One of the players is the great Satchel Paige.This is a great true story that was lost in the shadows
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joshua D. Reitano on June 11, 2014
Format: Paperback
"COLOR BLIND is a prelude to Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Semipro baseball was highly competitive in the 1930s, so competitive that even out on the Great Plains a lot of money got bet on games between rival towns. Car dealer Neil Churchill managed Bismarck, North Dakota's team. He began muscling up by luring players from the Negro Leagues, the biggest prize being the great-but-perpetually-unpredictable Satchel Paige, who shocked the baseball establishment by heading west to where the buffalo roam. Paige pitched for Bismarck at the tail end of 1933 and all of 1935. The focal point of the book is that 1935 season, when events take an odd turn toward Kansas." (Goodreads description)

Tom Dunkel undoubtedly had a good time researching this book, combing through boxscores and game recaps for Bismark's semi-pro juggernaut of a baseball team. But that's the problem with this book: it reads like a collection of game recaps. This is entertaining for about 100 pages, but after hearing the details of Bismark's 50th game with Jamestown in a 3 year period, I lost interest. I feel like Dunkel was either ill-equipped, or simply missed the chance, to connect Bismark's story to race relations and attitudes in the mid-west, and the nation altogether. Where he did give background and narrative, COLOR BLIND got more interesting. But there was not enough of this, and thus I found the book difficult to get through. And I love reading about baseball.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip A. Terhune on May 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To anyone interested in the history of baseball, the Great Depression, life on the Northern Plains, or race relations in the 1930's, this book is an indispensable source of information that has been carefully researched by the author and scrupulously documented in a chapter-by-chapter list of notes at the back of the book.

However, this is not a textbook or encyclopedia, it's a wonderful story told by a skillful storyteller who makes an era and its people come alive. Once you read about the ambitious plan by Neil Churchill to build a winning baseball team in Bismarck, North Dakota, by using some talented black players like Satchel Paige and Quincy Troupe, you're carried along by the team's development, its successes and failures, the development of player relationships, the history of small-town baseball, the economic struggles of its players and fans, the effects of climate on everything, the reactions of fans and other teams to a racially mixed ballclub, and the foibles of the creative genius behind it all.

And through it all, author Tom Dunkel charms your baseball glove right off you with his good humor, sense of fun, personal curiosity, and light touch when dealing with the weighty issue of racism. He doesn't sugar-coat the realities of prejudice that prevented generations of talented black athletes from achieving the places they deserved in the annals of American sport, but he doesn't get on his soapbox either. He lets the events speak for themselves.

I loved this book, and I will reread it because the story is so rich with detail that there will always be more to take away from another reading.
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