For the record, Moses "Fleetwood" Walker was born in Ohio four years before the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, attended Oberlin College, studied law at the University of Michigan, was acquitted of first-degree murder in Syracuse, was granted a patent for an artillery shell, was convicted of mail robbery in Ohio, ran a hotel, edited a newspaper, wrote a well-regarded treatise advocating the emigration of blacks back to Africa, and spent the years before his death in 1924 running a theater that offered opera, live drama, and motion pictures. All of which are footnotes to the one overriding fact of his multidimensional life: Walker was black, and in 1884, he played 42 games for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, then recognized as a Major League.
A good ballplayer, though not a great one, Walker predated Jackie Robinson to the bigs by more than 60 years, faced the same hatreds, and suffered the same indignities. The White Sox's Cap Anson, generally regarded as the 19th century's greatest star, decided baseball should be racially pure; he personally hounded Walker out of the game. Out of the game, Walker made a life for himself--an interesting, full, and often angry one that balanced precariously on the edge of racial tensions and civil rights.
He was such a socially and historically rich character that it's too bad his life found such a prosaic chronicler. Still, Zang's biography is essential because it's there. The story it tells is a necessary one. He's done fine work in unearthing the facts of Walker's life, but he never seems able to reach out and touch the man. --Jeff Silverman
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Moses Fleetwood Walker (1857-1924) played pro baseball from 1882 until 1889, when the ban on black players became total. He had started to play in earnest as an undergraduate at Oberlin and continued at the Univ. of Michigan. A mulatto, he was raised in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, a Quaker community where he encountered little racism. But as racial discrimination increased nationwide, he came to see himself as living between black and white worlds while holding a number of jobs, from mail clerk (he went to prison for a year for stealing from the mails) to entrepreneur of an entertainment business in Cadiz, Ohio. His frustration at not being accepted by either world was expressed in his 1908 pamphlet "Our Home Country," which urged blacks to return to Africa. Zang, who has taught at the University of Maryland and Penn State, has effectively re-created the society in which Walker lived and worked. Illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.