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Fleet Walker's Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball's First Black Major Leaguer Hardcover – May 1, 1995

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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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 171 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803249136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803249134
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jim Klann on August 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
To properly understand the Twentieth Century American civil rights movement, one must understand how and why a similar movement failed during the Reconstruction years following the Civil War. Likewise with baseball history--to properly appreciate Jackie Robinson breaking the major league color line in 1947, one must understand the less salutary 1884 experience of Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker.
Walker, born of middle class mixed-race parents in Ohio in 1857, attended and played baseball at integrated colleges in the early 1880's. In 1883 he left school to pursue a professional career with the minor league Toledo Blue Stockings. Baseball teams of the era determined whether to employ African Americans on a team-by-team basis, and Walker's presence on Toledo drew only occasional attention from fans and opponents.
In 1884 the major league American Association absorbed Toledo as an expansion team. Walker, by then an excellent defensive catcher, followed his team into the Association to become the first black major leaguer. Injuries hobbled Walker, however, and eventually cut his season short. The Toledo club folded after the season.
Walker returned to the minor leagues in 1885, but faced hardening racial prejudice which blocked his return to the majors. In 1889 the minor International League, in which Walker then played, joined the majors in adopting an unwritten, unofficial color line. By then Walker's career was winding down anyway.
Walker's subsequent life defies easy characterization. He patented four inventions, published a book, and owned a successful opera house--but also struggled with alcohol, served jail time for stealing from the U.S. mails, and stood trial (but won acquittal) for his role in a knife fight.
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By Danton M. on March 22, 2014
Format: Audio CD
The story is an interesting part of American history that deserves the attention Zang gives it. Unfortunately, the CD recording is quite poor. For some reason, producers chose to put music behind some parts of the narration, which is very distracting. The music swells and dies away, then swells up again, never with any real reason I can discern. While the narrator's voice is pleasant to listen to, he mispronounces many words, which, along with uneven volume of his voice, shows me a low level of production. I'm constantly turning the volume knob to hear parts which are quieter, only to be blasted at the next moment when the narration grows loud again.
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Format: Audio CD
It will come as a surprise to most baseball enthusiasts, but Jackie Robsinson was not the first African-American to play baseball in a major league. That honor fell to Moses Fleetwood Walker who achieved college baseball stardom while a student at Oberlin College in the 1880s. But Walker was expelled from professional baseball because of the devastating and pervasive racism of the day, including ill treatment by his team mates, his opponents on the field, and Cap anson, a star of the Chicago White Stockings, who drove Walker and the few other African-Americans in the major leagues out of the game, where blacks wanting to play baseball formed the Negro League teams and were excluded from the major league teams until Robinson's barrier breaking inclusion so many years later into the exclusive club that was professional major league baseball. Walker was more than just a gifted baseball player. In addition to being an outstanding athlete, he was also an inventor, a civil rights activist, an author, and an entrepreneur. Born on October 7, 1856 in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio, Walker died on May 11, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio. "Fleet Walker's Divided Heart" is a superbly written and enthusiastically recommended biography by David W. Zang of a truly remarkable life filled with accomplishment and frustration, triumph and tragedy, and which now has made into an audiobook CD featuring the impressive narrative talents of Andrew L. Barnes.
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By David Taylor on August 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
Good deal! Thanks
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. Coulter on March 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
David W. Zang's "Fleet Walker's Divided Heart" is a detailed biography of a talented, tormented, late 19th century catcher: Moses Fleetwood Walker--America's first black major league baseball player. "Fleet" Walker was born in Mt Pleasant, Ohio on Wednesday, October 7, 1857. This simple fact is mentioned on the first page of "Divided Heart." It is from this unassuming birthday that Zang begins his interesting, but confusing, discussion fo Fleet Walker. After mentioning Walker's birth, Zang tries to explain how Walker's life follows the lines of the nursery rhyme: "Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go......" According to Zang, "it might have appeared that [Walker's mother], a midwife, used the nativity as a practicum and elected to give birth across the first four days of the week."(2) Following this, Zang attempts to connect the sixty-nine years of Walker's life to the nursery rhyme by saying " For as sure as he carried a full measure of woe, Fleet Walker was unquestionably fair of face, full of grace, and possessed of an ambition that would banish his dreams to distant places....Walker had overwhelmed the simplistic prophecies of the nursery thyme to such an extent that the possibility of a four-day birthing could not be dismissed out of hand(2)." This is only one of many, needless, airy speculations (as another reviewer called them) that wander from the solid facts of Walker's life. Because of these, the true essence of the man, Fleet Walker, is lost in "Divided Heart." The facts of Walker's life are intereting enough without Zang's meandering commentaries.Read more ›
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