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

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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: Hardcover Verified Purchase
an interesting view of the complicated issues of race from the black perspective in the years after the civil war and long before the civil rights era
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On time and as described. I am very satisfied.
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