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Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams Paperback – April 30, 1992


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Editorial Reviews

Review


"[A] thorough, well-documented book....A worthy and fascinating addition to anyone's baseball library."--The New York Times Book Review


"Peterson...[is] to be congratulated not only for an original subject but an excellent book for anyone who enjoys reading baseball history."--The Sporting News


"Filled with the fascination that comes from discovering an unknown, complex, forgotten continent."--Newsweek


"Fascinating....One of the truly important sociological contributions to the growing literature of baseball."--The Washington Post Book World


"Highly recommended."--Library Journal


About the Author


Robert W. Peterson is the author of Cages to Jump Shots (Oxford, 1990) and The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure. He has written for Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Magazine, Sport, Boys' Life, and many other magazines.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195076370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195076370
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jacques on November 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was not what I thought it would be. Its part stat book, part biography, part history of the leagues. It is not as story-like as I expected and seems a bit fractured in places. Having said that, its a wonderful book that conveys a lot of the zeitgeist of the time. For a book with so many facts, it is surprisingly easy to read. Though, at times it seems to repeat itself, it still conjures up an age when African American players wore their caps sideways, introduced stealing bases on a regular basis etc... It is a shame that so many sad periods in world history become fascinating periods to read about for generations that follow after. Educational, entertaining and solidly researhed, bravo!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Robert Peterson originally published this book in 1970 so it's really the original and standard history of the Negro Leagues. Peterson not only tells the history of these leagues and some of the great players, but also provides brief biographical sketches of dozens of players whose big league service would otherwise be lost to history. The book also has extensive appendices with annual standings and box scores of all-star games. The book gives us glimpses into Jim Crow America (and it was not just in the South).

Peterson portrays the often overlooked fact that the Negro Leagues were a business venture run almost exclusively by and for black people. And it was a tough business at that, but one that drew often sizeable crowds, especially on exciting and exhausting barnstorming tours. The Negro Leagues could not survive integration as its best players were siphoned off to the 'majors'. Despite the obvious benefits to those men who were finally broke through the wall of prejudice, the reader also understands that there was a sense of loss when the leagues shut down in 1960. More powerfully, the reader experiences the lost opportunities suffered by those players who never got the chance to play in the majors and make major league money, like Jimmie Crutchfield, the Black Lloyd Waner, who barely made a living on one side of Pittsburgh playing for the Crawfords while Waner hauled down $12,000 a year (a princely sum at the time) playing for the Pirates.

A must read for anyone interested in baseball, race relations, or American history.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book beautifully captures the heart and soul of what the Negro League was. Not only does it give a real insight into what the game of baseball meant to the players and fans, but helps one understand how the alienation of blacks from big-league play was a great tradgedy to the game. This book makes me wonder how great the game could be today, if this tradgedy had not occurred.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Monti Collier on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book beautifully captures the heart and soul of what Negro League baseball was. Not only does this book give real insight into what the game meant to black players and fans, but helps one understand how the alienation of blacks from big-league play was a great tragedy to the game. This book makes me wonder how great the game could be today, if this tragedy had not occurred.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book beautifully captures the heart and soul of what Negro League baseball was. Not only does it give a real insight into what the game meant to players and fans, but helps one understand how the alienation of blacks from big-league play was a great tradgedy to the game. This book makes wonder how great the could be today, if this tradgedy had not occurred.
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Format: Paperback
"Negro baseball," writes Robert W. Peterson, "was both a gladsome thing and a blot on America's conscience."

And in that one sentence, Peterson defines the glory of Negro Leagues baseball and how it also magnified the sordid race hatred of this nation, with the ramifications still being felt today.

When the book was published in 1970, the Negro Leagues was not really known by a whiter (oops, I mean "wider") audience. Peterson, who had a journalism background as an editor for the New York World-Telegram and The Sun, set out on this journey in 1966 by interviewing players, studying microfilm of black newspapers and delving into game accounts & features in sporting publications.

He traces the history of some of the greatest players and teams ever in the game from post-Civil War to 1947. Along with a history highlighted through extensive interviews are a recap of yearly standings and a register of players and league/team officials.

Names such as Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard and Rube Foster & teams like the Kansas City Monarchs, Cleveland Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Crawfords come to life and opened a door to a wealth of research into NLB that continues today.

Peterson, who passed away in February 2006 at the age of 80, was on a 2006 committee that selected players/executives from NLB and the pre-NLB era for baseball's Hall of Fame. His ballot was filled out before his death and used in the vote.

It can't be forgotten that NLB welcomed whites and women on the field of play, in the grandstands and in the front offices. Truly, Peterson shows in Only the Ball Was White that there were no rear entrances, separate facilities and racial hatred in Negro Leagues Baseball. The book will never lose its standing as a true beacon to a history that must never again be forgotten.
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