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

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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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: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Most baseball fans are familiar with the great names and stories that emanated from the Negro Leagues. Satchel Paige, ever the showman, often asked his fielders to sit down while he struck out a dangerous hitter; Cool Papa Bell was so fast that he could blow out a candle and be in bed before the room got dark; and Josh Gibson may or may not have hit a ball completely out of Yankee Stadium. Peterson includes these gems and much more in this incredibly in depth history of the Negro Leagues. He chronicles the history of the black ballplayer, beginning with those few who actually played in the major leagues during the tail end of the nineteenth century, before the doors were closed, and continuing into the 40's and 50's, when Jackie Robinson's arrival in Brooklyn led to the demise of the Negro Leagues. Peterson relies almost exclusively on first-hand accounts culled from the black press of the day and extensive interviews from players and coaches. Also included is an appendix filled with year by year standings and an alphabetical listing of Negro League players. Certainly, this book is invalueable to anyone interested in learning about the unknown greats from the Negro Leagues.
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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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are dozens of books written on the Game. This one is essential to a full understanding of Baseball.
Of course, it has gaps. As it explains, there was seldom an official scorer, so we will never know exactly how many home runs Josh Gibson hit, or how many games Satchel Paige won. Nonetheless this is an outstanding compendium of research.
But is does tell us of some of the great and heretofore unknowns of the game. It tells how Rube Foster helped create an institution in which African Americans could take pride.
Want to know the only man to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium? Check out the answer here in this book.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book not long after it was published (1970), and I remember being awed by the story of the Negro Leagues -- the great players, the games, the prodigious feats, the hard life of travel and the daily racist repressions and insults. This is not only a history of baseball, it's the story of African-American contributions to the sport. These players should be known by everybody who loves baseball. Highly, highly recommended.
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