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on November 9, 2003
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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on May 20, 2006
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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on July 19, 2000
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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on July 25, 2000
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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on June 19, 2012
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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on April 20, 2013
I was expecting articles on all the great black ballplayers of the past. Instead, I got a true history of the negro teams that used to exist in the US as well as a list of the legendary players at the end. If you love baseball history, you need to read this book.
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on February 3, 2014
I'am a big baseball fan and I am very interested in the history of the Negro Leagues . This book covers Negro League baseball from start to finish. I'ts a must read for anyone who loves baseball. Some of the greatest players never got the regognition theydeserved and were subjected to unbelievable prejudice and hardship.
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on December 6, 2012
I found this book to be very informative. I knew hardly nothing about the Negroe Leagues before reading this. A couple of my students used some of the material for their projects. They were very interested. Great read.
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on February 7, 2007
"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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on January 26, 2007
I consider myself a self-educated baseball historian, but had very little knowledge of the Negro Leagues - until I read this book. It's a wonderful introduction to the proud but sad history of the African American experience in baseball in the first half of the 20th century. I now have a strong working knowledge of the dominent personalities of the Negro Leagues and its many extraodinary athletes - many of whom would have been certain stars in the Majors.

As I read it, I kept thinking to myself what a tragedy it was that these great black ballplayers were barred from the Major Leagues. How different the game would have been. Cool Papa Bell - maybe the fastest man ever to play the game. Satchel Paige - one of the greatest pitchers of all time, black or white. Josh Gibson - the Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues. Pop Lloyd - the Black Honus Wagner.

It's a overwhelmingly sad chapter in American history for sure; but it's also a compelling story of perseverence and dedication that allowed the Negro Leagues to succeed for so long in the face of incredible obstacles. If you love baseball history, do yourself a favor and read this book. Your baseball knowledge will not be complete without an understanding of the Negro Leagues.
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