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Press Box Red: The Story Of Lester Rodney, Paperback – August 4, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"This book is a crisp reminder that the golden age of baseball and pro-sports in America in general was not nearly as simple as many would like to believe. Perhaps, more importantly, this book is a testimony that sport has always been a matter of deep social significance and that the never-ending battle for social justice can be successfully waged from the most unexpected of spaces." Left History "[Rodney and Silber] dispense wisdom coupled with wit, salient information paired with keen insight. In the process, they confer a human face on an ideological construct: American communism; Rodney's odyssey from a Republican household to CP affiliation to disaffected radical makes for fascinating reading, which the book captures, to borrow a Gershwin phrase, in fascinatin' rhythm." American Communist History "important ...a work that should be read and reread" Nine "This lively book is a welcome addition to the saga of 20th-Century American sports and sportswriting, especially in its telling of the little-known tale of Lester Rodney's role in the integration of baseball." - Robert Lipsyte "Lester Rodney was a Communist. Whether because of that or in spite of that, he was also one of the most independent and courageous sportswriters of his day. Press Box Red is a timely, much-needed reminder of the pivotal role he played in integrating baseball, and, therefore, in the history of this country." - David Margolick "Anyone interested in the New York sports scene in the era of Joe Louis and Joe DiMaggio is likely to derive much pleasure from these pages." - Choice "While the book is first and foremost a history of Rodney's efforts, parts of this book are of particular interest to revolutionary socialists...Press Box Red sheds light on this hidden history." - The Socialist Worker "This book is required reading for anyone who's interested in sports and politics and how the two can intersect." - The International Socialist Review "Besides its engaging account of an engaging man, the book offers a look into one of the odd corners of baseball history - the not-so-remote byway where baseball crossed paths with communism." - Elysian Fields Quarterly "The beauty of Press Box Red is not only the surprising (and surprisingly unknown) story of Lester Rodney, but also the ease with which Irwin Silber meshes his own historical notes and commentary with the voice of Rodney himself. Most of the book appears in the form of oral reminiscences from Rodney, who is every bit as elegant with the spoken word as the written one. It is always tempting for a biographer to place himself and his prose above the subject, but Silber never submits to this temptation, while remaining steadfast in his obvious admiration for the iconoclastic Rodney. Still, Silber offers important structure and background to Rodney's life story." Love My Team "Hearing Lester Rodney speak for himself and viewing facsimiles of the same pages he's discussing is the real strength of the book since these methods allow Silber's readers to reconstruct the consciousness of the Depression and World War II era." American Journalism

From the Publisher

How a journalist gave the Daily Worker its first sports column, and broke the color barrier in sports in the process

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; 1 edition (August 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566399742
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566399746
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Green on December 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Irwin Silber's biography of Lester Rodney is an excellent book about sports, particularly baseball. And though I'm hardly a baseball fan, the style and subject are snappy and engaging. More importantly, Press Box Red explains the activist campaign mounted to desegregate baseball and the far-reaching affects of breaking the color line in "America's pastime". Rodney's anecdotal story-telling and vignettes of great ballplayers--Black and white--reads more like a sports column than a history book. This is also a wonderful insight into a little explored dynamic of Communist Party, though a bit more background on the Party could have been provided for the reader unfamiliar.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roland Juli on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
My wife knew Lester Rodney when she was growing up, because Lester and her parents were acquaintances. She introduced me to this book. Unfortunately, Lester passed away at the retirement community of Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California, before I had a chance to meet him and speak with him. I have never completely understood the strange paranoia that Americans have towards communism and socialism. Lester and my wife's parents were pioneers in the areas of women's rights and the fight against sexism and racism. However, I DO understand and appreciate the love of baseball!! I'm a San Francisco Giants fan, and anyone who loves baseball will love reading this book and learning about the break-throughs that baseball made in the fight for equal rights for all Americans. This book is electrifyingly interesting to read. Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Irwin Silber’s “Press Box Red” is a lively look at the substantial roles played by Lester Rodney and The Daily Worker in the drive to desegregate organized baseball. Silber goes far in exploding the myth that it was Branch Rickey and his Methodist conscience who singlehandedly undid the unwritten ban on African American players. Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers were greatly influenced by the widespread public opinion crusade spearheaded by the U. S. Communist Party and the sports page of The Daily Worker. The Daily Worker started the effort in 1936 – eleven years before Rickey brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers. Lester Rodney, sports editor of the Communist newspaper, kicked off a concerted campaign of articles, supported by petition drives, letters, and backed by players, managers and fans. The campaign formed public opinion on the subject and refused to allow Jim Crow in baseball to recede from the public consciousness. Rickey, in fact, forced his tame historian of the events surrounding the Robinson signing to delete all references that “Rickey was besieged by telephone calls, telegrams and letters of petition on behalf of black ballplayers.” The Daily Worker’s efforts against Jim Crow resulted in over one million letters and telegrams to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis opposing the color line.

“Press Box Red” is not only a tribute to Lester Rodney’s many years of hard work, but a reminder that despite their multitude of sins American Communists once stood for social justice and the rights of working people of all races.

Irwin Silber’s book is highly readable. I recommend it for a new perspective on the end of Jim Crow in baseball and as a peek into a neglected chapter of U.S. history.
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