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Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2012
As a of person of color who enjoys baseball, it sadden me to see the sport be given the cold shoulder by Black America. In 1975, more than 1 out of 4 major league players were Black. Today, it's less than 1 out of 10, while the number of Latino players have skyrocketed.

This book explains what led to this. It gives a brief history of baseball in Black & Latin America communities pre-World War II before going in the rise of Jackie Robinson. The author believed that integration has played a part in the eventual fall of the sport in Black America. Prior to which, most Black players played in the Negro League & in with Black-owned teams. In the wake of Robinson's joining the then Brooklyn Dodgers, many major league teams began raiding the Negro League for the best players, leading to the decline of the Black-run league altogether. The book also goes into the Latin side of baseball with the short-lived Mexican Baseball League (which the MLB eventually succeeded in driving out of existence), & the rise of Latino players like Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who became the 1st great Latino player in the game.

Reading this book, I'm surprised to see a number of things Black players bought to the game like speed & base stealing-both which were very rarely done in the majors pre-integration that are now considered important parts of the game. The book also tries to explain the reasons that baseball has falling out of favor in Black America of which there are many besides integration, of which I'll not going to explain in this review (although MLB deserves some of the blame for this). Despite attends by the majors to reverse this trend, it may be too little too late. All in all, a great read. Well written & well researched. A must for those who want to understand the history of the game in the minority communities as well as the current state of the American pastime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2013
Before reading Raceball, I thought that there were two eras in baseball, before Jackie Robinson and after. That's true, from a certain perspective. But there are other perspectives, too, which Rob Ruck illuminates engagingly in this history that discusses the social and business aspects of the Negro Leagues, Caribbean baseball and their local cultures along with what became of them and their leaders in the aftermath of the integration of the major leagues. Yes, Jackie Robinson is a pivotal and admirable character in US history. But there's much more to the story than the heroism of Jackie and Branch Rickey, a continuum that the events surrounding 1947 are a part of, but far from all of. Accordingly, Robinson and Rickey are characters in, but not the centerpieces of, this story about race and baseball.

There were thriving Negro and Latin leagues in the US and the Caribbean before the major leagues were integrated. Those communities provided team owners, supporting businesses, stadiums, restaurants, hotels, radio, newspaper coverage and much more. These institutions were integral to the health and identity of the local communities. Ruck fills us in on this world and its lively characters along with some relevant bits of social history. When the majors began to let non-white players in, those leagues withered away in short order. Along with them went those businesses, subcultures and meaningful places in the world for a lot of people. While much was gained by integrating the major leagues, valuable things were lost in the process. The road to progress leaves destruction in its wake. Thankfully, Ruck vividly records for us what was there before that sea change occurred.

The hardships of the early black and Latin players in the majors have been much documented, but Ruck fills us in on what became of the entrepreneurs and baseball people who are left to find roles in the new world. And there are plenty of interesting stories about players of that era, too.

Of course it's a great thing that athletes once locked out of the "mainstream" system now have the opportunity to make millions and that we, as fans, get to enjoy the benefits of the best players competing in a highly visible league. But it's valuable to know the history behind it all, no small part of which is that members of the marginalized communities ran thriving businesses, leagues and sub-cultures, often negotiating deals with the major league teams of the time and capably providing jobs and entertainment for lots of people, even rivaling major league interest at times.

If you're interested in the broader world of baseball and its history, do yourself a favor and read this book. It'll change the way you see the game.
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on January 15, 2013
I had to read Raceball for Professor Ruck's class at the University of Pittsburgh. It was one of the best books I've ever had to read for school and would definitely have read it had I not been in school. Ruck takes an indepth look into the history of black and latino baseball, starting as early as the beginning of the 20th Century with US Soldiers in Latin America, to the Negro National Leagues rise and fall and also looks at how Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have become the talent hubs of today's modern game. Ruck uses a lot of great examples and has a lot of unique insight. You wont be sorry if you pick up this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2014
Living outside of the country, this book has brought me up to date on the dominance of players from the Dominican Republic and the reason for that trend--money for the owners. Of course, the Dominicans are excellent players and play for the love of the game. If we changed our policies towards Cuba, baseball would be that much better still. The reasons for the decline in the numbers of Black Americans playing baseball has more to do with the high price of tickets and salaries than anything else, it seems, as well as the very minor role played by college baseball. Playing baseball requires a network of funding and organizational support whereas basketball is still a playground sport where pickup games easily bring into prominence top players, even in poor neighborhoods. Baseball is more complicated. Football works for blacks because the colleges accept the role as minor leagues for the NFL.
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on January 16, 2014
This book has it all; it is thoughtfully presented, well researched, interesting to read, and if you love the game, you'll love the insight!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2013
As both a Cuban American and a lover of baseball history, I was eager to read this book. The story of Carribean baseball is undertold, but well represented in folklore and pictures scattered around in places like Key West. Its fascinating to think of the possibilities had baseball followed the example of the winter leagues, where the best players in the world - white, black, and latino - all played on the same fields without worrying about race. Unfortunately, the writer frequently slips into political mode and shows his liberal bias constantly. Callling Casto "left leaning" is a monumental understatement, and he blames the US embargo for the economic situation in Cuba, completely ignoring Castro's alignment with the Soviet Union and its communist principles. While decrying the loss of baseball control for Carribean countries, he signficantly under emphasizes the economic boon that has come to many latin players in the last 50 years - financial opportunities on a magnitude that would NEVER have come to them under communistic systems. To enjoy this book, you'll have to spit out a lot of bones to enjoy the meat....
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