- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (January 20, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0071431977
- ISBN-13: 978-0071431972
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,506,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond the Shadow of the Senators : The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball Paperback – January 20, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Snyder looks at the roots of Jackie Robinson's integration of major league baseball, but examines that historic event from a variety of angles. This well-documented and enjoyable account illuminates the life of Sam Lacy, a crusading black journalist for a Washington, D.C., black weekly, and his efforts to force major league baseball to integrate. But the book is also a fascinating and largely untold story about the unholy but profitable alliance between Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, and the dynamic but shady Negro League team owner Cum Posey, founder of the Homestead Grays, a storied Negro League franchise founded in Pittsburgh. Using the burgeoning black middle class of WWII Washington, D.C., as a social backdrop, Snyder details how Negro League owners like Posey allied themselves financially with white Major League owners, renting segregated Major League ballparks (at exorbitant rates) for their Negro League teams while the white teams were on the road. The practice became particularly profitable in Washington after Posey moved his Homestead Grays (and such black stars as Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson) to D.C. from Pittsburgh in 1940. Disgusted by the Senators' racist owners and the team's inept play, black fans flocked to the pennant-winning Grays' games, which outdrew the Senators' games. Snyder also sketches the lives of great players like Buck Leonard with great sensitivity, insight and historical context. The book tells two stories: one is how the Griffiths, a legendary baseball family, killed baseball in Washington, D.C., through their own narrow-minded greed and racism; the other is the story of Lacy and Wendell Smith, his fellow black Hall of Fame sportswriter, and the extraordinary black athletes of the Negro Leagues and their determination to play baseball at its highest level.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Historical accounts of major league baseball's integration too often begin and end with one white owner, Branch Rickey, and one black player, Jackie Robinson. But, as with any significant historical milestone, things are never as simple as they seem. Snyder, who covered baseball for the Baltimore Sun, spent 10 years researching a little-known side skirmish in the battle to integrate the national pastime, one that took place in the shadow of the federal government. This struggle involved the white owner of the major-league Washington Senators, Clark Griffith, who was not as evil as he was penurious, and a black player, Buck Leonard, who was a more talented player than Robinson and probably every bit as courageous. The wild card in the Washington mix was Sam Lacy, a black journalist inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1997. Lacy, an eloquent supporter of integration, covered the Homestead Grays, a Negro League team that played in Griffith's ballpark when his Senators were on the road. Griffith vigorously opposed major-league baseball's integration because the rent from the Grays kept his other team afloat. Leonard, the star of the Grays, often referred to as the "black Lou Gehrig," was thought by many to be the logical choice to integrate the game. Snyder weaves the personal stories of Lacy, Griffith, and Leonard into a textured account of a time when baseball symbolized the nation at large and when those with vision understood the implications of integrating an experience shared by so many Americans. A fascinating, little-known chapter in the familiar story of baseball's color line. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Key people that are introduced and brought to life are:
Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson -- three of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived;
Clark Griffith -- the pioneering, penurious and controlling owner of the Washington Senators;
Sam Lacy -- the ahead-of-his-time, DC-native who tirelessly advocated for the integration of Major League Baseball; as well as
Cum(berland) Posey -- the shrewd owner of the Homestead Grays -- the dominant team of the loosely confederated Negro Leagues during the late 30's and 40's.
Tangential to this story are:
the decimation of the post 1933 Senators, mostly due to finances and an inadequate ballpark;
the relative prosperity of Washington DC during the years of the depression and WWII and the partial equality of African-American government workers that led to a vibrant culture and ability to spend on entertainment;
the move by Posey and his "partner" (many of the Negro League baseball teams were financed by numbers entreprenuers) to Washington from their Pittsburgh home and the welcome of their rental payments and gate pctgs. by Clark Griffith;
Judge Landis' death, the increasing awareness of America's incongruity in its fight for freedom and democracy in Europe while maintaining a virtual apartheid culture at home; and
the greed/opportunity of baseball owners to find the best talent at the lowest price which ultimately led to Rickey's "great experiment");
This book also fleshes out the background and conflict around Jackie Robinson, who was rightly judged to be a great man and the right vehicle for Rickey's efforst, and the shared opinions that he was a good, but not all-time great Negro baseball player. [Check out how well a 42-yr old Satchel Paige pitched for the World Championship Indians in 1948.]
The shifts in attitude between "separate but equal" and complete integration by the various parties reveal primarily self-interest. Judged by the standards of our time, I share many others' great respect for Sam Lacy and his tireless, moral advocacy and feel sorry for the Negro League baseball owners who were mostly left with nothing as they rarely had enforceable contracts that protected their relationship with their players.
Clark Griffith was an "innovator" in attracting inexpensive talent from Cuba. Many of these players represented themselves well on the ballfield but would only be acceptable if they were of "Spanish" descent.
Utterly inconceivable now, but the norm for over 60 years (since Cap Anson helped institute the "gentleman's agreement" against employment of African Americans in the early 1880's) was to allow a Major or Minor League ballclup to employ pretty much anyone (Swedes, Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, etc.) anyone, except African-Americans.
It has often been discussed that without Jackie Robinson (& the parts played by Branch Rickey, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Ben Chapman, etc.) the 1954 "Brown vs. Board of Education" decision would not have happened as quickly.
This book provides a wonderful companion story to the integration of major league baseball which, in my opinion, is one of the most significant stories of 20th Century United States.
In telling this story, "Beyond the Shadow of the Senators" is filled with heroes and villains. The most significant hero is unquestionably Sam Lacy, a black writer with the "Washington Tribune," a weekly oriented toward D.C.'s large African American community, who consistently called for the desegregation of MLB. Also heroic are the great stars of the Negro Leagues, especially Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson, all of whom came to Washington to play before large crowds in the nation's capital. They demonstrated through their exploits the quality of talent in the Negro leagues, especially when juxtaposed against the hapless play of the Washington Senators of the American League. The villains include Clark Griffith, the financially strapped owner of the Senators whose willingness to rent Griffith Stadium to the Grays proved lucrative, and Grays owner Cumberland Posey who shifted his team from the Pittsburgh area to Washington to cater to the large middle-class African American community in Washington. Both Griffith and Posey had every reason to keep the segregated system intact because of the money they made. Moreover, Griffith was a blatant racist who integrated reluctantly and eventually moved the Senators from Washington to Minneapolis-St. Paul because, as he said in 1978, "you've got good, hardworking white people here" (p. 289).
Ranging broadly from social history to baseball and back, Snyder captures the essence of the history of the Senators, the Grays, and wartime Washington's racial situation. It is a story of love and hate at the same time, as well as the quest for dignity of the minority population in a divided city. "Beyond the Shadow of the Senators" is a powerful book. Enjoy.