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Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson Hardcover – March 16, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jackie Robinson may have broken Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947, but decades earlier, Negro Leaguers and white Major Leaguers shared the same fields in post-season barnstorming exhibitions around the country. Historian Gay (Tris Speaker) chronicles this oft-forgotten era, when such big names as Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller joined fellow future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial in wild games that often drew an entire community to the ballpark (violating countless Jim Crow laws in the process). Gay provides a fresh, comprehensive examination of baseball barnstorming, from the first recorded game between an all-black squad and an all-white squad, through the glory years of the Thirties and Forties, and into the post-Robinson era. With intricate summaries based on newspaper accounts and interviews, the author recreates lively game-day scenes that reveal the casual racism prevalent in American society at the time. Yet Gay also describes exhibition game scenes in which members of both races acted civilly (even friendly), transcending the prejudices of their time and paving the way for Robinson's historical debut.
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From Booklist

In the wake of Larry Tye’s popular Satchel (2009) and Mark Ribowsky’s earlier, more engaging Don’t Look Back (1994), Gay’s celebration of baseball legends and barnstormers Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller could generate interest among baseball-history buffs and readers of the aforementioned books. The author profiles all three players, who were among baseball’s superstars in the golden age of the 1930s and 1940s, and offers detailed coverage throughout those years of those games where their off-season careers intersected. It’s a lot to ask of readers to care about exhibition baseball games played 70 years ago, stars or not. And Gay has a way of making a good story read pedestrian. But he has also, almost despite himself, shown how transcendent (not to mention financially savvy) these three players could be, even when the game didn’t matter. --Alan Moores

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416547983
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416547983
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,807,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For many baseball players during the early part of the 20th century, the regular season's wages paid such a paltry sum, they had to work during the off-season, as well, just to make ends meet. For these guys, there were no big endorsement deals; no long-term contracts that paid them huge sums of money. The "big name" players would usually hit the road after the regular season had drawn to a conclusion, and take their acts to places that rarely had the chance to watch major league action; towns like Des Moines, Omaha, Kankakee, or Fargo. These folks who normally wouldn't get the chance to see the likes of Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, now had the chance to see these legends perform up close, in a very informal environment; barnstorming filled a void for thousands of fans, from coast to coast, and the players became even bigger legends with the masses.

With that scenario as a backdrop, Timothy M Gay has compiled a wonderful story of how three of the game's most colorful, and talented performers - Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller - got together during an off-season to create some magic for a nation in the throes of the Great Depression; and give fans a preview of interracial baseball, long before Jackie Robinson officially broke the color barrier in 1947.

The performances of the players were never recorded in the official archives of major league baseball; but for the fans who witnessed the action - on and off the field - this was as good as it gets; and the memories lasted a lifetime.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any subject is in good hands with author Tim Gay, a splendid writer and meticulous researcher. In Satch, Dizzy and Rapid Robert, Gay does an excellent job of chronicling the interracial baseball exhibitions before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller are the main characters in these barnstorming exhibition games which started in 1934 and continued through 1947. Barnstorming was a way for entrepreneurial baseball players to try to earn some extra money. These interracial exhibition games "combing back roads, were part of the last gasp before television, mass marketing and interstate highways forever dulled our culture."

Gay writes that the interracial exhibition games "helped puncture baseball apartheid. They went a long way toward making the game the national pastime."

Satch and Dizzy first battled each other in 1934 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in front of 17,000. They both pitched 13 innings and Dizzy struck out 13 and gave up one run, while Satch struck out 17 and hurled a shutout. While the fabled match up has been recounted by Bill Veeck and others, no record of the game has been found.

Feller first met Satch in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1936 as a 17-year-old. The last time they faced each other was Nov. 2, 1947, in Los Angeles. By 1947, baseball integration had taken away the novelty of interracial barnstorming and the days of baseball's two fastest pitchers matching skills against each other were virtually over.

Feller's 1946 barnstorming tour was called "the most successful in baseball history." His teams played 22 games, including 19 against the Satchel Paige Negro All-Stars. Feller's squad went 17-5 and drew 250,000 fans.
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Format: Hardcover
In "Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert", Timothy M. Gay brings to life the largely forgotten story of the interracial barnstorming games of the 1930s and 1940s. Despite the opposition of Commissioner Landis, these games thrived in the offseason because the players needed the money and the public, especially in smaller towns and the then-Major-League-deprived West Coast wanted to see the stars, white and black. And the biggest star on the barnstorming circuit was the ageless Satchel Paige. Gay begins in the thirties and the exploits of Paige and Dizzy Dean who, fresh off his Cardinals' World Series Sweep of the Tigers, had replaced Babe Ruth as the pre-eminent Major Leaguer. Gay aptly compares Diz and Satch as fastball throwing versions of Huck Finn and Jim, and his recounting of the games in their barnstorming tours beginning in 1934 flows like a journey down the Mississippi. He punctuates the flow of these games - painstakingly recounted from the limited press coverage - with fascinating vignettes of the other characters in Satch's show. These include future Hall of Famers from the Negro Leagues, such as Oscar Charleston, as well as the impresarios of the Negro Leagues and the major leaguers who joined Diz on tour. Above all this, are the continuing stories of the three principals - Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller. Feller, who approached the tours as both player and promoter, reflected the often conflicted racial views of that era. Gay recounts how Feller, a friend and advocate for Paige, continually belittled the abilities and accomplishments of Jackie Robinson. Ultimately, it was Robinson and the others who integrated the major leagues that spelled the end for the Negro Leagues. Soon, television and better pay for big leaguers put an end to barnstorming. Fortunately for us, Timothy Gay did not heed Satchel Paige's advice - "Don't look back" - and has given us a marvellous look back at a fascinating chapter in the history of our National Pastime.
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