Baseball has always been “America’s game,” and like many things in America, it was built on the backs of marginalized groups both in and outside of the country. I believe many people associate early baseball with names like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, the white players that the major leagues chose to shine the spotlight on. While these are great players who did help to popularize and advance the sport, baseball wouldn’t be what it is today without the black or Caribean players who made the game exciting and outshone their white counterparts.
Baseball has been around in America since the 19th century. It slowly grew in popularity throughout the 1800s before it exploded at the turn of the century. As baseball was growing, so was America. The turn of the century saw American Imperialism creep its way out of North America into pacific and Caribbean countries such as Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc. These imperialism missions became a way to spread American values to “savage nations.” American soldiers and missionaries were also teaching the natives things, such as baseball. Baseball took off in these Caribbean countries. Leagues started to pop up, players started to be recruited, and teams would play in both the US and their own countries. Cuba was a force to be reckoned with in baseball. Cuban players intimated both white and black teams in the US.
As the book mentions, Black players have been the ones to struggle the most in terms of getting their seats at the table when it comes to baseball. Also, at the turn of the century, with Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws becoming more intense in the South, the country saw a Great Migration of African Americans moving out of the south and into Northern cities where they could be given more opportunities. Part of this chance for opportunity included a career in Baseball. Even though the major leagues were strictly segregated, cities in the North offered opportunities for black players in the Negro Leagues, something that was scarce in the South. Black Baseball not only gave the players a chance to prove themselves, but it gave all African Americans in these cities something to root for and, as the book says, “was central to black social life.”
One of the most shocking parts of the first few chapters was learning about how these two minority groups were pitted against one another for the success of Baseball. I didnt know that this was still a competition going on in the major leagues, and it’s all something that’s been orchestrated by MLBs because of their growing need for control and profit of the players themselves.