Raceball by Rob Ruck is a book that well describes the history of the sport of baseball and its connection to Latinos to blacks. It is a book that mentions many of the hardships as well as the successes that both respective races achieved in the 20 and 21st centuries as baseball slowly opened up to people of color. The struggles of both races led to a feeling that Baseball can be unique and I feel through the sport it is as if both races have been linked for over a century. First, they struggled with being excluded from the major leagues and then they had their struggles after being integrated. In a sense, African Americans and Latinos have reshaped the game and that is something Rob Ruck argues throughout his book. It took a while but it can perhaps be argued that this global game now can be played by men of all races and nations but it isn’t as democratic as it proclaims to be.
Rob Ruck mentions how baseball’s future as an international game, one free of racial constraint, could scarcely have been imagined in the early 1900s. However, Havana, Cuba might have been an exception to that idea. After baseball was introduced to the country of Cuba in 1864, baseball quickly grew with the Habana Baseball Club being one of the earliest teams in the country. However, even there it wasn’t perfect as Afro-Cubans may have been tolerated during the games but they weren’t welcome at dinners and dances.
And sadly, it was even worse for black people in the United States. 90% lived in the South before the Great Migration in the 1890s and there was very little chance of a viable black baseball league emerging. In truth, there wasn’t even a notable black league in general until Rube Foster who created the Negro National League in 1920. It had its strengths but eventually fell like the other black leagues before it.
Jumping ahead things changed when Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1945. His signing followed the end of the Second World War and was able to bring the idea of “those who were good enough to fight by the side of the whites are plenty good enough to play by the side of whites!” With Robinson, he carried “the hopes, aspirations, and ambitions of thirteen million black Americans.”
However, I don’t want to accidentally make this just a detailed summary of what Rob Ruck wrote so I will talk about my praises and small negatives towards the reading. First, I am pretty new to baseball, I enjoy the sport and know the very basics of baseball history in the United States but I love how he focused on other countries. I am half-Mexican myself and I didn’t even know there was a Mexican league that was quite comparable to the MLB. Topics like that are what made me enjoy the reading. To learn about the roots of baseball in the Carribean was entertaining to learn about as I have always known how good those countries were as I grew up watching the Carribean Series.
I also felt his organization was pretty well done. At first, it did feel awkward to jump between years but then I began to understand that it wasn’t supposed to be a chronological timeline but each chapter is based on either focus of Latino or Black.
If there was a negative to his writing is that there are some parts that felt like fluff. There were paragraphs long of random stats, that while at times it can make a connection to the grander scheme of things like how Jackie Robinson performed in his first few years of the game. However, there were times when I felt like the stats were pointless. If anything, I would have liked to see a slower progression as to why Black baseball was starting to dwindle. I do remember small mentions like scholarships being a reason but I don’t feel he was as detailed as he could have been about it.
All in all, I enjoyed the book. I thought it was going to be treated like a textbook but it wasn’t and I prefer it that way. Sure there were long-winded stats that made it feel more textbook but I felt the general approach of the book was well done. I do feel like those stats, however, would be much more appealing to someone who is very into baseball. But I feel there was a little something for everyone in this book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a little more knowledge on sports history.