Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era

By Charles C. Alexander | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 9
Shadowball

IN THE SUMMER OF 1939, the Sporting News, whose masthead proclaimed it to be the “baseball paper of the world,” carried a feature article on contemporary major leaguers with names such as Krakauskas, Bordagarary, Kamporuis, Chiozza, Estalella, and Lodigiani, with the advisory that the names weren't “typographical errors” but “just so many members of the nation's greatest force of democracy—baseball, the national game— the melting pot of the sons of all languages, the caldron of equal big opportunity.” 1

That was a true statement as far as it went. What the Sporting News's encomium ignored was the total exclusion from Organized Baseball of roughly 10 percent of this country's population as well as black and racially mixed athletes from other countries. It also ignored the fact that by that time Leroy “Satchel” Paige—a tall, lean, semiliterate, thirty-four-year-old native of Mobile, Alabama—was, apart from Babe Ruth, possibly the bestknown baseball player in the Western Hemisphere. Because his skin was black, Satchel Paige practiced his marvelous pitching talents outside Organized Baseball.

Such was baseball reality in the American 1930s, the last decade of allwhite Organized Baseball. Voices of protest had been raised over the years—in fact, they became more numerous and vehement in the thirties. In 1931, for example, the Chicago journalist Westbrook Pegler (a racial liberal subsequently made anathema by political liberals for his anti—New Dealism) denounced “the craziest wrong in baseball.” Black Americans,

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