Playing Ball in a Black and White "Field of Dreams": Afro-Caribbean Ballplayers in the Negro Leagues, 1910-1950

By Burgos, Adrian, Jr. | The Journal of Negro History, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Playing Ball in a Black and White "Field of Dreams": Afro-Caribbean Ballplayers in the Negro Leagues, 1910-1950


Burgos, Adrian, Jr., The Journal of Negro History


An established part of Americana, for many Americans, baseball evokes nostalgic remembrances of green pastoral spaces, individual triumph, and the "good ole days when we played just for the fun of it." As a trope within popular culture in the United States, baseball connotes a kinder, innocent past, where heroes could always redeem themselves and, by extension, the American Dream. Thus, the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 struck many fans hard. The association of eight Chicago White Sox players with gamblers betting on the 1919 World Series resulted in allegations that these men, including the great "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, "threw" the Series in exchange for payment. The paine's pristine image required restoration. Baseball's Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis restored the paine's sanctity by banning these men. Attempting to restore the stature of the banned eight, the revisionist film "Field of Dreams" revealed a more contemporary example of baseball as a trope. Alluding to American iconography - baseball diamond, midwestern cornfields, the small farmer straggling against the corporate absorption - the film's monochromatic imagery failed to portray "how the other side" played. Acknowledging the multicolored tones and multicultural world that has existed in the Americas throughout the twentieth century, the notable absence of nonwhite ballplayers beckoned attention.

Mirroring societal conditions and race relations in the United States heading into the twentieth century, members of various racial/ethnic communities created institutions to meet the needs of those excluded from the white mainstream. Starting in the late nineteenth century, the imposition of a color line by white professional ballplayers coalesced efforts by African-Americans to form their own professional leagues. Various "Negro Leagues" developed from this effort. In 1920, a former ballplayer turned entrepreneur, Andrew "Rube" Forster pooled financial resources from a conglomeration of black and white businessman to create the most successful and viable Negro League.(1) Forster's Negro League operated as the primary major league for black ballplayers until 1947. Its demise began with Major League Baseball, a (MLB) integration, which was indicated by the Brooklyn Dodgers' signing of the Kansas City Monarchs' Jackie Robinson. In the following decades, MLB's integrationist project disempowered the mark of race.(2)

Actually, since the Caribbean ballplayers participated on either side of the racial fault line, the "color line" and the notions of race had already been problematic tools of exclusion. The histories written on either baseball institution are, for the most part, presented in duotones (black and white), disregarding the gradations of color and cultures arising from the African Diaspora in the Atlantic World. This work interrogates this abstraction by focusing on those Caribbean ballplayers who played in the Negro Leagues, the world in which they lived, and their understanding of race. Complicating the historical representation of baseball during this era, this treatment engages important aspects of the player's social world: baseball's transmission into the Hispanic Caribbean, the images of North America that the game represented, and the game's adoption by working class people.

Playing on a New Field: "If you build it, they will come"

In the Puerto Rican village, rumor had it that Canelito, the old negrito down the road, used to be some big-time ballplayer back in the States. Few of Canelito's fellow villagers could fathom this by his current physique when they interacted - the years had worn his body, and well, there were just more important things to talk about. Every so often some of the village youngsters would humor their parents para darle respeto (give their respect) to one of the town's senior citizens. On these occasions, Canelito shared his stories about leaving the island as a youngster and his feats as a ballplayer, and he even provided a moral to his experience. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Playing Ball in a Black and White "Field of Dreams": Afro-Caribbean Ballplayers in the Negro Leagues, 1910-1950
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.