Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line

Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line

Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line

Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line

Synopsis

Although largely ignored by historians of both baseball in general and the Negro leagues in particular, Latinos have been a significant presence in organized baseball from the beginning. In this benchmark study on Latinos and professional baseball from the 1880s to the present, Adrian Burgos tells a compelling story of the men who negotiated the color line at every turn--passing as "Spanish" in the major leagues or seeking respect and acceptance in the Negro leagues.

Burgos draws on archival materials from the U.S., Cuba, and Puerto Rico, as well as Spanish- and English-language publications and interviews with Negro league and major league players. He demonstrates how the manipulation of racial distinctions that allowed management to recruit and sign Latino players provided a template for Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager Branch Rickey when he initiated the dismantling of the color line by signing Jackie Robinson in 1947. Burgos's extensive examination of Latino participation before and after Robinson's debut documents the ways in which inclusion did not signify equality and shows how notions of racialized difference have persisted for darker-skinned Latinos like Orestes ("Minnie") Miñoso, Roberto Clemente, and Sammy Sosa.

Excerpt

Baseball was never far away as I was growing up in northern New Jersey and southern Florida. My earliest baseball memory is of a game I attended at Yankee Stadium in 1976, the year the stadium was reopened. There were also Sunday afternoon games where church members would congregate after morning service. the sounds of people conversing in Spanish and English, bats striking balls, and gloves popping have been forever etched in my childhood memories. After we moved to Florida, I could be found on about any afternoon playing baseball, whether in a league, on a school team, or dueling with my neighbor in our own version of the game. He turned out to be quite a ballplayer, winning Broward County’s high school player-of-the-year award and starring in Division I college ball while I played at the Division iii level.

Baseball provided a forum among my relatives to discuss broader issues about sports, history, and community. My grandmother Petra Maldonado’s dinner invitations to watch Yankee games were opportunities to talk baseball and family history as she shared stories of old-time players and of her experience living in Puerto Rico during the first half of the twentieth century. My grandmother Mercedes Rivera imparted similar historical lessons during the year I lived with her while I taught high . . .

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