Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

By Chris Lamb | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
“L’AFFAIRE JAKE POWELL”

During a pregame interview at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 29, 1938, WGN radio announcer Bob Elson asked New York Yankees outfielder Jake Powell what he did during the off-season. Powell said that he was a policeman in Dayton, Ohio, where he kept in shape by cracking “niggers” over the head with his nightstick. Before the next day’s game, a delegation of blacks presented a petition to umpires demanding that Powell be banned from baseball for life. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended the ballplayer for ten days. The Sporting News reported that it was the first time that a Major League ballplayer was suspended for a racist remark. While baseball had thus far turned a deaf ear to criticism of its color ban in the black press, it could neither dismiss nor deny the outcry over Powell’s remark, made live on radio and heard by thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of listeners. Author Donn Rogosin suggested that not only did the incident solidify the sense of outrage against baseball’s color line, but it illus-

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Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Part 1 1
  • Chapter 1 - White Sportswriters and Minstrel Shows 3
  • Part 2 27
  • Chapter 2 - The Color Line Is Drawn 29
  • Chapter 3 - Invisible Men 57
  • Chapter 4 - “Agitators” and “Social-Minded Drum Beaters” 85
  • Part 3 107
  • Chapter 5 - “l’Affaire Jake Powell” 109
  • Chapter 6 - Major League Managers and Ballplayers Call for End of Color Line 133
  • Part 4 157
  • Chapter 7 - The Double V Campaign 159
  • Chapter 8 - “The Great White Father” Speaks 187
  • Chapter 9 - Black Editors Make Their Case for Desegregation 217
  • Chapter 10 - “Get Those Niggers off the Field” 249
  • Part 5 281
  • Chapter 11 - Robinson Becomes the Chosen One 283
  • Part 6 305
  • Chapter 12 - “I Never Want to Take Another Trip like This One” 307
  • Notes 335
  • Bibliography 363
  • Index 375
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