I realized that the Robinson story, easily the most familiar chapter of American sports history, had never really been told in its entirety. Most accounts, primarily biographies and autobiographies, had stressed events and personalities but had failed to place them into a social or historical context. Robinson's entry into organized baseball had created a national drama, emotionally involving millions of Americans, both black and white. His triumph had ramifications that transcended the realm of sports, influencing public attitudes and facilitating the spread of the ideology of the civil rights movement. In addition, Robinson had only launched the integration process. Surely the heritage of decades of discrimination and ostracism had not disappeared overnight. What were the experiences of the scores of other black players hwo had entered baseball in the 1940s and 1950s? What had happened to the now forgotten Negro Leagues in the aftermath of desegregation? I also realized that numerous sources of information -- black newspapers, personal papers and scrapbooks, and the recollections many of the more obscure pioneers of baseball integration -- had been largely ignored. Here, it seemed, lay a tale still worthy of re-examination and re-telling.While I revere Baseball's Great Experiment, I instead opted to include the much more recent Past Time in my own top 10, calling it "a concise summary of nine trends that changed baseball, by one of the game's unsung scholars." What stands out in particular within the latter volume are Tygiel's fascinating portrait of the ever-tormented Larry MacPhail, his handy primer on the era of franchise relocations (which came in particularly handy when I wrote about the 1959 NL race between the Boston-to-Milwaukee Braves, Brooklyn-to-Los Angeles Dodgers and New York-to-San Francisco Giants for It Ain't Over), and his discussion of baseball statistics from Henry Chadwick to Bill James and the Rotisserie League craze of the Eighties.
When the turmoil of the Depression and World War II began to challenge the prevailing racial consensus, baseball stepped to the forefront as a vehicle of change. In 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey recruited Jackie Robinson to defy the color line. Robinson's dramatic and convincing triumph produced a modern American legend and a blueprint for social revolution. The success of African Americans in baseball offered one of the nation's most compelling arguments for integration, making it a significant precursor of the civil rights triumphs to follow.And who can forget Tygiel's scathing open letter to since-disgraced Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey over the latter's bullshit decision to cancel a Bull Durham commemoration due to Tim Robbins' and Susan Sarandon's criticism of the Bush administration's waging of war in Iraq:
Robinson's achievement had such a profound impact precisely because baseball had such an immense hold on the American psyche. As Thomas Wolfe has written, baseball is "not merely 'the great national game,' but really the part of the whole weather of our lives, of the thing that is our own, of the whole fabric, the million memories of America."
No other common activity resonated so regularly and intensely in American life as the national pastime. Played virtually every day over a six-month span and tracked religiously in the mass media, baseball offered its partisans a steady diet of entertainment, drama and controversy. Americans routinely interspersed their language with baseball metaphors. Unexpected occurrences came form "out of left field." People confounded others by "throwing them a curve." Prodigious feats were described as "Ruthian."
In a a"fireside chat" broadcast on the radio in May 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented his hopes for his new administration to the American people in a language they would readily understand. "I have no expectation of making a hit every time I come to bat," explained Roosevelt. "What I seek is the highest possible batting average, not only for myself but for my team." In the last days of his life, Roosevelt confessed: "I feel like a baseball team going into the ninth inning with only eight men left to play."
The presidency of the Baseball Hall of Fame is, in effect, a sacred trust. By politicizing the Hall of Fame, you have violated that trust. Your position does not give you the right to impose your own political views on the events at the Hall to the exclusion of all others. One must assume that if people who protest American military actions are not welcome at the Hall of Fame, then Abraham Lincoln who opposed the Mexican War, Mark Twain who opposed the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who opposed the war in Vietnam would not be welcome at the Baseball Hall of Fame. I also must assume that this letter jeopardizes my own future relationship with the Hall.Like Asinof, James and so many other great writers, Tygiel is worthy of a spot in Cooperstown himself. He will be greatly missed.
June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010
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