I’ve been putting most of my blogging energies into Cooking Chat, but I do want to get back into blogging here with some regularity. A good place to start is with a quick book review of Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line by Tom Dunkel.
Color Blind tells the nearly forgotten history of an integrated semi-pro baseball team from Bismarck, North Dakota, that managed to become one of the most successful baseball teams at its level in the 1930s. There is a great deal of interesting history about baseball in that era and small-town life in the Midwest at the time.
Early in the book, Dunkel does a good job painting the picture of what a big deal local baseball teams were in small cities and towns in places like North Dakota during the 1920s and 1930s. With no televised sports, and professional teams being hundreds of miles away, it was a big deal to have a local team you could watch live. Not to mention how people were seeking a distraction from the struggles of the Depression and Dust Bowl.
The manager of the Bismarck squad, Neil Churchill, did not have a grand vision for social change that led him to recruit black players. He simply wanted to field a competitive baseball team. Though the big leagues were white only during this period of time, semi-pro teams would from time to time recruit top players from the Negro Leagues and other talented African American ballplayers. Churchill went all in with this approach.
By the time the Bismark team was competing for national tournament titles in 1935, the roster was full of some top African American players. Foremost among them was the legendary pitcher Satchell Paige. As a baseball fan, reading Color Blind was a good chance to learn more about this extremely talented pitcher. Unfortunately, learning more about Paige’s skills is bittersweet, as it serves as a vivid reminder of how much baseball missed by not having some of the best players of the era competing in big leagues. Not to mention how unfair it was to the players; and the book does give some glimpse into how frustrating baseball’s racist policies were to the players.
Churchill and Paige were two very colorful characters that helped make the story of Color blind interesting. There were a few times that the book delved into some detail that I found a bit less interesting, but overall it was an interesting and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend Color Blind to anyone interested in learning more about the history of baseball and its intersection with our country’s history of segregation.
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