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THE NEGRO LEAGUE—THE NECESSARY PRECURSOR OF BASEBALL INTEGRATION
Jeremiah Tax
August 29, 1983
The quality that distinguishes Donn Rogosin's new book, Invisible Men (Atheneum, $14.95), is passion, a passion for justice. The book is, then, a crusade, and should be read as such. Rogosin's aim—a modest one, he insists, and surely he is right—is to secure for the black athletes who participated in baseball's Negro leagues their proper place as contributors to the eventual integration of the sport and to many other aspects of 20th century American life. I find it overwhelmingly persuasive.
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August 29, 1983

The Negro League—the Necessary Precursor Of Baseball Integration

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The quality that distinguishes Donn Rogosin's new book, Invisible Men (Atheneum, $14.95), is passion, a passion for justice. The book is, then, a crusade, and should be read as such. Rogosin's aim—a modest one, he insists, and surely he is right—is to secure for the black athletes who participated in baseball's Negro leagues their proper place as contributors to the eventual integration of the sport and to many other aspects of 20th century American life. I find it overwhelmingly persuasive.

Rogosin is not nearly as good a writer as several others who have been drawn to this and overlapping areas of social history—Jules Tygiel, Robert Peterson, Roger Kahn—but his research skills and the impetus of the mission he assumed have diminished this deficiency to the point of inconsequence. He has a doctorate in American civilization, taught "The Cultural History of American Sport" at the University of Texas, has produced a four-part documentary on the Negro leagues for National Public Radio, and has on tape extensive interviews with a large number of the surviving black players, writers, owners and other participants in the turbulent decades before baseball rectified its hypocritical stand on racial issues.

Rogosin's thesis is that baseball was not integrated by Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson—the moralistic great white father and the shining black knight—as today's myth has it, but by the skills, determination and achievements of the men of the Negro leagues. Rickey "saw that integration was impossible to avoid," and he and Robinson, while denigrating the strong influence of black baseball, swam with the inevitable tide it created. The book does not attack either man but attempts to place their actions in proper perspective. Far more important—and entertaining—it exposes a long-hidden and often deliberately ignored chapter of sports and social evolution, thereby bringing recognition to the careers of many talented individuals. The author has served his passion well.

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