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SYMBOL OF ACHIEVEMENT
Away from baseball, Negro major leaguers have a higher standing in their own communities than white players do in theirs. The minimum major league salary is $7,500 a year, and only ½ of 1% of the U.S.'s 17 million Negroes make more than $5,000 a year. "The Negro ballplayers have become symbols of achievement, symbols of Negro participation in a white world," Professor Frazier says, "and with their high incomes and conspicuous consumption they are an important part of the bourgeoisie elite."
Negro ballplayers are much on the mind of the Negro in general, and at times they are regarded with awe, even though a big name will no longer "sell" a business. When Don Newcombe walked into a faculty cafeteria at Howard, everyone arose except for a professor of anthropology who didn't know who Newcombe was. (After he found out he still refused to stand up. Later he complained to Frazier, "Imagine professors standing up for a ballplayer!")
Frazier places sports, with baseball in the lead, as the No. 1 topic of conversation among Negroes, and in Black Bourgeoisie, his study of the Negro middle class, he reports: "Once the writer heard a Negro doctor who was prominent 'socially' say that he would rather lose a patient than have his favorite baseball team lose a game. This was an extreme expression of the relative value of professional work and recreation among the black bourgeoisie. It also is indicative of the value which many Negro professional men and women, including college professors, place upon sports.
"Except when they are talking within the narrow fields of the professions, their conversations are generally limited to sports—baseball and football. They follow religiously the scores of the various teams and the achievements of all the players. For hours they listen to the radio accounts of sports and watch baseball and football games on television."
White Sociologist Wilson Record of Sacramento State College says that when he was doing field research in Chicago several years ago Negroes who played the numbers game, an illegal lottery based on pari-mutuel returns at race tracks, would keep tabs on a special box The Chicago Daily Defender carried listing the batting averages of all Negro hitters. "From this," says Record, "they would get a number to play."
THE HOUSE OF SATAN
Unlike some Negro entertainers who show what Sociologist Philip Rieff of the University of California calls "the most dismal readiness to express hostility to the bulk of the Negro world below them," the ballplayers are generally "race" men. "The Negro players do accept responsibility as race men," Mal Goode says. "Fifteen of them are buying or already have bought life memberships in the NAACP. That's $500. Also many of them have made special contributions to the NAACP. When the NAACP was fighting in the Supreme Court, the NAACP would send telegrams asking players for money. I've only heard one [Negro] ballplayer make a derogatory remark. He said, 'Don't you think the NAACP stirs up trouble?' I said, 'Do me a favor. Never say anything like that again.' "
Frazier is not surprised at the ballplayers being race men. "A baseball player is attached to conventional worlds," he says. "An entertainer isn't." As he sees it, the entertainer dwells in "the house of Satan," so to speak, where anything goes and ties are broken in the process, but the baseball player doesn't. After all, says Frazier, "baseball is ah American sport with American respectability."