Synopses & Reviews
When the selection committee voted Alejandro “Alex” Pompez into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, some cried foul. A Negro-league owner during baseballs glory days, Pompez was known as an early and steadfast advocate for Latino players, helping bring baseball into the modern age. So why was his induction so controversial?
Like many in the era of segregated baseball, Pompez found that the game alone could never make all ends meet. To finance his beloved team, the New York Cubans, he delved headlong into a sin many baseball fans find unforgivable—gambling. He built one of the most infamous numbers rackets in Harlem, eventually arousing the ire of the famed prosecutor Thomas Dewey. But he also led his Cubans, with their star lineup of Latino players, to a Negro-league World Series championship in 1947.
In this effervescent biography, the historian and sportswriter Adrian Burgos, Jr., brings to life the world of professional baseball during a time of enormous change. Following Pompez from his early days to the twilight of his career, Burgos offers a glimpse inside the clubhouse as both owners and players struggled with the new realities of the game. That todays rosters are filled with names like Rodriguez, Pujols, Rivera, and Ortiz is a testament to Pompez and his lasting influence.
“Once again, Adrian Burgos has written a fascinating book about the stories behind the stories of the game of baseball. If you are at all curious about why the most common names in the major leagues are Martinez and Rodriguez, this elegant volume is for you.” —Ken Burns “When I came to the Giants organization in 1955, Alex Pompez went to bat for me in a way no one else ever did. He took me and the other young Latino players under his wing, teaching us English and guiding us through the racially charged terrain of the majors at the time. In this long-overdue book, Adrian Burgos vividly portrays Pompez as he was: a great, flawed man and a steadfast lover of the game.” —Orlando Cepeda, Hall of Fame First Baseman “I know Adrian Burgos as a dedicated academic, historian, teacher, and true baseball fan. In Cuban Star, he's done a masterful job of casting light on a key Latin American baseball executive who has for too long gone unnoticed. A great read!” —Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame Outfielder “The story of Alex Pompez gives readers a very different take on the integration of major league baseball from the feel good version that focuses on Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. There were losers as well as winners, and Pompez and other black baseball entrepreneurs have been largely ignored until now.” —Roger Daniels, author of Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882 “One of the best baseball books of the new millennium . . . [Burgos] is a terrific writer and knows when he has a great subject.” —Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle “A wonderfully detailed portrait . . . The research is impeccable. The context provided is nuanced and rich . . . This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the Latinization of Major League Baseball.” —Luis Clemens, NPR.org “Highly recommended for those studying baseball and African American or Latino studies.” —Robert Cottrell, Library Journal (starred review)
A proud and boisterous Negro-League team owner, Alex Pompez rose to prominence during Latino baseballs earliest glory days. As a passionate and steadfast advocate for Latino players, he helped bring baseball into the modern age. But like many in the era of segregated baseball, Pompez also found that the game alone could never make all ends meet, and he delved headlong into the seedier side of the sport—gambling—to help finance his beloved team, the New York Cubans. He built one of the most infamous numbers rackets in Harlem, rubbing shoulders with titans of the underworld and eventually arousing the ire of the famed prosecutor Thomas Dewey. He also brought the Cubans, with their incredible lineup of international players, to a Negro League World Series Championship in 1947. Pompez presided over the twilight of the Negro League, holding it together as long as possible in the face of integration even as he helped his players make the transition to the majors. That todays rosters are filled with names like Rodriguez, Pujols, Rivera, and Ortiz is a testament to the influence of Pompez and his contemporaries.
About the Author
Adrian Burgos, Jr., is an associate professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Playing Americas Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line. His work has been featured on NPR and ESPNs SportsCenter, in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and in other media outlets.