Synopses & Reviews
The story of Jackie Robinson valiantly breaking baseballand#8217;s color barrier in 1947 is one that most Americans know. But less recognized is the fact that some seventy years earlier, following the Civil War, baseball was tenuously biracial and had the potential for a truly open game. How, then, did the game become so firmly segregated that it required a trailblazer like Robinson? The answer, Ryan A. Swanson suggests, has everything to do with the politics of and#8220;reconciliationand#8221; and a wish to avoid the issues of race that an integrated game necessarily raised.
and#160;The history of baseball during Reconstruction, asand#160;Swansonand#160;tells it, is a story of lost opportunities. Thomas Fitzgerald and Octavius Catto (a Philadelphia baseball tandem), for example, were poised to emerge as pioneers of integration in the 1860s. Instead, the desire to create a and#8220;national gameand#8221;and#8212;professional and appealing to white Northerners and Southerners alikeand#8212;trumped any movement toward civil rights. Focusing on Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Richmondand#8212;three cities with large African American populations and thriving baseball clubsand#8212;Swanson uncovers the origins of baseballand#8217;s segregation and the mechanics of its implementation. An important piece of sports history, his work also offers a better understanding of Reconstruction, race, and segregation in America.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
and#8220;Deeply researched and well written, Ryan A. Swansonand#8217;s When Baseball Went White carefully examines and#8216;the mechanics of segregationand#8217; that racially cleansed organized baseball during Reconstruction and in the process helped the game become our and#8216;national pastime,and#8217; at the expense of civil rights and racial justice.and#160; Swanson reveals, in fine detail, how a sport that would become a truly meaningful cultural practice and institution nevertheless became something less than it might have been.and#8221;and#8212;Daniel A. Nathan, president of the North American Society for Sport History and author of Saying Itand#8217;s So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal
and#8220;Ryan Swanson's carefully researched and wonderfully nuanced study of baseballand#8217;s declining race relations during Reconstruction sheds considerable light on this oft-neglected topic. A must-read.and#8221;and#8212;Peter Morris, author of A Game of Inches and Level Playing Fields
"Aand#160;boon to scholars of both the early development of baseball and race relations after the Civil War."and#8212;Library Journal
About the Author
Ryan A. Swanson is an assistant professor and the director of the Lobo Scholars Program in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico.