Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line

Tom Dunkel, Author
Tom Dunkel. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2012-0
Paperback - 366 pages - 978-0-8021-2137-0
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A decade before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line in 1947, an integrated team captured the imagination of Bismarck, N.Dak. by winning the national, semiprofessional baseball title. Bismarck was a town where “Norman Rockwell would have found plenty of... inspiration,” even though “Dakotans groped their way along the racial divide.” Bismarck’s integrated team was the brainchild of Neil Churchill, a failed dry goods clerk–cum–car salesman and inveterate gambler who subsidized the team’s existence with his winnings. Churchill looked to the Negro Leagues, “cherry-picking players” who were prohibited from playing in the Major Leagues to reinforce his roster, with his prize being the great Satchel Paige. Freelance journalist Dunkel (the Washington Post) delves into the history of players, towns, and baseball itself in constructing this portrait of a harmonious team rising above a segregated society. The tangential history lessons render the triumph of racial harmony a subtext within the larger context of sports, but it’s a story that transcends championships, and an inspirational reflection on an otherwise dismal human rights history. (Apr.)
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