ELSTON AND ME: The Story of the First Black Yankee

Arlene Howard, Author, Ralph Wimbish, With, Yogi Berra, Foreword by with Ralph Wimbish. Missouri Univ. $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1358-7

Arlene Howard, Elston Howard's widow, details her husband's life from his St. Louis childhood through his untimely death. The book successfully conveys both the respect that Howard commanded from his teammates and his struggles in being the first black member of the Yankees, one of the last teams to integrate because their general manager at the time, George Weiss, "saw no need to integrate a ball club strongly supported by white, upscale fans." Often compared to Jackie Robinson, Howard faced criticism both from racists and from blacks who believed he did not speak out strongly enough against discrimination. The book makes clear that Howard was accepted by his teammates (most notably Yogi Berra), who were apparently not bigoted like Weiss and others in the organization. Surprisingly, and disappointingly, the author focuses primarily on baseball matters and does not really lend much insight into Elston's life off the field. Describing Howard's 1956 "so-so season," she recalls that he was hospitalized "after he broke out in welts. The doctors said they were the result of nerves," but she gives no further explanation. Most of the portraits of Elston as a man come secondhand from players and coaches rather than directly from his wife. The one exception concerns Howard's quest to become the first black manager in the majors; his private thoughts in this endeavor are clearly conveyed. Still, despite its shortcomings, the book is engaging, and Howard's life is interesting enough that it should do well among both Yankee fans and baseball history buffs. 30 b&w photos. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-8262-6350-6
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