cover image Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier

Singles and Smiles: How Artie Wilson Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier

Gaylon H. White. Rowman & Littlefield, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5381-0790-4

In this workmanlike biography, veteran sportswriter White (The Bilko Athletic Club) celebrates the life of Artie Wilson, “the best shortstop post-war,” and the role he played in breaking the minor league baseball color barrier. Wilson, a member of the 1946 All-Star team, joined such Negro League legends as Roy Campanella, Luke Easter, and newcomer Jackie Robinson, who broke the major league color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. White accurately details how Dodgers owner Branch Rickey passed over Wilson, then on the Birmingham Barons, for the younger Robinson, and how two pro teams’ bitter 1951 battle over the talented shortstop ultimately resulted in Wilson being sent to the minor-league Oakland Oaks. Some sportswriters felt Wilson was not major league material despite solid Oakland fan support and superior statistics: “Artful Artie” was a .400 hitter and a superb fielder. Wilson conceded to Robinson as “the right man” for the Dodgers; White argues, however, that Wilson’s stellar career didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Wilson finished out his career with the Sacramento Solons in 1957 before a career-ending eye injury. White’s respectful account of Wilson lauds the capable athlete and the difficulties of surmounting the rigid color barrier. (Apr.)