Black Baseball Books

Over the years the Negro Leagues have gone from relative obscurity to the front burner. That’s a good thing. These people and their teams needed to be remembered. Part of what brought them to prominence was a series of books about them. Here’s a sample.

Only the Ball was White by Robert Peterson. It’s an older book originally written in 1970. For me it began an interest in the Negro Leagues because it was the first work I read on the subject. Still a good book, if dated. Not much on stats but good narrative going back to the beginnings of black baseball in 1867. There are short biographies of some of the major players.

The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James A. Riley. Published in 1994 it is a series of sketches of the Negro Leagues. There are baseball biographies of the players, some rather long, others only a couple of lines. The bios aren’t bad and deal mainly with the baseball aspects of the player’s life. They tend to stay away from controversy in the player’s life (see the difference between the bio in this book and the comments on Wikipedia and SportsPhd on Hank Thompson as an example). There are also biographies of owners, of individual teams, and of the leagues. For what it is supposed to do, it does it well.

Shades of Glory by Lawrence D. Hogan. This book is very recent. A few years back a new Hall of Fame committee was set up to go through the Negro Leagues and determine who should and should not be added to the Hall of Fame. A number of very good players and some owners were ultimately added. This book is a compilation of the research done for the committee, so you get to look at what the committee was shown in making their decision. Good stuff with lots of stats and stories.

There are, of course, other works, but these should keep you busy for a while.

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