Press Box Red: A Review

Press Box Red cover

Time to leave the world of 1908 and move to something more modern. I haven’t done a book review in a while so it’s time to fix that. This time I want to look at a book titled Press Box Red by Irwin Silber.

Silber tells, in this work, the story of Lester Rodney, an American Communist who became influential in the sports world. Rodney became the sports editor, and generally the only member of the sports department, of The Daily Worker, the Communist Party of the United States newspaper. During the 1930s and 1940s he used the sports page of the paper to campaign for equal rights in the country. He was a stalwart supporter of Joe Lewis and one of the most ardent voices for the integration of baseball.

The book is very much a polemic as much as a history or biography. You know where Silber stands on the issues in which Rodney is embroiled. It is, having said that, still a worthwhile read because it reminds us that Branch Rickey wasn’t the only person desirous of integrating the Major Leagues. There were a number of voices raised arguing that it was time to make “The National Game” truly national. Silber also reminds the reader that several of those voices were white, rather than black. Beginning as early as 1936, Rodney wrote repeated articles arguing for the integration of baseball as “the right thing to do.”

The book is an interesting look at the role the Communist Party played in American society before the McCarthy Era, as well as a solid look at the sports world of the 1930s and 1940s. Interest in either the era or the integration of baseball makes this book a worthwhile addition to your sports reading. It is available from Amazon for $28.95. I got my copy for less at a used book store.


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2 Responses to “Press Box Red: A Review”

  1. glenrussellslater Says:

    It sounds interesting, V. And since we’re on the subject of baseball integration, I highly recommend Jimmy Breslin’s last book about Branch Rickey, fittingly titled “Branch Rickey”. I read it several years ago and it’s pretty short. I don’t remember anything about it. Does this mean that it was a lousy book, or just that I have a lousy memory? Well, all that I remember about it was that it WASN’T a lousy book; I enjoyed it immensely. Maybe I don’t remember it that well because it didn’t tell me much about Rickey that I didn’t already know. I don’t know. I don’t remember! But I’d still recommend it, even though the father of my best friend from high school, Paul Meskil of the New York Daily News, father of my old pal Brian Meskil, worked with Breslin at the Daily News and absolutely DESPISED Breslin as a person. Maye it’s partly because Mr. Meskil was a fine writer in his own right (he mostly covered the crime beat, particularly ORGANIZED crime) and didn’t get nearly the acclaim that Breslin did. But the way Mr. Meskil described Breslin to me, he did sound like an extremely rude and arrogant person.

    I’ll plug some of Mr. Meskil’s books here, if you don’t mind. I feel that Mr. Meskil was just as talented as Breslin, but just had a different style. Mr. Meskil’s style was more hard-boiled, in the tradition of Mickey Spillane and them guys. He wrote many, many books, all of them good. He died in 2005. He was a great guy.

    He only wrote one fictional book, “Sinpit”, which was kind of like a Mickey Spillane book; that sort of genre. He was in personal danger sometimes, as he used to interview Mafia hitmen and guys like that. Here are the two pages of his books on

    Notice how much an original book of “Sinpit” is worth today! Sorry, can’t afford it!!! I think he wrote this hard boiled paperback, the kind the drug stores sell, in the very early 50s, while he was writing for the St. Louis Herald Dispatch.


    PS Here’s a description of Sinpit from, which, I guess, was on the back cover of the paperback in the early 50s:

    She was dirt … and hungry and cheap and demanding. But it didn’t matter. She was all those things, and I knew it, but she was much more, too. She was fire and ice and fury, and when she came up to me—that first time—her mouth making little squirming noises, I knew she was all I ever wanted.

    I was a cop. An honest one. Tough, but honest. And she was the wife of another man. Maybe she was a killer. Maybe she was a–a kind of person even tough cops don’t talk about except in dirty whispers.

    But I didn’t care. I had to have her.

    And here’s the book by Breslin, about Branch Rickey, that I was recommending.

  2. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    The Daily Worker had a sports page. I had no idea. It’s going on my “must read” list. Thanks!

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