Normally I would never do two book reviews this close together. Nor would I do two involving pretty much the same information on the same topic. But I’m going to make an exception. If Only the Ball Was White is the first great work on the Negro Leagues since 1920, then Shades of Glory is arguably the most influential. It seemed like a good idea to take a look at both this month.
Back in the mid 2000s the Hall of Fame decided to make a major attempt to enshrine a significant number of Negro League players who had been otherwise overlooked. Over the 1970s through 2001 the Hall, through its various committees elected a handful of Negro League players. Then the list more or less dried up. Frankly, a lot of people who voted for the Hall knew next to nothing about the Negro Leagues. So the Hall formed a special committee to research the Negro Leagues and the pre-Negro League 1800s looking for players, executives, and other contributors who might reasonably be enshrined at Cooperstown. In the process the committee assembled a mass of material, including what available statistical info they could find. Two major things came out of this, the election in 2006 of 17 black Americans to the Hall of Fame and the book Shades of Glory.
With all the information that had been collected sitting around and unavailable to the general public, the committee chose Lawrence D. Hogan to create a book making the heart of the information available in an easy to find and easy to understand work. Shades of Glory is the result. It looks over the Negro Leagues and black baseball from their beginnings, tries to put them in the context of both their times and of the black experience in America. The information spreads over the players, the teams, the eras. Various writers (including Robert Peterson who wrote Only the Ball Was White) provide chapters on the very earliest black players, the Jim Crow 1880s and 1890s, the birth of the Negro Leagues, and a look at the legacy of the Leagues. The end chapter is a compilation of the statistical information found. Some of it is very fragmentary, other information is more detailed. The stats include not only the players who were elected in 2006, but what info was found on players who either weren’t elected or were already enshrined at Cooperstown.
It’s a worthwhile addition to a baseball library, even if you’re not a student of the Negro Leagues. The writing is good, the information excellent, and the statistics are as complete as possible in 2006. The book is available at Amazon.com for $19.76. Enjoy.