Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Negro Leagues

The Negro Leagues

Michael Burgan
For ages 9 to 12
Compass Point Books, 2008   ISBN: 978-0756533540

Many of us have heard about the segregation which kept white people and African-Americans separate in America. We have heard of Rosa Parks and the Freedom Rides. We have heard of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speeches. What many of us might not know is that segregation touched even that most sacred of institutions, baseball.

Because African-American baseball players were not allowed to play in either the major or the minor league teams, two black leagues were formed and every year they held their own all-star game and World Series. It didn't matter that many of the African-American players were superb athletes. It did not matter that a few of them were so good that they deserved to be in the baseball hall of fame. All that mattered was that their skin was dark.

It all began when Adrian Anson, the captain of the Chicago National League team, refused to play against African-American teams. He was a confirmed racist and he got his baseball colleagues to agree to a "gentleman's agreement" which made sure that no African-American players would be hired to play on white teams. African-American players had no choice but to form their own teams and leagues.

Few of the teams had much money and many of them kept a grueling "barnstorming" schedule which kept the teams on the road a great deal. Players were not paid as much as their white counterparts and they had to accept being discriminated against in the towns and cities that they visited. It was only after World War II was over that the unofficial "color line" was finally challenged.

Baseball fans are sure to find this book interesting and illuminating. They will discover that there was, for many years, a whole world of baseball which many people did not even know about, a world occupied by such great players as Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Williams, and James "Cool Papa" Bell.

This title has period photographs throughout and at the back of the book there is a glossary, a "Did you know" section, a timeline, an "Important People" section, and a list of resources.