From the Publisher
“Once again, Adrian Burgos has written a fascinating book about the stories behind the stories of the game of baseball. If you are at all curious about why the most common names in the major leagues are Martinez and Rodriguez, this elegant volume is for you.” Ken Burns
“When I came to the Giants organization in 1955, Alex Pompez went to bat for me in a way no one else ever did. He took me and the other young Latino players under his wing, teaching us English and guiding us through the racially charged terrain of the majors at the time. In this long-overdue book, Adrian Burgos vividly portrays Pompez as he was: a great, flawed man and a steadfast lover of the game.” Orlando Cepeda, Hall of Fame First Baseman
“I know Adrian Burgos as a dedicated academic, historian, teacher, and true baseball fan. In Cuban Star, he's done a masterful job of casting light on a key Latin American baseball executive who has for too long gone unnoticed. A great read!” Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame Outfielder
“The story of Alex Pompez gives readers a very different take on the integration of major league baseball from the feel good version that focuses on Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. There were losers as well as winners, and Pompez and other black baseball entrepreneurs have been largely ignored until now.” Roger Daniels, author of Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882
“One of the best baseball books of the new millennium . . . [Burgos] is a terrific writer and knows when he has a great subject.” Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle
“A wonderfully detailed portrait . . . The research is impeccable. The context provided is nuanced and rich . . . This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the Latinization of Major League Baseball.” Luis Clemens, NPR.org
“Highly recommended for those studying baseball and African American or Latino studies.” Robert Cottrell, Library Journal (starred review)
Burgos (history & Latina/Latino studies, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Playing America's Game) delivers the intriguing tale of the Afro-Cuban-American baseball mogul Alex Pompez, a leading Negro League team owner, a numbers racketeer in Harlem, and the man most instrumental in opening up baseball in the United States to Latin American players. The story initially shifts back and forth between the United States and Cuba, following Pompez as he runs black baseball's New York Cubans, lands reluctantly into the arms of mobster Dutch Schultz, finally captures the Negro League title, and becomes the conduit for an infusion of Latino talent into the MLB. Working with the Giants, Pompez helped sign future Hall of Famers Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, and Juan Marichal, work that garnered Pompez himself a spot in Cooperstown. Highly recommended for those studying baseball and African American or Latino studies.—R.C.
The story of a black Latino's rise and fall while reshaping America's favorite pastime.
Burgos (Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line, 2007) recounts the life of Alex Pompez, "the Harlem numbers king who became professional baseball's greatest importer of Latin American talent." Though Pompez became well-known for his high-stakes gambling, he used his winnings to fund his passion, baseball. Ostensibly, the book is about baseball, though it soon becomes clear that it's actually a study in race relations. Burgos is at his best when he addresses the race issue, considering the surroundings and offering insight into mid-20th-century Harlem. The middle of the story drowns in Pompez's legal woes (racketeering charges brought against him by an overzealous prosecutor with political ambitions), though after the trial, the narrative finally returns to its roots—the influx of foreign-born players whom Pompez ushered into the game. The story eventually expands to include Jackie Robinson's momentous integration to Major League Baseball, and the author notes how this progressive act prompted professional teams to sign Latino players as well. Burgos also explores integration's negative effects, especially how Robinson's entrance into the Majors served as "the beginning of a massive talent drain from the Negro leagues into organized baseball." The author writes that Pompez's life story is "more than the redemption song of a criminal mastermind." Instead, it "illustrates the promise of America and its lived contradictions during the twentieth century, especially when it comes to how the color line influenced just about every aspect of American life"—including the national pastime.
A scholarly approach to the refashioning of the Negro leagues and its effects on organized baseball.