Fleet Walker's Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball's First Black Major Leaguer

Overview

Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first black American to play baseball in a major league. He achieved college baseball stardom at Oberlin College in the 1880s. Teammates as well as opponents harassed him; Cap Anson, the Chicago White Stockings star, is blamed for driving Walker and the few other blacks in the major leagues out of the game, but he could not have done so alone. A gifted athlete, inventor, civil rights activist, author, and entrepreneur, Walker lived precariously along America?s racial fault ...
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Overview

Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first black American to play baseball in a major league. He achieved college baseball stardom at Oberlin College in the 1880s. Teammates as well as opponents harassed him; Cap Anson, the Chicago White Stockings star, is blamed for driving Walker and the few other blacks in the major leagues out of the game, but he could not have done so alone. A gifted athlete, inventor, civil rights activist, author, and entrepreneur, Walker lived precariously along America’s racial fault lines. He died in 1924, thwarted in ambition and talent and frustrated by both the American dream and the national pastime.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moses Fleetwood Walker (1857-1924) played pro baseball from 1882 until 1889, when the ban on black players became total. He had started to play in earnest as an undergraduate at Oberlin and continued at the Univ. of Michigan. A mulatto, he was raised in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, a Quaker community where he encountered little racism. But as racial discrimination increased nationwide, he came to see himself as living between black and white worlds while holding a number of jobs, from mail clerk (he went to prison for a year for stealing from the mails) to entrepreneur of an entertainment business in Cadiz, Ohio. His frustration at not being accepted by either world was expressed in his 1908 pamphlet ``Our Home Country,'' which urged blacks to return to Africa. Zang, who has taught at the University of Maryland and Penn State, has effectively re-created the society in which Walker lived and worked. Illustrations.
Library Journal
Many baseball fans recognize the name Moses Fleetwood Walker as the answer to the trivia question: Who was the first black man to play in the major leagues? However, Zang's study clearly demonstrates that Walker's life rates more than a footnote in the annals of the game. His tenure in the big leagues came at a time of increasing separatist sentiment and racial tension, which thwarted both his on-field career and subsequent off-field pursuits as an inventor, Civil Rights activist, entrepreneur, and author. Though lacking the abundant documentation that accompanies works on such notable black ballplayers as Jackie Robinson (e.g., I Never Had It Made, LJ 4/1/95), this book combines thorough research with a dramatic portrait that reflects the nation's turn-of-the-century racial milieu. Particularly appropriate for academic and African American collections. -- (William H. Hoffman, Ft. Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., Fla.)
Library Journal
Many baseball fans recognize the name Moses Fleetwood Walker as the answer to the trivia question: Who was the first black man to play in the major leagues? However, Zang's study clearly demonstrates that Walker's life rates more than a footnote in the annals of the game. His tenure in the big leagues came at a time of increasing separatist sentiment and racial tension, which thwarted both his on-field career and subsequent off-field pursuits as an inventor, Civil Rights activist, entrepreneur, and author. Though lacking the abundant documentation that accompanies works on such notable black ballplayers as Jackie Robinson (e.g., I Never Had It Made, LJ 4/1/95), this book combines thorough research with a dramatic portrait that reflects the nation's turn-of-the-century racial milieu. Particularly appropriate for academic and African American collections. -- (William H. Hoffman, Ft. Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., Fla.)
Nation
"A mesmerizing tale, reminding us—if we need to be reminded—of the blasted hopes and lives that have been and are being produced by the inequitable and indefensible way some Americans treat people who are raciallydifferent."—Nation
Journal of American History
"Zang's book is about more than baseball. He effectively places Walker’s multifaceted life in the context of the racial climate of the late nineteenth century."—Journal of American History
HaroldSeymour.com

"Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart isn’t as much about the first black player in major-league baseball history as it is the account of a complicated man who happened to have played baseball and who tried to find his place in a complicated world. The book provides a good snapshot of life in post-Civil War America, a time when the American psyche began to encompass the idea of the newly-emancipated slave as an equal."—John Brattain, HaroldSeymour.com

— John Brattain

Sporting News
"Zang has done truly excellent work to rescue his subject from a shadowy past and to illuminate him as an 'imperishable human presence' trapped in a heartbreaking era."—Sporting News
Washington Post
"Zang reconstructs his story convincingly. . . . a first (and undoubtedly definitive) biography of an all-but-forgotten figure in the history of American sports and race matters."—Washington Post
HaroldSeymour.com - John Brattain
"Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart isn’t as much about the first black player in major-league baseball history as it is the account of a complicated man who happened to have played baseball and who tried to find his place in a complicated world. The book provides a good snapshot of life in post-Civil War America, a time when the American psyche began to encompass the idea of the newly-emancipated slave as an equal."—John Brattain, HaroldSeymour.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803299139
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 169
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 8.89 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

David W. Zang has taught sports studies and American studies at the University of Maryland, The Pennsylvania State University, and Towson University.
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