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"Raceball proves that Ruck remains at the top of his game. Incorporating personal interviews with many former players and personalities, such as Harold Tinker, Ted Page, Mal Goode, and August Wilson, who have since passed away, Ruck relies on their voices from the grave and his deep knowledge of black and Latin baseball to make his narrative truly sing."—Brad Snyder, author of A Well-Paid Slave
"One of our greatest historians of sport has given us a gift for the ages: a history of baseball that captures its multicultural dynamics in original and profoundly illuminating ways."—Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship
"A profound look at why Latinos have replaced African American baseball players, helping the reader understand the game as a business. Definitely a must-read for those who love the game, regardless of origin, race, or ethnicity."—Juan Marichal, MLB Hall of Famer
"Some are well-versed when it comes to the Negro Leagues. Others are aficionados about the rise of Latinos in baseball. But Rob Ruck is one of the few writers who can be called an expert in both fields. Perceptive and insightful, Raceball is a pleasure to read."—Tim Wendel, author of The New Face of Baseball and High Heat
“One of our greatest historians of sport has given us a gift for the ages: a history of baseball that captures its multicultural dynamics in original and profoundly illuminating ways. Synthesizing a lifetime of pathbreaking research, Raceball presents a brilliant new account—in black, white, and brown—of what can no longer be regarded as merely the national game.”—Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship
An exploration of the changing nature of race in baseball, and the political, social and cultural events driving that change.
During the past few decades, Major League Baseball has seen a marked decline in the number of black players while simultaneously witnessing an explosion of Latin American players. Ruck (History/Univ. of Pittsburgh; The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, 1991, etc.) delves deeply into baseball history to explore the inextricable link between the two phenomena, starting with the struggles of black and Latin players in the segregated pre–Jackie Robinson era, continuing through the painful but inspirational period of integration and into the apex of African-American participation in the 1970s (when more than a quarter of players were black), before exploring the current state of a game dominated by Latin Americans. Backgrounding the sea change of dynamic on-field progress are cultural developments, including the civil-rights movement in the United States and the struggle for social and economic rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. The author excels in his discussions of the incredible struggle of black and Latin players to find equal footing with their white counterparts, both as ballplayers and as citizens, and when he highlights the ways in which baseball was more than a diversion, but rather an institution that supported black and Latin communities financially and socially. In waxing nostalgic about the deleterious effect of baseball's decline on the black community or its endangered status as a key piece of community infrastructure in the Latin world, however, Ruck stops short of fully exploring how other activities have helped fill the void. For example, he seems to attribute baseball's fall-off in the black community almost solely to baseball's own faults rather than thoroughly investigating the ways in which other sports, like basketball, have superseded it in ways more appealing to modern youth.
Compellingly weaves together disparate threads of racial and sporting history, but fails to tie up all the loose ends.