Cover image for Color blind : the forgotten team that broke baseball's color line
Title:
Color blind : the forgotten team that broke baseball's color line
Author:
ISBN:
9780802120120
Edition:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, c2013.
Physical Description:
xiii, 345 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.
Contents:
Preface: Before 42 -- Coming together. Prairieland of opportunity ; Grasshoppers and hickory sticks ; Birth of a salesman ; Worlds apart ; Over the color line ; Throwing fire ; Showtime ; Nameless dread -- Playing together. Come and gone ; Feeling the heat ; Marriages and separations ; Cat and moose ; Long rifle rides again ; "A riotous opera of extra-base hits..." -- Tested together. Little man, big idea ; Gunfight at the cowtown corral ; Big gun ; The Erle of Oklahoma ; Last team standing ; "Plenty of barn room" ; Endings ; Deep smoke winding.
Summary:
During the Great Depression, in drought stricken Bismarck, North Dakota, one of the most improbable teams in the history of baseball was assembled by one of the sport's most unlikely champions. A decade before Jackie Robinson broke into the Major Leagues, car dealer Neil Churchill signed the best players he could find, regardless of race, and fielded an integrated squad that took on all comers in spectacular fashion. When baseball swept America in the years after the Civil War, independent, semipro, and municipal leagues sprouted up everywhere, especially in the large swaths of the country without a Major League team. With civic pride on the line, rivalries were fierce and teams often signed ringers to play alongside the town dentist, the insurance salesman, and the teen prodigy. But nothing could quite compare to Chrysler dealer Neil Churchill's team in Bismarck. Years ahead of his time, Churchill added stars from the Negro Leagues, including Quincy Trouppe, Hilton Smith, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, and the biggest star of them all, Satchel Paige. Set against the backdrop of the Great Plains and the Great Depression, Color Blind immerses the reader in the wild and wonderful world of independent baseball, with its tough competition and its novelty -- from all-brother teams and a prison team (who only played home games, naturally) to one from a religious commune that sported Old Testament beards. Dunkel traces the rise of the Bismarck squad, and follows them through their ups and downs, focusing on the 1935 season, and the first National Semipro Tournament in Wichita, Kansas.
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Summary

Summary

A 2013 CASEY Award Finalist for Best Baseball Book of the Year and a Booklist Top Ten Sports Book of the Year

When baseball swept America in the years after the Civil War, independent, semipro, and municipal leagues sprouted up everywhere. With civic pride on the line, rivalries were fierce and teams often signed ringers to play alongside the town dentist, insurance salesman, and teen prodigy. In drought-stricken Bismarck, North Dakota during the Great Depression, one of the most improbable teams in the history of baseball was assembled by one of the sport's most unlikely champions. A decade before Jackie Robinson broke into the Major Leagues, car dealer Neil Churchill signed the best players he could find, regardless of race, and fielded an integrated squad that took on all comers in spectacular fashion.

Color Blind immerses the reader in the wild and wonderful world of early independent baseball, with its tough competition and its novelty. Dunkel traces the rise of the Bismarck squad, focusing on the 1935 season and the first National Semipro Tournament. This is an entertaining, must-read for anyone interested in the history of baseball.

"A tale as fantastic as it is true."-- Boston Globe


Author Notes

Tom Dunkel is an award-winning freelance journalist with more than 25 years of experience reporting for major newspapers and magazines including The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, New York Times Sunday Magazine, and Wall Street Journal . He lives in Washington, D.C. This is his first book.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

A decade before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line in 1947, an integrated team captured the imagination of Bismarck, N.Dak. by winning the national, semiprofessional baseball title. Bismarck was a town where "Norman Rockwell would have found plenty of... inspiration," even though "Dakotans groped their way along the racial divide." Bismarck's integrated team was the brainchild of Neil Churchill, a failed dry goods clerk-cum-car salesman and inveterate gambler who subsidized the team's existence with his winnings. Churchill looked to the Negro Leagues, "cherry-picking players" who were prohibited from playing in the Major Leagues to reinforce his roster, with his prize being the great Satchel Paige. Freelance journalist Dunkel (the Washington Post) delves into the history of players, towns, and baseball itself in constructing this portrait of a harmonious team rising above a segregated society. The tangential history lessons render the triumph of racial harmony a subtext within the larger context of sports, but it's a story that transcends championships, and an inspirational reflection on an otherwise dismal human rights history. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The plains states were particularly hard hit during the Depression. Between the economic issues and the drought, small farms folded by the hundreds, and the relief programs were underfunded and poorly run. Still, in the midst of it all, there was a need for people to be entertained and briefly forget their troubles. Neil Churchill, a Bismarck, North Dakota, car dealer, decided a baseball team was just the thing to help his neighbors forget. So, in an era when the Major Leagues only fielded teams east of the Mississippi, and the rest of the country made do with town- and company-sponsored semipro teams, Churchill's plan was met with great enthusiasm. When he assembled his roster, Churchill picked the best players he could find, and some of them were black! Remember, this was more than a decade before Jackie Robinson would play in the majors. Award-winning journalist Dunkel has not only researched and presented a virtually forgotten but very significant piece of sports history, he has also done it in a very entertaining, narrative-nonfiction style. The principals, particularly Churchill and his players (including Satchel Paige) just simply come alive. Baseball fans will cherish this book, and it will become required reading among those who feel we can better understand today's racial tensions by looking to the past.--Lukowsky, Wes Copyright 2010 Booklist


Kirkus Review

Freelance journalist Dunkel spins the colorful yarn of an improbably integrated team's wild days of independent baseball during the Great Depression. As the new sport of baseball took hold of the American imagination after the turn of the century, teams of all forms sprang up across the country. For players unable to make the big leagues for lack of talent, personal issues or skin color, one of the legions of semiprofessional teams often offered a way to earn a living playing the game. In Bismarck, N.D., one of the areas hit hardest by drought and depression, successful car dealer and inveterate gambler Neil Churchill's desire to put together a winning team led him to seek out the finest players available, regardless of race. The resulting mix of has-beens, wannabes and assorted others went on to dominate opponents across the Midwest, culminating in the 1935 National Semipro Tournament. Their success was due in no small part to the on-again, off-again presence of the legendary Satchel Paige, arguably the greatest pitcher of all time and a character worthy of many books for his accomplishments and antics on and off the diamond. Though the team's inclusion of both black and white players is obviously noteworthy, Dunkel does not focus on racial politics or the issue of whether the Bismarck team was a precursor of things to come or merely a historical anomaly. The author does address the racism faced by the black players, many of whom would likely have been major league All-Stars had they been allowed to play, and he provides sufficient historical background to flesh out the story. But at its heart, the book is a tale of a time when baseball was more than just a sport, a multibillion-dollar industry or another form of entertainment competing for Americans' attention. A well-told account of a fascinating, and forgotten, chapter in the history of America's national pastime.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Freelance journalist Dunkel provides a captivating recollection of the Bismarck, ND, Churchills, an integrated baseball team that won the 1935 semi-pro national championship held in Wichita, KS. While organized baseball remained segregated, Bismarck owner Neil Churchill refused to give in to prevailing racial sensibilities, whether they involved his ballplayers dining together or performing on the diamond. He put together a potent, integrated ball club, attracting some of the Negro League's finest, including legendary pitchers Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith and catcher Quincy Trouppe. Paige's brilliance, exemplified by his rising fastball and pinpoint control, drew thousands to the games he pitched and enabled Bismarck to carve out a spot in baseball history. The team proved unable to repeat the next year, falling in the semifinal round, because in his typically peripatetic fashion, Paige failed to return to the team. VERDICT This work delivers an important rendering of a too-little-remembered challenge to American society's segregated practices. Strongly recommended.-Robert C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Preface: Before 42p. xi
Part 1 Coming Together
1 Prairieland of Opportunityp. 3
2 Grasshoppers and Hickory Sticksp. 10
3 Birth of a Salesmanp. 29
4 Worlds Apartp. 46
5 Over the Color Linep. 58
6 Throwing Firep. 69
7 Showtimep. 78
8 Nameless Dreadp. 93
Part 2 Playing Together
9 Come and Gonep. 101
10 Feeling the Heatp. 112
11 Marriages and Separationsp. 121
12 Cat and Moosep. 128
13 Long Rifle Rides Againp. 141
14 "A Riotous Opera of Extra-Base Hits..."p. 155
Part 3 Tested Together
15 Little Man, Big Ideap. 173
16 Gunfight at the Cowtown Corralp. 189
17 Big Gunp. 207
18 The Erie of Oklahomap. 223
19 Last Team Standingp. 230
20 "Plenty of Barn Room"p. 245
21 Endingsp. 260
22 Deep Smoke Windingp. 267
Acknowledgmentsp. 289
A Note on Sourcesp. 295
Notesp. 299