Remembering the Negro Leagues

Former NL PlayerThe other day I was looking at the city’s website and ran across this fascinating article: Former Negro League Player Ray Knox Receives Key to the City.

Turns out, we’ve had an honest-to-goodness Negro League baseball player here in Evanston for decades and yet only a few of us knew about him.  As the piece explains, “The Negro Leagues were formed in 1920 in response to Jim Crow laws that banned black players from competing with white teams. This league slowly faded after Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945.”

Mr. Knox is also one of the few dozen Negro League players still alive today.  In celebration, here are some books that honor the Negro Leagues in the best possible way.  Put a couple on hold today:

ChicagoAmerican

We begin with some hometown pride. The description of the book reads, “In 1886, a semi-pro team known as the Union Baseball Club was founded in Chicago. Made up of black players under the leadership of Frank Leland, this team worked its way to the top of Chicago’s semi-pro city league, an organization which otherwise included only white teams . . . Covering the years 1870-1953, this heavily researched history includes a detailed account of one of the Negro Leagues’ most legendary teams. A comprehensive biographical dictionary and detailed game log are included.”  Place the book on hold here.

Black Baseball

A cohesive history of Chicago’s long relationship with black baseball.  If you’ve never heard of the West Baden Sprudels or the Zulu Cannibal Giants, now you can correct a great wrong.  Place the book on hold here.

Chicago Baseball

A broader overview of baseball in Chicago as a whole, historically.  Contains information on everything from The Negro Leagues to the major leagues, to the little leagues.  Fairly comprehensive.  Place the book on hold here.

We Are Ship

Though ostensibly written with a younger audience in mind, Kadir Nelson’s paean to Negro Leagues baseball is without a doubt the most beautiful book you’re likely to encounter on the subject.  With infinite care Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through the decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.  The oil paintings alone are worth the price of admission.  Place the book on hold here.

Curveball

She was called “the female Jackie Robinson” and in this crazycool memoir you’ll learn how one young woman went from ragtag teams barnstorming across the Dakotas to playing in front of large crowds at Yankee Stadium itself.  When she was 32 she laid claim to the second base position recently ceded by Hank Aaron, who had moved on to the majors.  And that’s just the beginning . . . .  Place the book on hold here.

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