It isn't often that one can find a book on baseball's Black players that talks about the state of the game today, but this one has that and a whole lot more. Here is my review of "Beyond Baseball's Color Barrier."
RATING: 4 of 5 stars (very good)
REVIEW: One of baseball's more noticeable trends the last few years is the decrease in the number of Black players in the game at all levels. Of course, it has not always been this was as the participation of Black players has had its ebbs and flows since Jackie Robinson broke the game's color barrier in 1947. This very good book by Rocco Constantino explores the entire history of Black participation in the game, from the time of Fleetwood Moses Walker to today's Black stars like Mookie Betts and Lawrence McCutcheon.
What I believe sets this book apart from others on this type of subject is that it covers the entire spectrum of participation by Black players. Yes, many do know that Walker was the first Black player in what was recognized as the Major Leagues in 1884 and that for a short time, Black players were welcomed by baseball until an unwritten agreement between owners kept them out. Constantino brings the reader into this era quite well by addressing the topic of that agreement and the attitude of baseball's first commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, in an objective manner.
He continues with this writing style during the integration years when several clubs such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Cleveland Indians integrated their teams with several Black players and few more followed. Of course, there is significant coverage of Jackie Robinson, but this does not go into his role as deeply as other books as Constantino writes material on other groundbreaking star Black players such as Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Willie Mays and Monte Irvin.
But it is the later chapters about Black players in the 1970s and 1980s such as Dave Parker and Ron LeFlore, as well as Constantino's discussion on the current state of affairs for Black players and the lack of opportunities for Black youths to play in the sport that I found to be the best part of the book. Written just as objectively as the sections on the segregation era, this discussion revolves around the growth of traveling leagues that are deemed by some to be "country club" leagues and are out of reach in terms of both affordability and accessibility to Black players. But even despite this, Constantino is sure to give credit to today's Black stars like Betts as much as he did for those in earlier eras. This book is one of the more complete descriptions of the history of Black baseball players and is well worth the time to read for those who are interested in this part of the sport.