Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert
Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert
The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson
Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781416547983, 368pp.
Publication Date: March 16, 2010
Before Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball in 1947, black and white ballplayers had been playing against one another for decades—even, on rare occasions, playing with each other. Interracial contests took place during the off-season, when major leaguers and Negro Leaguers alike fattened their wallets by playing exhibitions in cities and towns across America. These barnstorming tours reached new heights, however, when Satchel Paige and other African- American stars took on white teams headlined by the irrepressible Dizzy Dean. Lippy and funny, a born showman, the native Arkansan saw no reason why he shouldn’t pitch against Negro Leaguers. Paige, who feared no one and chased a buck harder than any player alive, instantly recognized the box-office appeal of competing against Dizzy Dean’s "All-Stars." Paige and Dean both featured soaring leg kicks and loved to mimic each other’s style to amuse fans. Skin color aside, the dirt-poor Southern pitchers had much in common.
Historian Timothy M. Gay has unearthed long-forgotten exhibitions where Paige and Dean dueled, and he tells the story of their pioneering escapades in this engaging book. Long before they ever heard of Robinson or Larry Doby, baseball fans from Brooklyn to Enid, Oklahoma, watched black and white players battle on the same diamond. With such Hall of Fame teammates as Josh Gibson, Turkey Stearnes, Mule Suttles, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, and Bullet Joe Rogan, Paige often had the upper hand against Diz. After arm troubles sidelined Dean, a new pitching phenom, Bob Feller—Rapid Robert—assembled his own teams to face Paige and other blackballers. By the time Paige became Feller’s teammate on the Cleveland Indians in 1948, a rookie at age forty-two, Satch and Feller had barnstormed against each other for more than a decade.
These often obscure contests helped hasten the end of Jim Crow baseball, paving the way for the game’s integration. Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller never set out to make social history—but that’s precisely what happened. Tim Gay has brought this era to vivid and colorful life in a book that every baseball fan will embrace.
Timothy M. Gay is the author of Tris Speaker: The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend. It was a finalist for two of the baseball history community’s most prestigious awards. His essays and articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, USA Today, and many other publications. Tim is a graduate of Georgetown University and lives in northern Virginia with his wife and three children.
“ Tim Gay’s latest baseball book bubbles with fresh material, rollicking good
characters, and sociological insight. It is a wonder of research and a joy to read.”
—DAVID MARANISS, author of CLEMENTE and ROME 1960
“Read Tim Gay’s new book to learn how baseball’s color bar was being toppled
long before the world heard of Jackie Robinson or Branch Rickey. Read it to celebrate
three of the most dazzling pitchers on the planet. Read it because Gay is
a terrific reporter and writer and this is an irresistible read.”
—LARRY TYE, author of SATCHEL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND
“T im Gay takes us inside the world of interracial barnstorming at a time when
baseball, like the rest of America, was riven by race. This is an intriguing account
of larger-than-life ballplayers like Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean, as well
as a revealing portrait of baseball at its worst, when Jim Crow ruled, and its
best, when it offered this nation a shared racial terrain. Well-researched and
fluidly told, this is baseball history worth reading.” —ROB RUCK, author of
THE TROPIC OF BASEBALL: BASEBALL IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
“T im Gay has put on his detective cap again as he did in his earlier book on Tris
Speaker. This time he trains his magnifying glass on a largely unknown corner
of baseball history—the world of barnstorming and the three heroes who left
their marks on it, a subject that has never been fully explored. . . . Gay successfully
separates fact from fiction, clearing a path for both future scholars and
today’s fans to follow and enjoy.” —JOHN HOLWAY, author of
THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BASEBALL’S NEGRO LEAGUES
“ Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert is a delightful look inside forgotten chapters of
baseball lore and legend. Thanks to Tim Gay, these classic barnstorming contests
finally get attention they so richly deserve.” —TIM WENDEL, author of
CASTRO’S CURVEBALL and HIGH HEAT: THE SECRET
HISTORY OF THE FASTBALL AND THE IMPROBABLE SEARCH FOR
THE FASTEST PITCHER OF ALL TIME
“Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues in 1947, but off-season "barnstorming" games by pro players were integrated before World War II. The larger-than-life Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean played, one black, one white, both possessed of unequaled skill, panache, and an innate sense of marketing. Imagine a country fighting economic upheaval and starved for heroes and entertainment. Add the precocious Bob Feller, whose fastball was measured at better than 104 miles per hour, and you have a new classic baseball book. Gay (Tris Speaker) shows these men bringing integrated competition to baseball fans far from big league stadiums, from Cuba to the Pacific coast. With events that defy the imagination. Highly recommended.”
-- LIBRARY JOURNAL