Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shades of Glory

I am a big fan of Negro Leagues and African-American baseball history. I hope to get out to the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame in Kansas City someday. You would think I would be appreciative of just about anything I could put my hands on. I read Only the Ball Was White shortly after it came out, and that was all that could be found for years.

You would also think that National Geographic could do quite a good book on the subject. You would be wrong about that. Shades of Glory, by Lawrence D. Hogan, just isn't very good. It does what it sets out to do, I suppose, but I can't imagine who'd be that interested. Baseball fans are interested in players, in anecdotes, in statistics. There's some of that, but the bulk of the book is taken up with the history of the leagues, and to a lesser extent, the teams. I really don't care whether the Chicago American Giants made or lost money in 1909. I imagine some people cared then, and historians of African-American business ventures care now, but that hardly seems worth the candle. The people attending those games in 1909, white or black, were interested in doubles, triples, strikeouts, nicknames.

The information about players and managers is set in shaded sidebars scattered throughout the book. Those are worth reading. The rest is pretty tedious.

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