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A baseball historian goes to bat for some Negro League greats

By Charles Fountain / April 15, 1988



Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers, by John B. Holway. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Books. 400 pp. $22.50. A residual tragedy of the baseball apartheid that existed until 1947 was the fact that the gifted athletes of the Negro Leagues played beyond the gaze of the baseball press. Thus there is no contemporary eyewitness accounting of that rich and lusty chapter in the game's history; and much of the history has been lost forever.

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Over the past couple of decades, however, John Holway has led an intrepid core of baseball historians in an effort to retrieve and re-create the history of the Negro Leagues. ``Blackball Stars,'' Holway's second book on the Negro Leagues, is a collection of 26 profiles of some of the best of the pre-Jackie Robinson blacks.

Holway is no Roger Angell, but he is a first-rate historian, and if his portraits of Hall of Famers Rube Foster, Martin Dihigo, Roy Dandridge, and others are at times a little formularized and given to hyperbole, they are nevertheless chockablock with statistics and anecdotes. ``Blackball Stars'' is an important contribution to the literature of baseball.

Charles Fountain teaches jounalism at Northeastern University.