SEATTLE, WA -- Featuring the past, present and future of blacks in the national pastime, Celebrating Ourselves: African-Americans and the Promise of Baseball by Daryl Russell Grigsby proclaims that for black Americans baseball has been more than a sport. Indeed, from games played on plantations, at family reunions, in the Negro Leagues, at historically black colleges, and today's youth baseball programs, baseball has knitted generations, built communities, developed character, and fostered political equality and economic independence.
The book catalogues the rich and mutually beneficial history between baseball and the black community. African-Americans have dramatically changed Major League baseball through charisma, style and the intelligent application of speed and power. In return, baseball has provided black Americans with a national platform for family memories, personal dreams, and social equity. The author makes a compelling case that the lessons taught to youth in urban baseball programs are as important to the black community as the accomplishments of Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr.
Several stories illuminate the book. In 1866, the Philadelphia Pythians tried valiantly to integrate amateur baseball. In 1906 William Clarence Mathews was a star player, with major league potential, at Harvard University. The 1922 Wichita Monrovians defeated Ku Ku Klan Klavern #6 in a game of baseball in Kansas. In the 1930s and 40s Effa Manley defied barriers of both race and gender as a black female Negro League executive. In 1952 Piper Davis got four hits in a game in which a gang of whites threatened to kill him if he played at all, and in 2007 David Price pitched at every level between Class A minors and the World Series.
Another unique feature of the book are original interviews with players, fans, coaches, and parents, including Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, commentator and ex-player Harold Reynolds, Major League executive Jimmie Lee Solomon, professor Gerald Early, writer Ethelbert Miller, Kansas City Monarch fan Ozell Wiley and several others. The book includes a summary of the efforts to enhance baseball in the African-American community, including Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy, Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities, and foundations led by Torii Hunter, David Winfield and many others. These programs are both changing lives and increasing the pool of potential black major leaguers.
Celebrating Ourselves is a must-read for baseball fans, coaches, or anyone interested in the social history and future of the black community.