July 15th, 2013
Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier when he played 1st base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. And everyone knows that when Mariano Rivera retires this year that will be the last time #42 (Robinson’s Number) will be worn by a player. He is celebrated for his bravery, and for being the first.
But 12 years prior, in 1935 in Bismarck, North Dakota, Neil Churchill assembled a team of black and white players, signing the best players based solely on talent–and not skin color–something that has never been done before. This semi-pro barnstorming team, aptly named The Bismarcks, was one of the best of its time, went to the first National semi-pro tournament in that same year. The 1935 Tournament, consisting of 32 teams, included 25 all white teams, 1 Native American and 1 Japanese Team, and 4 Black Team, was won by the only integrated team–The Bismarck.
Written by Award-winning freelance writer Tom Dunkel, Color Blind is brilliantly researched, and written in a way that you feel like you are reading about old friends and neighbors. And wow, were these guys a bunch of characters! I laughed out loud at the antics of Satchel Paige–Dunkel really does an amazing job of bringing these men to life.
And while he never shies away from the realities of racism during that time, he treats the controversial and contentious subject, delicately, and with great sensitivity. His portrayal of how life must have been like for a black player in the 1930’s seems spot on.
Available where all good books are sold, Color Blind is a wonderful book, for any student of the game, or anyone with an interest in sports history. Check it out!