A Calculus of Color: The Integration of Baseball's American League by Robert Kuhn McGregor
A Calculus of Color should not only be required reading in every baseball history class, but every twentieth-century American history class. It is an outstanding piece of work as the author examines the integration of baseball, in the American League, utilizing the racial history of America as a backdrop. For example, there are sections on the great African-American migration and how racism is interconnected with the economic structure of the United States, which the author connects to baseball history. The author focuses on the American League to answer why it was a "poor second when it came to claiming black stars … [and] … home to the last team to integrate" (15).
The author begins with a comprehensive summary of racism against African American players and the rise of the Negro Leagues with a discussion of the "colored line" that barred African Americans from playing in the majors. [End Page 234] The Negro Leagues had some of the best baseball players of all time and the author also provides a glimpse into their stories. One of the most interesting parts of the book was the discussion of Negro Leagues' business plan. There were the obvious economic issues due to the "buying power" of African Americans being less than that of whites, and team owners increasing salaries to keep their players from jumping to other teams or leagues. Also, very few Negro League teams had their own stadium, which meant some teams had to pay rent to play in stadiums of the white-only major leagues. This rent obviously cut into the profits of the Negro League teams.
Besides economic issues, there were issues with the media. White newspapers were not covering the Negro Leagues and the high-profile African American newspapers were weekly and focused more national coverage. This meant fans did not have a daily update of their favorite Negro League team. This part hit home with the reviewer. He remembered reading the sports page every day of child to follow his baseball team, reading the box scores, etc. Without that constant coverage of every game the reviewer wondered one would lose touch with team and thus minimize the fan base.
As the narrative continues the author analyzes the integration of the American League from a business framework. The author separates the teams into championship teams, just below championship teams, and the cellar dwellers. Integration was tied to the power structure of the American League teams that would complete for the AL title versus those below them. The author examined the salaries, profits, and attendance and posited that Chicago, Baltimore, and Cleveland benefitted from integrating by vaulting past the other teams (Detroit and others) who were slow to integrate.
The author then examines each of the American League teams' road to integration. The first team was the Cleveland Indians with the signing of Larry Doby. The section compared owner Bill Veeck's "integration policy" with the Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey. Veeck did have discussions with Rickey on integration, however Veeck had his own way of doing things. Veeck compensated the Negro League team for Doby's services, unlike the Dodgers, but kept the signing of Doby secret. Rickey's approach was more out in the open, so the whole team was brought along. The author continues with the Indians' signing of Satchel Paige which helped relieve the pressure on Doby. The Cleveland story intersects with the Chicago White Sox and Minnie Minoso, a Cleveland signee who would be remembered because of his time with the White Sox. However, his story adds another layer to America's racial history. Minoso was Cuban but the prejudices against African American ball-players [End Page 235] were extended to include black Latino players. The author explains that the "roots" were different but the discrimination was the same.
The book continues by examining the rest of the American League's integration by describing three teams, the Philadelphia Athletics, Washington Senators and St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles that integrated for major economic reasons. The Athletics and Senators were led by Connie Mack and Clark Griffith respectively. Mack, who said he did not sign black players because he did not want to take jobs away from his white players, eventually did begin integrating, but it did not save the team from being sold and moved to Kansas City. The Senators rented their home ballpark to the Negro League's Homestead Grays (from nearby Pittsburgh), which was about money and not racial equality. The integration of these three teams "were small steps to stave off ruin" (160). On the other hand, the Yankees, the kings of baseball and baseball dollars, did not have the economic push of the previous teams. The book finalizes its examination of the teams with the last two to integrate. The Red Sox and the Tigers were neither economically struggling nor were they the Yankees. The Red Sox were the last team to actually integrate, and the book includes some of the same stories that are reviewed in other works. However, it is the discussion of Tom Yawkey and his racism tied to his team's operation and its general manager that was quite fascinating. The last chapter considers the future of African Americans in baseball. Again, this is an amazingly comprehensive piece of work and the reviewer cannot recommend this book enough for baseball fans and those of history.