July 12, 2011
BASEBALL AS IDENTITY POLITICS: JEWS NEGOTIATING IDENTITY THROUGH BLACK BASEBALL
Rebecca T. Alpert, Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2011) ("The story of Jews in black baseball is more complicated than either the mythic story of Jackie Robinson or the tale of the avaricious Jewish middlemen might lead one to assume. This book shows how a small group of Jews of different class and national backgrounds negotiated the process of becoming American in the first half of the twentieth century through their involvement in the segregated world of black baseball. These various Jews had a profound influence on black baseball in the 1950s, brought about by the social change s that permitted Jackie Robinson to integrate the major leagues and that made Jewish and black organizations interested in forming an alliance to fight discrimination on the basis of 'race, creed, and color.' But that change came at a cost. These ways of being Jewish--supporting radical causes, participating in complex cooperative and competitive partnerships in a black business, trading on stereotypes, developing connections between white and black Jews--were all antithetical to the values of cold war liberalism that American Jews embraced in the 1950s. And while the change in postwar American succeeded in making Jews comfortable and radically diminishing anti-Semitism, it was soon obvious that these changes would mitigate, but not end, the black-white racial divide. The alliance between black and Jewish organizations that flourished at this time, and the myth of the special relationship between blacks and Jews, fell apart in the 1960s under the pressure of a reconfigured black politics that recognized that securing legal rights alone would not end discrimination." Id. at 5-6.).