Winner of the 2018 John Coates Next Generation Award from the Negro Leagues Research Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research
Although many Americans think of Jackie Robinson when considering the story of segregation in baseball, a long history of tragedies and triumphs precede Robinson's momentous debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. From the pioneering Cuban Giants (1885-1915) to the Negro Leagues (1920-1960), Black baseball was a long-standing staple of African American communities. While many of its artifacts and statistics are lost, Black baseball figured vibrantly in films, novels, plays, and poems. In Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line, author Emily Ruth Rutter examines wide-ranging representations of this history by William Brashler, Jerome Charyn, August Wilson, Gloria Naylor, Harmony Holiday, Kevin King, Kadir Nelson, and Denzel Washington, among others.
Reading representations across the literary color line, Rutter opens a propitious space for exploring Black cultural pride and residual frustrations with racial hypocrisies on the one hand and the benefits and limitations of white empathy on the other. Exploring these topics is necessary to the project of enriching the archives of segregated baseball in particular and African American cultural history more generally.