Adrian Burgos, Jr.
How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball
Hill and Wang 2011
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in BiographyNew Books in Caribbean StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network January 26, 2012 Oline Eaton
The integration of baseball is most often cast in terms of black and white, but biographer Adrian Burgos, Jr.— a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign– is out to change that. In his new biography, entitled Cuban Star: How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball (Hill and Wang, 2011), Burgos explores the nuances of baseball’s color line through the story of the Negro League owner, Alex Pompez.
The son of a Cuban father and a “mulatto” mother, Pompez, a black Latino, was an influential force in the integration of Negro League baseball and, by extension, the Major Leagues. Importing talent from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic for his Cuban Stars, he assembled the most racially diverse team within the Negro League.
An outrageously successful entrepreneur, Pompez overcame the two primary problems facing Negro League owners: a lack of capital and a lack of stadiums. Using the money earned through his Harlem numbers racket, Pompez both financed the Cuban Stars and purchased the Dykeman Oval in which they played.
As Burgos writes in Cuban Star, “Pompez was a trailblazer who over the span of seven decades–from his Negro League days through his major-league scouting work–opened pathways for talent from once-insignificant baseball territories.” In recognizing and importing Latin American talent and supporting players as they transitioned to life in the U.S., Pompez had a lasting impact on the face of major league baseball. His influence is still visible in the names gracing rosters today.