Today we are joined by Averell “Ace” Smith
, The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige’s Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic
(University of Nebraska Press, 2018). Smith is a political consultant and a lifelong baseball fan who became enamored with the game when he bought a copy of the 1956 edition of The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball
at a school rummage sale. In a descriptive and richly detailed narrative, legendary pitcher Satchel Paige, along with several Negro League stars, are enticed to play in a tournament in the Dominican Republic. Paige, offered an eye-popping $30,000, is amazed by the lack of racial discord on the island, the relaxed baseball schedule and the ease in obtaining good food, wine and women. But there is a dark side. Paige is playing for Ciudad Trujillo in a tournament created to support and celebrate the “re-election” of the country’s ruthless dictator, Rafael Trujillo. And “El Jefe” does not like to lose. So, when Paige and his teammates struggle early in the tournament, Trujillo assigns the leader of his death squads to join team management. The message is clear: “You’d better win.” The all-stars do, by the barest margins, and Paige and his teammates return to the United States. Although they are banned from the Negro Leagues, a barnstorming tour is much more profitable. This book combines politics, racial issues and some of the best men who ever played the game.
Bob D’Angelo is about to receive his master’s degree in history at Southern New Hampshire University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida and spent more than three decades as a sportswriter and sports copy editor, including 28 years on the sports copy desk at The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. Bob currently is a national digital content editor for Cox Media Group. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and reviews, be sure to visit Bob D’Angelo’s Books and Blogs.