1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever

1954                                                             BILL MADDEN
Posted:  July 21, 2014

1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever1954: Perhaps no single baseball season has so profoundly changed the game forever. In that year—the same in which the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, that segregation of the races be outlawed in America's public schools—Larry Doby's Indians won an American League record 111 games, dethroned the five-straight World Series champion Yankees, and went on to play Willie Mays's Giants in the first World Series that featured players of color on both teams.
  Seven years after Jackie Robinson had broken the baseball color line, 1954 was a triumphant watershed season for black players—and, in a larger sense, for baseball and the country as a whole. While Doby was the dominant player in the American League, Mays emerged as the preeminent player in the National League, with a flair and boyish innocence that all fans, black and white, quickly came to embrace. Mays was almost instantly beloved in 1954, much of that due to how seemingly easy it was for him to live up to the effusive buildup from his Giants manager, Leo Durocher, a man more widely known for his ferocious "nice guys finish last" attitude.
  Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Bill Madden delivers the first major book to fully examine the 1954 baseball season, drawn largely from exclusive recent interviews with the major players themselves, including Mays and Doby as well as New York baseball legends from that era: Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford of the Yankees, Monte Irvin of the Giants, and Carl Erskine of the Dodgers. 1954transports readers across the baseball landscape of the time—from the spring training camps in Florida and Arizona to baseball cities including New York, Baltimore, Chicago, and Cleveland—as future superstars such as Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and others entered the leagues and continued to integrate the sport.

Weaving together the narrative of one of baseball's greatest seasons with the racially charged events of that year, 1954 demonstrates how our national pastime—with the notable exception of the Yankees, who represented "white supremacy" in the game—was actually ahead of the curve in terms of the acceptance of black Americans, while the nation at large continued to struggle with tolerance.

This is a good book on the changes of baseball. So much was happening this year that after I finished this book you can really see why the teams that did not integrate were not going to be winners for many years to come. The teams that did and had players in the minors as well as on the major league roster. The book starts off with the Yankees winners of the 53 series. They would not win another one for a couple of years. It also goes into depth of how the Yankees traded away Vic Power to the Philadelphia Athletics, leaving only Elston Howard as the only African American ball player in their system and he turned out to be the first African American to play for the Yankees and the first to win the American League most valuable player award in 1963. Back to 1954, Willie Mays is back from the service, a guy by the name of Hank Arron would make his major league debut and there was so much going on I never even knew that that year was really a year of change in the game of baseball. There were a lot of first. The Indians played an all-Black (used in the 50s) out field. The Dodgers had the 1st game with more Black players on the field than white, Dick Young was the only newspaper man to mention that fact in his write up of the game. No other writer even mentioned it in from coast to coast. The Indians were also able to stay together in spring training together as a team and not be segregated. This was done by Larry Doby and the owner of the Indians. The Indians would win 118 games that year and meet the Giants in the World Series. This would be the first time that both teams had Black players starting on each team and it was a go series. This is the one that they always Willie Mays catch, but this is the second book that I have read that mentions. That yes the catch was great but the throw was better and that is what really changed the series. The Indians would loss and for the most part they have always said that if the first two games had started in Cleveland that they would have won. Who knows? The Giants won and this book is a great story about what was going on in the league and how the game was changing. Oh, I almost forgot Branch Rickey who was running the Pirates sent someone to Montreal to look at a pitcher that he was thinking about trading for with the Dodgers. Instead his guy saw an outfielder how he could not believe was there, his name Roberto Clemente. The end of the season the Dodgers do not put him on their roster and Pittsburgh with the worst record pick him up for$ 3,000, what a steel. This is a great baseball book. I got this book from net galley.

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