“Baseball Rebels: The Players, People and
Social Movements That Shook up The Game and Changed America”
The publishing info:
University of Nebraska Press
Released April 1, 2022
The publishers website
“Major League Rebels: Baseball Battles
Over Workers’ Rights and American Empire”
The publishing info:
Rowman & Littlefield
Released April 13, 2022
The publishers website
The reviews in 90 feet or less
Behold the rebellious brashness of Pete Rose, still hard at work to rehabilitate his misunderstood narrative.
Baseball’s all-time hits leader, who enjoys hitting up Cooperstown now and then to show his support (and sell autographs) during Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction weekend, is open to the possibility anyone gives him that he could, in fact, be a man ahead of his time.
Sure, he found non-existent loopholes in some archaic rules while managing his Cincinnati Reds when it came to placing wagers on his own team — but, listen, it was for a reason we couldn’t understand until now.
Recently given a place to talk by USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale about the state of today’s game – particularly its acceptance of gambling partners – Rose will now say: “I just came up at the wrong time. I was 30 years too early.”
Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon just landed the first active player endorsement deal with a bookmaker. If only Rose could get in on that action.
“Baseball has come to realize there’s a lot of money in the gambling industry,” Rose said, “and they can benefit by getting their fair share.”
Wanna bet he sees an angle where he can cash in from public outcry that hypocrisy knows no shame?
The other shame, as Rose may someday come to rant about: In two new books about the all-time rebellious people in baseball history, he only has cursory mentions in each. Two academics who’ve tried to raise the level of awareness over the 150-plus years of freedom fighters who have taken up arms against a game that refused to break their will has no room for someone like Pete Rose.
Starting with “Baseball Rebels,” amidst a section that covers modern day activists and those effecting change, there’s a nice tribute chapter about Terry Cannon, who created the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary in 1996. Dreier actually dedicates this book to Cannon.
Rose is only mentioned is passing because it covers some history of the Hilda Award winners, to those acknowledged for their dedication to the national pastime. One recipient, it seems, had been present for every 3,000th hit recorded since 1959 as well as Rose’s 4,000th career hit.
What interestingly is left out of this book is that Rose was actually voted into Gannon’s Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals in 2010, also known as “The People’s Hall of Fame.” The program for the induction day describes him as “the inimitable ‘Charlie Hustle’” whose “prowess at hitting a baseball would be matched only by his penchant for generating controversy, including his eventual placement on baseball’s ineligible list.” It was really a nice recognition for someone who could may feel shunned from ever having a shot in his lifetime as seeing himself deliver a Baseball Hall of Fame speech.
So, did Rose bother to show up on that July day for his induction? No. He had a prior engagement signing autographs in Chicago. Before he sent his friend, hard-luck MLB survivor Greg Goossen, to accept it on his behalf, Rose once told us in a Q&A:
Q: Are you disappointed that you’ll miss the Baseball Reliquary ceremony?
A: “I really enjoy baseball banquets, in general. I love to get up and talk and reminisce and tell stories. I’ve been doing it a long time. Not to blow my own horn, but I’m pretty entertaining.”
Q: But with the Baseball Reliquary — it may not be the same as the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but can you see how it’s a reflection of the fan’s voting you into this?
A: “Any time I win an award, that’s special. Maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask, but everything around me is pretty positive. I get the feeling traveling around the country, going to events here and there, that I get a lot of fan support. People wouldn’t come up to me to get an autograph if they didn’t like me, or call my radio show if they didn’t like me. Maybe things that people say when they’re not around me isn’t overwhelmingly in my favor, and I’m not even talking about the Hall of Fame, but fans forget what’s happened in the past, they can see when someone’s been punished enough and they’re willing to give the guy a second chance.”
Sure, in this context, we’ll give Rose a second chance – see if he’s portrayed any better in the companion book, “Major League Rebels.”
There’s a chapter that focuses on those who took a stand for or against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. MLB commissioner William “Spike” Eckhert supported President Johnson’s endeavor, and he convinced players like Rose, Brooks Robinson, Joe Torre, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Harmon Killebrew to go visit the troops and boost morale.
But Rose, it is pointed out, was also a reservist who avoided the draft. All by design.
On page 141, it explains how the MLB “began interfering with local draft boards to protect players from serving in combat. It secured National Guard positions for its players to avoid the draft,” typically lasting six months stateside. If some were actually drafted, they weren’t top players or prospects. Few had careers seriously interrupted. Only a handful actually went to Vietnam.
(One of them, we shall note, was the Dodgers’ Roy Gleason. Drafted into the Army in 1967, served with the 9th Infantry Division, earned a Purple Heart, went back to the team’s farm system but never bad it back to the big leagues. His career stats: In the 1963 season, at age 20, eight games, one at bat — a double against Philadelphia – and seven other pinch-running assignments. The Dodgers gave him a ’63 World Series ring. He lost it in Vietnam. There is a 2005 book about all this, “Lost In The Sun: Roy Gleason’s Odyssey from the Outfield to the Battlefield.” Disappointingly, neither Gleason nor his story isn’t mentioned in this “Rebel” book at all.)
Also not mentioned in the book: Rose joined the Army Reserves in 1963 and was in “basic training” in Kentucky when he found out he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. A few years later, Rose was a reservist in the 478th Engineer Battalion at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, right across the river from Cincinnati. He served there along with some guy named Johnny Bench. When the State Department asked Rose to go on a USO tour to help boost troop morale, he agreed when he found out Joe DiMaggio was also going.
Back to the book: Further in, during a discussion about players whose beliefs caused them to be activists on various levels – Bill Veeck, George Hurley, Bill Lee, Sean Doolittle and Jim Bouton. The later of course wrote “Ball Four” in 1970 and immediately became an outcast rather than someone supported for what he exposed. As a result, when Bouton faced Rose in a game after the book’s release, Rose was reported to shout at him: “Fuck you, Shakespeare.”
Ah, such the rebel, that Peter Edward Rose. Maybe we can get him to star as James Dean’s father in a remake of “Rebel Without A Pause.”
Rose shows one can’t talk his way into a Rebel Club membership. History may support his aggressive behavior on the field and a nickname given to him as a joke by other players but having him take ownership of it, and it is still punishing him for his shady activities off the field.
It doesn’t mean he’ll ever be in the conversion with Hall of Fame-caliber agitators such as Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, Curt Flood and Marvin Miller, Veeck and Bouton.
Going back to “Baseball Rebels,” Rose won’t be wearing a “Do Good Recklessly” T-shirt in a photoshopped group shot of Octavius Catto, Moses Fleetwood Walker, Frank Sykes, Rube Foster, Willie Wells, Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith, Lester Rodney, Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jewish pitcher Sam Nahem, Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, Sam Jethroe, uppity Bill White, Mudcat Grant and Dick Allen, George Gmelch, Effa Manley, Toni Stone, Helen Callaghan, Alta Weiss, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Connie Morgan, Pam Postema, Ila Borders, Billy Bean, Glenn Burke, Tyler Dunnington, Ian Desmond, Keynan Middleton, Gabe Kapler, Bruce Maxwell, Dexter Fowler, Dave Pallone and Kim Ng.
And from the collection in “Major League Rebels,” Rose can’t get into this chapter with John Montgomery Ward, Jim O’Rourke, Tim Keefe, Mark Baldwin, Martin Dihigo, Minnie Minoso, Connie Marrero, Jorge Pasquel, Tony Lupien, Al Niemiec, Danny Gardella, Robert Murphy, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale (for their notable 1966 holdout), Jim Bunning and Robin Roberts (landmark player reps), Fred Toney, Tom Ananicz, Mike Balas, Kenichi Zenimura, Ron Swoboda, Tom Seaver, Ted Simmons, Peter Angelos, Roberto Clemente, Kevin Tillman (Pat’s brother), Ozzie Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, or Carlos Delgado. Even Mookie Betts.
En total, Rose isn’t one whose “outspokenness ran counter to baseball’s prevailing ethos and to the common belief that professional athletes should just play and keep their political opinions private,” as it says on page 148 of “Major League Rebels.”
He can’t be used as an example of what David Zirin writes in the forward to “Baseball Rebels” – this is a sport that “is culturally about as conservative as the day is long” but “has also produced some of the most important rebels in sports and U.S. history.” Nor does Rose really fit the list of adjectives brought up by Bill Lee in his forward to “Major League Rebels.” In his own book from 2007 called “Baseball Eccentrics,” Lee goes down the list to see who fits the description of a “malcontent, crank, fruitcakes, nut job, whacko, head case, nonconformist, free thinker” or, perhaps the lowest blow, “book reader.”
Baseball God forbid, anyone be a book reader. Or, check for how many references there are for their name in either index of these books.
How it goes in the scorebook
A nuanced ground-rule double.
Compare and contrast, then draw up a contract because we have more questions than answers.
“Baseball Rebels,” according to its University of Nebraska Press press release, “tells stories of baseball’s reformers and radicals who were influenced by, and in turn influenced, America’s broader political and social protest movements, making the game – and society – better along the way.” When presenting authorship of this one, it’s Dreier and Elias on the cover.
“Major League Rebels,” as explained in its Library of Congress synopsis on its title page, “tells the fascinating stories of the baseball rebels who were influenced by, and in turn influenced, America’s political and social protest movements throughout history – including battles over labor, anti-trust, corporate power, immigration, America’s wars and military interventions worldwide.” The authorship hierarchy here is Elias and Dreier.
Did Dreier and Elias copy off each other’s paper? We ask because, in part, we realize the author’s acknowledgements are identical in each book. Elias, a professor of politics, humanities and international studies at the University of San Francisco, and Dreier, a professor of politics and urban policy at Occidental College, get two for the price of … two.
In an interview with the Pandemic Baseball Book Club, they explained that as this project with University of Nebraska Press began to evolve, “we began writing one book, knowing that we had enough baseball rebels to fill its pages. The further we delved, the more rebels and stories we discovered.” They went to the publisher and asked for more space. And, what, charge more? It’s already a pretty hefty ask.
They said when Nebraska declined, “we split the manuscript in half. Nebraska accepted the portion focusing on race, gender and sexuality issues. Rowman & Littlefield agreed to publish the other portion, on workers’ rights and American empire. The history was deeper and richer than we originally thought.”
So a project that started five years ago — perhaps inspired by how players were reacting to the Trump administration and further exacerbated by the Black Lives Matter movement — and they spent the last two years researching and writing.
Is there irony in how, rather than an act of rebellion, we see one of conformity and convenience to find two publishers willing to carry their material on overlapping topics and expecting someone to pay $80 for the complete set (Bookshop.org lists “ML Rebels” at north of $45 and Powells.com has it for $50)? There could have been a second volume, or follow up, once the appetite was whet for the Nebraska version — the one we’d recommend settling on if there is an issue with price, time and shelf space, since the Rowman & Littlefield feels more like things they didn’t want to cut but could still charge full price.
Any way to get a coupon toward 50 percent off the purchase of the second one once you prove purchase of the first?
For two books written primarily by academics versus storytellers who are giving us a fresh take on history, that’s an even bigger ask for what we’re on the receiving end for.
You can look it up: More to ponder
== If endorsements mean anything, we can appreciate how so many noted authorities offer a cover blurb for at least one or both books: Official MLB historian John Thorn, Robert Lipsyte, Andrew Zimbalist, Jonathan Eig, Larry Tye, Robert Fitts, Bill Nowlin, Jean Hastings Ardell, Chris Lamb, Gerald Early, Dennis Eckersley and Casey Candaele.
== In his 2016 book, “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame,” Dreier includes among his 512 pages a section on Jackie Robinson. The four pages on him are the only ones on any athlete.
== Dreier does a Q&A with the nonprofit Capital and Main about Jackie Robinson’s rebellious streak in this April 16, 2022 story that includes this exchange:
Q: Jackie continued to speak his mind, and as you mentioned, there is still some of that going on today in baseball. Would you like to see more of it?
A: Well, for example, MLB owns a sweatshop in Costa Rica. For many years the shop was owned by Rawlings, but MLB now owns a quarter share of the company that owns Rawlings—so they are the owner of a sweatshop. About 2 million baseballs are produced there every year, exclusively for MLB use. And the working conditions and the pay and disrespect of the workers is just horrible. It’s just outrageous. Wouldn’t it be great if the Players Association sent a delegation of high-profile players down to Costa Rica after the season’s over, to draw attention to this? It would be hard for major league baseball to ignore that.
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