Book Explores Little-Known Story of Black Semiprofessional Baseball in Texas

In rich and revealing book, Author Rob Fink tells story of pre-integration baseball in state that produced greats like pitcher 'Smokey Joe' Williams.

Written by Cory Chandler

In the first professional baseball matchup in Texas, soon after the Civil War, the R. E. Lees faced the Stonewalls—and African Americans, not surprisingly, played no part.

But it would not take black players long to pick up the game and to develop a tradition separate from the major leagues that shut them out. In a state that eventually produced such greats as founder of the Negro National League Rube Foster and pitcher “Smokey Joe” Williams, the story of baseball before integration is rich and revealing.

In Playing in Shadows: Texas and Negro League Baseball,” author Rob Fink draws upon oral histories and mines such rare sources as rosters and box scores from black newspapers. From the 1880s Galveston Flyaways through Dallas shortstop Ernie Banks’s signing with the Chicago Cubs in 1953, Fink’s book brings to light an important but little-studied inning in American sport.

The book, along with “Our White Boy” by Jerry Craft with Kathleen Sullivan, launches TTUP’s book series Sport in the American West. Edited by Jorge Iber, the new series examines the impact of sport throughout the region and seeks to illuminate how sport intersects historically with such cultural issues as race, ethnicity, gender, and class.

Advance praise for “Playing in Shadows”

“Fink adds significantly to our understanding of black baseball during the first half of the twentieth century [and] provides the most comprehensive study to date of black baseball in Texas. . . . [He] reminds us what is always to be gained from close scrutiny of even the most limited . . . sources.” —Cary D. Wintz, from the foreword

“One more significant contribution to understanding the black experience in Texas. . . . a groundbreaking study.” —Bruce Glasrud

Biographical background

Rob Fink is the author of numerous articles and encyclopedia entries in African American history. A graduate of Baylor University and Texas Tech University, he lives in Abilene, Texas, where he is assistant professor of education at Hardin-Simmons University.

Cary D. Wintz is professor of history at Texas Southern University and lives in Houston.

Jorge Iber, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas Tech University, specializes in Mexican American history. In recent years, he has combined his research with a new interest in sports and has produced various articles and two books on the history of Hispanics in U.S. sport.

Contact information

Rob Fink is available for interviews, speaking engagements and book signings; contact him at rcfinkphd@sbcglobal.net. Local vendors interested in ordering “Playing in Shadows” may contact Texas Tech University Press at (800) 832-4042, fax (806) 742-2979.

For more information or a review copy of the book, contact the TTUP marketing department, (806) 742-2982 or ttup.marketing@ttu.edu.