“One of the great untold stories about baseball history, one that almost sounds too good to be true.” —Chicago Tribune
A 2013 CASEY Award Finalist for Best Baseball Book of the Year
When baseball swept America in the years after the Civil War, independent, semipro, and municipal leagues sprouted up everywhere. With civic pride on the line, rivalries were fierce and teams often signed ringers to play alongside the town dentist, insurance salesman, and teen prodigy. In drought-stricken Bismarck, North Dakota during the Great Depression, one of the most improbable teams in the history of baseball was assembled by one of the sport’s most unlikely champions. A decade before Jackie Robinson broke into the Major Leagues, car dealer Neil Churchill signed the best players he could find, regardless of race, and fielded an integrated squad that took on all comers in spectacular fashion.
Color Blind immerses the reader in the wild and wonderful world of early independent baseball, with its tough competition and its novelty. Dunkel traces the rise of the Bismarck squad, focusing on the 1935 season and the first National Semipro Tournament. This is an entertaining, must-read for anyone interested in the history of baseball.
“A tale as fantastic as it is true.” —The Boston Globe
“It is funny, it is sad, it is spellbinding, required reading for anyone who loves baseball, who loves a vivid story well-told.” —Philadelphia Daily News
A decade before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line in 1947, an integrated team captured the imagination of Bismarck, N.Dak. by winning the national, semiprofessional baseball title. Bismarck was a town where "Norman Rockwell would have found plenty of... inspiration," even though "Dakotans groped their way along the racial divide." Bismarck's integrated team was the brainchild of Neil Churchill, a failed dry goods clerk cum car salesman and inveterate gambler who subsidized the team's existence with his winnings. Churchill looked to the Negro Leagues, "cherry-picking players" who were prohibited from playing in the Major Leagues to reinforce his roster, with his prize being the great Satchel Paige. Freelance journalist Dunkel (the Washington Post) delves into the history of players, towns, and baseball itself in constructing this portrait of a harmonious team rising above a segregated society. The tangential history lessons render the triumph of racial harmony a subtext within the larger context of sports, but it's a story that transcends championships, and an inspirational reflection on an otherwise dismal human rights history.