24 June 2013

Larry Lester, Rube Foster in His Time. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.

Not a standard biography, but a documentary history like Dean Sullivan’s Early-Middle-Late-Final Innings series, this portrait of the Negro National League’s founder is not an easy read. While material is presented in an orderly fashion and nicely tied together with clear narrative text, much of it still consists of stilted prose from over a hundred years ago—items transcribed as found in obscure newspapers, court documents, and the other historical source material from which biography is derived.

This approach, while not as easy to read as a pre-digested retelling of a life, has the advantage of showing Andrew Foster as he was seen by his contemporaries—as a truly great pitcher, who threw seven no-hitters (a number equaled by only Nolan Ryan at the Major League level), and an organizational genius who, during a period of intense racial inequality, built and controlled a nation-wide entertainment enterprise through sheer will and perseverance. Lester, editor of the scholarly Negro-Leagues journal Black Ball and CEO of NoirTech Research, has done both us and Foster a service by compiling this material and making possible a fuller understanding of this giant figure in baseball’s development.

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