In Out of Left Field, Rebecca Alpert explores how Jewish sports entrepreneurs, political radicals, and a team of black Jews from Belleville, Virginia called the Belleville Grays -- the only Jewish team in the history of black baseball -- made their mark on the segregated world of the Negro Leagues.
Through in-depth research, Alpert tells the stories of the Jewish businessmen who owned and promoted teams as they both acted out and fell victim to pervasive stereotypes of Jews as greedy middlemen and hucksters. Some Jewish owners produced a kind of comedy baseball, similar to basketball's Harlem Globetrotters, that reaped financial benefits for both owners and players but also played upon the worst stereotypes of African Americans and prevented these black "showmen" from being taken seriously by the major leagues. Alpert also shows how Jewish entrepreneurs, motivated in part by the traditional Jewish commitment to social justice, helped grow the business of black baseball in the face of oppressive Jim Crow restrictions.
Rebecca Alpert is associate professor of religion and women's studies at Temple University. She is the author of Whose Torah? A Concise Guide to Progressive Judaism.
Recorded On: Tuesday, February 28, 2012