Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This June we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to Amy Essington’s The Integration of the Pacific Coast League!
About the Book:
While Jackie Robinson’s 1947 season with the Brooklyn Dodgers made him the first African American to play in the Major Leagues in the modern era, the rest of Major League Baseball was slow to integrate while its Minor League affiliates moved faster. The Pacific Coast League (PCL), a Minor League with its own social customs, practices, and racial history, and the only legitimate sports league on the West Coast, became one of the first leagues in any sport to completely desegregate all its teams. Although far from a model of racial equality, the Pacific Coast states created a racial reality that was more diverse and adaptable than in other parts of the country.
The Integration of the Pacific Coast League describes the evolution of the PCL beginning with the league’s differing treatment of African Americans and other nonwhite players. Between the 1900s and the 1930s, team owners knowingly signed Hawaiian players, Asian players, and African American players who claimed that they were Native Americans, who were not officially banned. In the post–World War II era, with the pressures and challenges facing desegregation, the league gradually accepted African American players. In the 1940s individual players and the local press challenged the segregation of the league. Because these Minor League teams integrated so much earlier than the Major Leagues or the eastern Minor Leagues, West Coast baseball fans were the first to experience a more diverse baseball game.
“In The Integration of the Pacific Coast League, Essington undertakes the first comprehensive account of black players joining the P.C.L. In 1948, a catcher named John Ritchey became the league’s first black player when he signed with the San Diego Padres affiliate. Unlike Robinson’s, Ritchey’s story has been all but erased from history. When Essington reached out to the president of the P.C.L.’s historical society, she learned its archival holdings had been inadvertently de-accessioned.”—New York Times
“What shines through in this work, however, is Essington’s effort to construct the racial history of the Pacific Coast League from scratch. This took some digging. Essington had to plumb the sparse records of PCL franchises, their cities’ historical societies, newspaper articles, oral histories and scrapbooks… Essington’s persistence yields historical dividends.”—Sports in American History
“Amy Essington, a history instructor at Cal State, Fullerton, tells the story of how the Pacific Coast League, a popular minor league before the majors’ westward expansion, became one of the first leagues in any sport to integrate throughout. If it appeared ahead of the times, the PCL was not necessarily a model of open hiring, signing African Americans who team owners claimed were native Americans between 1900 and 1930, along with Hawaiians and Asians. However achieved, the Pacific Coast League was a diversity leader.”— The Christian Science Monitor
On the Blog:
A Word from the Author:
After my first year of classes in my doctoral program, I spent a wonderful summer working as an intern in the Giamatti Research Center of the Library at the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was where my ideas for a project on the integration of the Pacific Coast League first began.
The following summer, I gave my first-ever academic presentation at the Cooperstown Symposium. Last summer I returned to present in the exact same room at the 30th Cooperstown Symposium, this time presenting on my book, The Integration of the Pacific Coast Baseball League. It brought me full circle, from the beginning of the project to its publication as a book.