Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Author Profile by Champaign News Gazette

Here is a link to an article that profiled the research and publications I have done that appeared in the Champaign News Gazette on August 3, 2008. Enjoy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Burgos debut on TV, Fiesta Tigres, August 9th

A unique opportunity has come my way, and as you can read below, I will be making my broadcast debut on FSN Detroit as part of their special Spanish-language telecast of the Tigers August 9th game versus the Oakland Athletics. For those in the FSN coverage area, tune in.



¡Fiesta Tigres! Night to be First-Ever Tigers Local Telecast en Español

Accomplished Spanish Broadcaster Clemson Smith Muñiz to provide Play-by-Play,

Noted Latino Baseball Historian Adrian Burgos, Jr. Serves as Analyst

Saturday, August 9 is the Detroit Tigers annual ¡Fiesta Tigres! Night at Comerica Park and FSN Detroit will join in the celebration by providing a Spanish-language description of the Tigers-Oakland Athletics game on its auxiliary service FSN PLUS.

The Spanish-language presentation – the first ever for a Tigers local television production – will be available to most cable and satellite households throughout the FSN Detroit regional footprint (a list of FSN PLUS channel numbers is provided at the bottom of this release, or at

The Spanish-language coverage begins at 7:00 PM with play-by-play announcer Clemson Smith Muñiz and analyst Adrian Burgos, Jr. The English-language telecast of that night’s Tigers-A’s game with Mario Impemba and Rod Allen airs as usual on FSN Detroit and FSN HD.

¡Fiesta Tigres! is the Tigers annual salute to the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos to the game of baseball. The team’s 2008 roster includes Magglio Ordoñez, Carlos Guillen, Miguel Cabrera and Armando Galarraga (Venezuela); Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney, Ramon Santiago, Freddy Dolsi, Aquilino Lopez and infield coach Rafael Belliard (Dominican Republic); Edgar Renteria (Colombia); and Joel Zumaya (Mexico).

“This is the perfect opportunity for FSN Detroit and the ballclub to reach out to an important segment of the Tigers fan base, while honoring the heritage of many fans’ favorite players,” said Greg Hammaren, Senior Vice President/General Manager, FSN Detroit. “We are proud to provide this important piece of programming to our cable and satellite providers in conjunction with the ¡Fiesta Tigres! celebration that night at Comerica Park.”

"This is a historic telecast for the Tigers, and for our ¡Fiesta Tigres! celebration," said Duane McLean, Tigers' Senior Vice President of Business Operations. " We're thrilled FSN Detroit is offering the game in Spanish-language, and joining us in honoring the contributions of Hispanic players past and present."

Smith Muñiz, a native of Puerto Rico, has an extensive Spanish-language broadcasting résumé, including TV play-by-play and pre- and post-game hosting for the New York Mets, Yankees and MLB International. The longtime Spanish play-by-play voice for the New York Knicks, Smith Muñiz also serves in that capacity for the New York Jets, Monday Night Football for Univision Radio, as well as Army football. Other national duties have included working as color commentator for Super Bowl XLI and XLII, as both the English- and Spanish-language sideline reporter for Westwood One during the broadcast of the first NFL regular-season game in Mexico City in 2005, and as color commentator during the 1997 and 1998 NBA Playoffs. A former sportswriter for the Hartford Courant, the New York Daily News and Spain’s largest newspaper, El País, Smith Muñiz started his Spanish-language broadcast career in 1991 with ESPN International calling Australian Rules Football before graduating to major events such as the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and World Series. He is president of Smith Muñiz Productions, a New York-based company that helps diverse clients such as MSG, HBO (Real Sports and Hard Knocks) and Major League Baseball reach the Hispanic market.

- continued -


Burgos, a noted educator and author, brings a unique perspective to the Tigers Spanish-language telecast. He is an associate history professor at the University of Illinois specializing in U.S. Latino history, African-American studies, sport history and urban history. In 2007, Burgos published his award-winning book, Playing America’s Game(s): Baseball, Latinos and the Color Line, that examines the impact of the incorporation of Latinos in U.S. professional baseball had on baseball’s color line and racial understandings. The Latin American Studies Association selected the book for its inaugural Latino Book Award, and the Society of American Baseball Researchers named it a finalist for the best baseball history or biography in 2007. Burgos, who earned his doctorate from the University of Michigan, also was a contributing author to the 2006 book Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African American Baseball. He served on the screening and voting committees for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2006 special election on the Negro Leagues, and consulted on the Hall’s ¡Béisbol- Baseball!: The Shared Pastime project.

FSN Detroit and FSN PLUS coverage of the Tigers is available in 3.2 million cable and satellite households throughout Michigan and portions of Northwest Ohio and Northern Indiana.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Latin Week NY Interview

Journalist Ismael Núñez published the following interview on Latino baseball and Playing America's Game this past Wednesday for Latin Week NY, a Latino alternative newspaper.
Where are the Latino Legends in Baseball?

Article by:
Ismael Núñez

Wed, 16 Jul 2008 15:30:00

Called a must-read by Slate Magazine and the San Franciso Chronicle, Adrian Burgos’ Jr. recent book, “Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line,” examines an era in baseball history largely ignored by historians and sports fans until now: Latinos in professional baseball pre-1947. Burgos, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois, has long been an expert on the Latino struggle for acceptance both in the major and Negro leagues, serving on the screening and voting committees for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2006 special election on the Negro Leagues. Latin Week sat down to talk with Burgos about how Latinos helped break the color line in baseball long before Jackie Robinson, and how Latinos still face a fight for respect on the field today.

Not a single Latin American was voted to the all-century team? Does that still hurt?

The absence of Roberto Clemente from the all-century team is a major issue on several levels… Whether Clemente is the greatest outfielder or rightfielder in baseball history is a debatable matter, but whether he is one of the most important baseball figures of the 20th century is without debate. An all-century team without Clemente and all he represented to the game’s history is just not right. The fact that Major League Baseball (MLB) had the discretion to address this oversight and opted not to is telling of the need for an understanding of baseball history through a Latino framework.

Focusing on the book, one thing people are not aware is that there were Latinos playing baseball long before Jackie Robinson. Why we are not given the credit for opening the doors for other peoples of color?

The full story of Latinos in U.S. professional baseball is unknown to the American baseball public. Many do not know that over fifty foreign-born and US-born Latinos performed in the majors from the 1880s through 1947, when Jackie Robinson began the dismantling of organized baseball’s color line. Fewer realize that the overwhelming majority of Latinos who played in the States during the era of baseball’s segregation performed in the Negro leagues, over 250 Latinos played in the Black baseball circuit starting in 1900.

In “Playing America’s Game,” I argue that the manner that major league team officials manipulated racial understandings served as a template for how Branch Rickey would approach the official launch of the racial integration of Major League Baseball… officials for teams such as the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, New York Giants, and, most notably, Washington Senators, brokered access for lighter-skinned Latinos in the 1900s and by the mid-1930s began to allow increasingly darker, more racially ambiguous Latino players into the Majors. However, these Latino players were not given the same exact treatment as Jackie Robinson did, because these officials were not engaged in trying to overturn the color line system of racial division, but rather to manipulate it for their own gain—signing talented Latino players for lower salaries than what they would earn if they were white Americans.

In your book you describe the many obstacles Latino ballplayers had to face, for example speaking English. Do they still face these problems?

Learning to navigate the English-language press remains an extremely challenging obstacle once they “make it” in the United States. It is in the press coverage of Latinos we continue to see how Latino difference as racial beings constantly in production. For example, during last year’s American League Divisional Series Manny Ramirez became embroiled in a controversy after stating that he was not worried whether the Red Sox would defeat Cleveland, because his team had been down before and had overcome a 3-game-to-none deficit in defeating the New York Yankees a few years earlier. Some stated this was another example of “Manny being Manny,” but what really perturbed me was hearing a prominent ESPN reporter stating that Manny did not know what he was saying because he lacked mastery over the English language. What?! Manny came over from the Dominican Republic at ten years old and was schooled in the United States before graduating from George Washington High School in Washington Heights (NYC). But this reporter lumped all Latinos into a familiar stereotype, and then he used that to frame his analysis. And thus continues a practice of portraying Latino players as ignorant, dumb, or not as smart as the white American player, a practice that dates back to the earliest era of Latino participation in organized baseball.

The New York Cubans [a team of Latino players that competed in the Negro leagues] won the Negro League Championship in 1947. There is hardly any talk about this team [in popular and official histories of baseball] – why?

The NY Cubans were one of three NYC-based teams to enjoy a banner season in 1947, and yes, they are the least discussed in part because the other two were the Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Yankees. So there is the issue of timing. The NY Cubans enjoyed their greatest success in the Negro Leagues during the same year that Jackie Robinson initiated the dismantling of organized baseball’s color line system.

Another part of the reason the Cubans team suffers today from a lack of attention is the misperception that they were not a significant team in the Negro Leagues or in New York. Much to the contrary, a look at two main Black weeklies published in NYC (The New York Age and Amsterdam News) one sees that the Cubans and not the NY Black Yankees were celebrated as “Harlem’s Own”…

Much of the story of Black baseball is told as just that of African Americans, leaving out the Latinos who participated in the Negro Leagues from its inception … Moreover, the NY Cubans (and its predecessor the Cuban Stars) were trailblazers in bringing in talent from throughout the Americas. While operating these teams, Alex Pompez introduced the first Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Panamanian players to play in either the Negro Leagues or the Majors. The NY Cubans represent a vital part of baseball history in the Americas for they offer a different approach to diversity in U.S. professional baseball long before “Los Mets.”

One player on the team you talk about highly is Martin Dihigo. Many former Negro League Players say he was the best!

Dihigo is quite a unique figure in the annals of baseball history because he was an ace pitcher and a fabulous everyday player (and a pretty good team manager on top of that). Think of someone who was on a Hall of Fame level as a pitcher in Black baseball (the Smokey Joe Williams, Jose Mendez, and Satchel Paige type pitchers) and then think of the very best everyday players from the Negro Leagues. Put that together and you begin to imagine El Maestro, El Inmortal, Martin Dihigo.

Should Roberto Clemente’s number (21) be retired?

I am of two minds on this question. For one, I want Latino players to be a living memorial to the meaning and significance of Clemente to all Latinos. The best memorial is seeing a great Latino player chose to take the number 21, and demonstrate mastery on the field and also grace, dignity, and a willingness to speak for the cause of social justice off the field…

No greater example has been set for all of those involved in any capacity within organized baseball than what Clemente did… How best do we recognize that vital historical lesson? I am for a living memorial, the Latino players keeping his (and our) story on the field for all to see.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Retro Post: On Remembering Jackie Robinson and Baseball Integration

From time to time I will provide a "retro post," pieces I have posted elsewhere before starting this blog. Here is a piece on the commemoration of Jackie Robinson Day and how baseball's other integration pioneers who followed in his stead are given short shrift.

On April 15, Major League Baseball (MLB) again celebrated its integration pioneer Jackie Robinson by allowing players to wear his retired jersey number in honor of his legacy. All the black players donning 42 spurred lamentations in the media about the decline numbers of African Americans in baseball.

As African American numbers have declined, Latino numbers have skyrocketed, with many darker-skinned players from Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Venezuela owing thanks to Jackie's door-opening achievement. Little is said about why darker-skinned Latinos aren't so inclined to don 42, because so little is understood about how they relate to baseball's integration story.

The truth is, a major piece of the Robinson legacy is missing and MLB is blowing an opportunity to educate the American public about integration's full scope.

Latinos were drastically affected by segregation. While a select number of Latinos (just over 50) performed in the Majors before Robinson, over 230 played in the Negro Leagues, just as Robinson did before organized baseball's color line was dismantled.

The process wherein the overwhelming majority of Latinos were designated racially unacceptable for organized baseball remains one of baseball's lesser known stories. As I argue in my book Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line (University of California Press, 2007), Major League team officials masterfully manipulated racial understandings throughout the time its color line stood in place to broker access for a few Latinos. Over time the Latinos officials ushered into organized baseball became increasingly racially ambiguous. "He's not black," they explained, "He's Cuban." Thus the Washington Senators, Cincinnati Reds, New York Giants, and a handful of other organizations plucked players from the Spanish-speaking Americas. They so successfully muddled racial perception that it necessitated an unambiguously black player to destroy any semblance of ambiguity, enter Jackie Robinson.

It is extremely troubling that this history continues to be conveniently elided in the Robinson commemorations and the more recently instituted Civil Rights Game. For this year's game MLB convened a panel of seven African Americans and Mets GM Omar Minaya as the lone Latino to discuss baseball, race, and civil rights. The lineup of luminaries gathered reveals that MLB does not acknowledge Latino participation in the struggle to overturn segregation or their stake in the past, present, and future of baseball.

That this continues to occur at the moment when Latinos are nearing forty percent of Major Leaguers is shameful and contributes to the popular perception of Latinos as a people without a (long) history in America's game--although the first Latino played in the National League in 1882.

The way MLB (mis-)remembers Jackie and baseball integration also diminishes the legacy of the Negro Leagues and of the integrated Latin American leagues.

On the other side of organized baseball's racial divide African Americans and Latinos collaborated in the establishment of a circuit that for decades refined the ball-playing skills of the excluded. In Havana, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Mexico City, and Caracas, among other Latin American cities, African American players like Rube Foster, John Henry "Pop" Lloyd, and Willie Wells were welcomed in racially integrated leagues. Drawing on his own experience, Foster's vision for the Negro Leagues from his various failed start-ups until he successfully launched the Negro National League in 1920 always included Latinos.

Jackie Robinson was a product of the circuit they built. And let's not forget that it was in this circuit the multitalented athlete honed his skills in what was arguably his fourth best sport. And it was here where Branch Rickey and his men first scouted pioneering black players Robinson, Monte Irvin, Roy Campanella, and Orestes "Minnie" Minoso, among others.

For all the recent talk about engaging in a national conversation on race, we are constantly revisiting a narrative of race relations of black-white, whether inside or outside of baseball. That circumscribed narrative about race fails us all.

2009 will mark the 60th anniversary of Minnie Minoso's debut as the first black Latino to perform in the Majors. His pioneering achievement in overcoming a doubly complex set of racial and cultural challenges as a black Latino to develop into a major league star ought to be the centerpiece of a year-long series of events that portrays baseball's integration saga in its full multicultural splendor. Only then will we truly remember the full impact of Jackie's achievement and honor the entire roster of those who contributed to the overthrow of baseball's Jim Crow system.

Posted: April 18, 2008,

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dave Zirin and the Work of Sport Sociologists

Check out Dave Zirin's insightful article in Contexts (publication of the American Sociology Association) calling for sport sociologist and others who engage in the critical study of sport to engage the wider public with their work. Zirin, who has a forthcoming book, People's History of Sports in the United States, gives props to yours truly and several other scholars for producing scholarship that is impacting the sporting world and its public.

"Playing America's Game" talk on Book TV

Book TV (C-SPAN2) will re-air on Saturday, July 12, 8 am (est) the book lecture I delivered at the National Archives as part of their Hispanic Heritage Month event last September. Tune in and let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tribute to Jules Tygiel

For many of us who study race and baseball, Jules Tygiel’s Baseball’s Great Experiment remains one of the most sophisticated treatments of baseball’s integration and its impact on U.S. society. It is one of the most widely read books on Jackie Robinson and baseball integration, and justly so.

Tygiel approached the integration of baseball as more than just a story of the Major Leagues. He interviewed dozens of Negro League players and researched white mainstream and black newspapers to craft a narrative that allowed readers to understand the profound impact that segregation had on the US national pastime and the complicated terrain that integration pioneers traversed as they participated in the process of desegregating organized baseball.

I first read Baseball’s Great Experiment as an undergraduate at Vassar College working on a senior’s thesis on baseball’s introduction to the Caribbean. Reading the stories he wrote on how racial perceptions in communities throughout the United States affected Latinos such as Vic Power, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, and Minnie Miñoso as organized baseball underwent its transformation inspired me to chart a new path of research: To study Latinos, baseball, and race as a way to better comprehend the impact of baseball’s color line and gain a fuller appreciation of the story of race in American life.

I first met Jules Tygiel at an annual meeting of the North American Society of Sport Historians where he was to deliver a keynote address. I was a young graduate student at the University of Michigan and extremely excited to meet the man who had crafted such a compelling narrative about baseball integration.

I approached his table with trepidation, hoping to just say hello and thank him for the inspiration. He insisted I sit and that we talk. There began a collegial relationship that evolved into an intellectual collaboration. Indeed, not all senior scholars are eager to entertain young scholars seeking to address what some may perceive as a ‘gap’ in their scholarship.

Jules Tygiel was more than a historian, to me and many other young historians working inside and outside of academe, whether writing on baseball, urban history, or politics. Yes, he was an exemplar as a baseball historian who set a standard for writing baseball history in a scholarly manner yet also accessible to a popular audience. But, he was also very giving of his time, willing to share his wealth of knowledge and information, and offer advice and encouragement.

A number of years ago, when the University of California Press asked me for names of potential reviewers of my book manuscript, his name came immediately to mind—who better to entrust the years of work I invested in this project than the individual who helped inspired it. In the end, Jules read my book manuscript several times and gave thorough and thoughtful criticism. Whatever success my book Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line has enjoyed since its release is a credit to his wonderful, giving spirit and his gracefulness as a senior scholar committed to mentoring the next generation.

Last year’s All-Star Game Week festivities in San Francisco gave me the opportunity to meet Jules again in person. I was in town to do a book signing at the Mission Bay Borders Bookstore across from the Giants ballpark, conduct some interviews, and catch up with a few friends. It was also the first chance I had to personally thank him for his inspiration, guidance, and encouragement through the years after the publication of my book the previous month.

The highlight of my time in San Francisco was talking baseball, history, and about life in academe with Jules, and being given a tour of his beloved San Francisco—a Brooklyn transplant, Jules had long come to grips with rooting for the Giants.

I was hoping to catch up again next month in San Francisco when I attend a friend’s wedding and a Dodgers-Giants game. But the cancer that had been in remission had made an unwelcome comeback.

He will be missed, but his impact will continue through the scholars and historians he mentored and the scholarship they produce.

posted on on July 11, 2008,

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Minoso and Historical Record: A Response to an Email

This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at the inaugural Double Duty Classic hosted by the Chicago White Sox. This event was created to honor Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe and is fashioned after the Negro League's East-West Classic. Held annually in Chicago from 1933 to 1959, the East-West Classic was Black baseball's all-star game and was, as fellow Negro League historian Larry Lester observed during the panel, the equivalent of football's "Super Bowl" in terms of its significance as a celebratory event for the African American community.

Prior to the game, the White Sox organized a forum which consisted of three panels and was moderated by ESPN's Michael Smith. The panel on which I participated, the first of the three, focused on the legacy of the Negro Leagues and included Sharon Robinson (daughter of Jackie Robinson) along with fellow Negro League historians Eddie Bedford and Larry Lester. My participation on the panel was to account for the history of Latinos in the Negro Leagues, and to offer the perspective of significance of the Negro League for Latinos.

When I got home, I had an email (below) in my in-b0x that was sent immediately following the event. I have not joined the Blackberry generation (although my Dad has one--how weird is that?), so I did not see the email until arriving home late that evening. However, I wanted to share my response to the e-mailed query since it speaks to what precisely I hope my work as a scholar speaks.



Dear Prof. Burgos Jr.:

Shouldn't the record be corrected to reclassify Minoso as NOT being the first black player on the Chicago Whites Sox?


Dear Sir:

I entirely disagree that the record is inaccurate in naming (and honoring) Minnie Minoso as the first black player on the White Sox as a historian who studies the period of integration in baseball and as a scholar who studies race in the Americas (the U.S. and Latin America). He was indeed the first black player on the Sox, and that is exactly how the Chicago Defender, Chicago Tribune, and all the other papers in Chicago wrote about this story as it unfolded. They viewed him as a black man, and he was treated as such by opposing players and segregation sympathizers.

Minoso underwent two levels of acculturation in coming to the US to play professional baseball, dealing with both racial and cultural bias from every sector of US society. Simply put, Minoso is a black Latino who endured and overcame a different set of challenges than any other ballplayer in the Major Leagues in being the first black Latino to perform in the Majors (1949 with Cleveland) and the first black Latino to pioneer the racial integration of a Major League team (White Sox, 1951).

To state otherwise is to deny the history of Minoso being the subject of racial animus on and off the field--the insults hurled at him from opponents of integration, the pitches thrown at him from opposing teams, the separate accommodations he had to endure when traveling through the American League circuit. Opposing teams and segregation sympathizers did not give him a pass because he was Cuban, they saw a black (Cuban) man before them and made their feelings known.

Indeed, it would be historically disingenuous to strip Minoso of this recognition. This is a man whose major league aspirations were placed on hold due to Jim Crow policies and racial thinking of individuals inside US baseball circles, specifically organized baseball. Thus, like the majority of Latinos prior to 1947, Minoso started the US portion of his baseball career in the Negro Leagues, where he played for three seasons (1946-1948). To strip him of this place in the annals of history would be to deny what Puerto Rican Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda has stated of the early Latino pioneers allowed to enter MLB once the project of racial integration of baseball began: "We had two strikes on us, one because we were Latino and another because we were black."

In fact, I have argued that too many deny what black Latinos went through in recalling and/or writing about this era in baseball and American history. For in addition to racial slights, they also endured the cultural chauvinism of white and black Americans for their being Latino. This made their successes on the field all the more greater.

Minoso is a standard bearer for this history, his personal grace and dignity in the midst of this adversity makes his baseball excellence ("stats") all the more compelling. In this regard, he is quite like Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, their statistics do not convey their historical importance nor their achievements. All three ought to be honored with plaques in Cooperstown. Yet, it is Minoso who has been denied that rightful place in history precisely because so many deny the significance of his blackness and how race so affected the journey and triumph of black Latinos who part of the generation of integration pioneers.

In the end, ironically enough, Minoso was not the first Latino to play for the White Sox, but he WAS most definitely the first black man who took on the awesome challenge of integrating the Sox and enduring the racial animosities of the era. The path that Minoso and other black Latinos (or Afro-Latinos) was indeed different than that which Rafael Almeida, Armando Marsans, Adolfo Luque, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, and other Latinos permitted to perform in the Major Leagues before Jackie Robinson and the official start of baseball's racial integration. To alter the record of how racial understandings affected Latinos as they were assigned to different locations along the color line is to deny how much race matters then as now.