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tv   Race and Baseball in America  CSPAN  May 5, 2018 6:38pm-6:56pm EDT

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1968 america in turmoil. we look at the impact of the vietnam war in-home. while the war was fought in the jungles of vietnam, acts of disobedience on streets dominated u.s. headlines. joining us to talk about the turbulent time . most recentwhose project with ken burns was a 10 part documentary, "the vietnam war." turmoil68: america in on c-span's washington journal and c-span3. next on american history tv, university of illinois professor adrian burgos talks about the history of race and baseball in america. this 15 minute interview was recorded at the american
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historical association annual meeting in washington, d.c. historical association annual susan: adrian burgos is teaching history in a specialty that people may not think of as a historian subject. baseball. thank you for being with us. you have written baseball is essential to the hispanic experience in history. adrian: baseball provides an identity for many, especially coming from cuba to puerto rico, venezuela, it goes back to the 19th century. in some cases, for cubans, before there was even cuba as a nation, there was baseball. that helps consolidate their sense of identity. baseball, what makes it unique for latinos is that we are the
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first group of immigrants to the united states that came with baseball. baseball was not a means of assimilation, the same way it would be for european immigrants, where the polish and the italians learned baseball here and became more american. we already arrived with baseball. we see a different process of acculturation. dynamics in which we had already game.cas' as we already claimed it. susan: before we get to your personal involvement, what is it about this or that made it so popular? adrian: the moment in which it arrived in cuba in the 1860's and why. cubans had begun to resist spanish colonial rule. they stopped sending their kids to madrid.
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they started sending them to mobile, alabama and washington, d.c., to schools in the u.s. at precisely the moment that baseball was starting to flourish. they brought baseball back with them. not only that, they gave it their own meaning. it was about a cuban identity, a distinct sporting culture that made them distinct from the spanish ruling. they talk about baseball as democratic. everyone got to take their turn at bat. step up for the better of society. they literally wrote this in manuscripts, in books and articles about how baseball is forging a democratic identity and to push for independence. susan: let's get to your own personal history. how did you get involved? adrian: i played high school ball. i played college ball. it really goes back to being a youth. my father is a lay minister. we used to go to church in the bronx, a spanish speaking church. we would be there, making a joyful noise. the music we had was like
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songs.istian after that, we would convene at a ballpark, and this is what got me -- the same people making the joyful noise in the morning were like "strike him out, get him, run, run, run." what inspires that passion? then i get to learn more about my own family's history and how baseball has always been a part of the family's cultural dna. to the point that i sent my first book manuscript to the university of california press. it is at the press. it is being pumped out. i go to celebrate that moment with my parents in georgia. one of my uncles came to celebrate with us from florida. his name is jose antonio burgos. we call him tonio. did you know that there was a puerto rican player who alsooneo celebrate with us from florida. played in the puerto rican league who plays with your same name, jose antonio burgos? he said, did you know your
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grandmother named me after him? i had no idea. that is how deep the game was. themandmothers, both of loved baseball. it was something that i inherited from them. it goes on beyond. it is not just a manly thing, it is a family thing for us. susan: when you decided to become a historian, and you went to your professors who were going to be mentoring your academic career and you said, this is the field i want to go in, what was their reaction? adrian: at vassar college, all adergrads have to write thesis. professor michael o'malley was my advisor. i turned to him and i said i would love to write on baseball's introduction in the caribbean. he saw the value in that. he was a student of a cultural historian of the highest regard. mike saw the value of it, but the rest of the faculty had to meet -- does this have the
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historical gravitas that we want? he fought for me, and we won. me on this the other thing, when i was applying to graduate school, it was so important, i had this project in mind. i went to visit the university of michigan, one of the schools that accepted me. i was walking past the library with professor rebecca scott. a great cuban historian. she turns to me and said, the history of baseball in cuba and latin america, that is a great idea. she took my ideas seriously. rebecca scott is taking it seriously. this is the place i need to go to. that is what helped inspire me to continue with that project because they saw there was a bigger story about immigration, about identity, about trans-nationalism that has yet to be told. susan: we are speaking at the annual convention of the american historical association, thousands of people here
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pursuing life in the economy. public history is another field altogether. you bridged both of them with this sport. you are active on social media, and blogs, on television and radio. can you talk about keeping a foot in one of each of these camps as a historian? adrian: one of the important things is how we make the history relevant for a broad audience? that is why the engagement with a public blog is so vital and important. and what are the lessons to be learned? the process of assimilation, immigration that these players went through is very similar to to the same kind of dynamics -- not exactly the same, but went through is very similar to
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to the same kind of dynamics -- not exactly the same, but similar to what any latino immigrant experiences. it is a parallel story, and it is a story then that we can share. the other part that i think is important wherever i go to speak is people do not have a grasp of how long a u.s.-latino history actually is. because in popular media, latinos are often depicted as recent arrivals or fairly -- arrivals or so assimilated they are not really latino. the latino culture has survived the pull of both nations from home and the new home. we have created a culture around that idea. i am bilingual. i love baseball. this will is not a part of me becoming american, baseball is a part of how i have always been american and latino. that is what i try to transmit to a broader public. susan: 1947 an important year because it was the breaking of the color barrier with hiring black players, with the hiring of jackie robinson. is there a similar demarcation line was latinos in baseball? adrian: what we learned about studying the inclusion of latinos in u.s. professional baseball is how the color line actually worked. because the story of african
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americans is the story about right exclusion, where the color line and the forces that supported it outright expelled them from organized baseball. what we see with latinos is, where was that exclusionary point and how it changes. in many instances, it was the owners and upper management in major league baseball who created categories of race and the point of exclusion along that color line. that is where we see over 240 latinos played in the negro leagues prior to jackie robinson's arrival in the major leagues in 1947. there were almost 50 latinos who played in the major leagues during that period. what does that tell us? it tells us that the color line was changing. there were these categories. people had power to change it. that is what the branch did. we always have the power to
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change inclusion or exclusion in baseball. i am going to change it, that is what it did. susan: in the history of the inclusion, did it matter how dark your skin was? adrian: it totally matted. very early on, in the 19-teens, when we see the first wave of cubans breaking into the major leagues, they were primarily lighter skinned. some from well-off backgrounds. in the 1860's and 1880's, cubans were sending their kids to the u.s. for education. they were well off. they were able to do that. it is their children, their grandchildren who broke into the major leagues. throughout the same time, you have darker skin cubans playing negro league. they did not discriminate on the basis of color. you had some lighter skinned cubans playing in the league. negro league. said, hey, he's pretty good, he is light enough, let's try to get him in. that is how they broke into major leagues before jackie robinson.
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susan: what are the biggest names in baseball'smajor leaguec history that people should not? -- should know? adrian: the first black latino who came into major leagues. everyone thought he was a black man. there were other latinos, a cuban known as a mulatto who made it into major league baseball and was racialized and faced a lot of racial animus and hostility, was called the n-word by his teammates. he fit that ambiguity. he did not seem as black. his coach even said he was cuban, not black. that is an interesting story there.
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another story that is important. he played in the 1880's with the providence grays. he was mexican american. he was presented to the major league public as the spanish catcher of the providence club, because to mark him as his actual mexican american identity would be to present him not of high enough stock of race to play in the major leagues. to make him spanish, that is acceptable because he is european. those are the kinds of stories that we can learn about how race categories were being used and manipulated to place latinos. i will throw you one last example, he is actually not latino, but he explains the story of latinos in baseball. one of the best african-american players, who suffered exclusion in the told "sporting life" 1900s magazine, had i not been so dark, i might have passed as a spaniard or something of that kind. here you have an african american who understands how
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race is being a manipulated in baseball and united states. latino long history of participation in baseball. it is not just the dominicans who just arrived or the cubans who defected. they are all connected to a longer story. susan: what is life like for latino baseball players today? adrian: many of them are still going through that experience, because coming out of the dominican republic, coming out of venezuela as teenagers, they ir first being immersed in an culture andking united states is when they arrive as teenagers. they go through that experience of learning how to acculturate. learning how to deal with how td united states is order food. it is not just their talent on the field that will get them to the major-league, it is can they the major-league, it is can they deal with the off field dynamics of acculturation and understand the dynamics of race in the
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to make it?s that is similar to what other players went through. that is inconsistent -- that is a consistent line for latinos. susan: a very contemporary question as we close. the hurricane damage in puerto rico. it has been a baseball crazy society, a place where many recruits come from. what happens now with the islan? adrian: it is interesting, "la vida baseball," we just is so ravaged? published an article last week that talks precisely about this situation. mayor cruz, the mayor of san juan, was at the press conference with the puerto rican league, who will play a season this year. they are starting this weekend. that talks precisely about this
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part of it is, and what she said, we need to heal and said, we need to heal and recover. sport is a tool that helps us with that. it is something to cheer about. that is what team puerto rico, even carlos beltran and the houston astros accomplished on the field helped to energize the puerto rican people in the midst of really dire circumstances with a lack of electricity, lack of potable water. we look to these players because it is a tradition about being resilient and overcome. susan: as we close, tell people who are baseball history fanatics like yourselves where we can find your blog. adrian: we are a multimedia digital company. we produce videos. you can go to and all other social media. susan: you have a twitter feed as well. thank you so much for talking to us briefly about a long and complex history of latinos in baseball. adrian: thank you so much for having me. >> this weekend, on c-span, tonight at 8:30 p.m. eastern, journalist and law experts
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discuss first amendment protections in the digital age. sunday at 6:30 p.m., former clinton white house chief of staff leon panetta, former chief and --f reince previous priebus on the american priebus on the american dream on c-span2. on afterwards, facebook andunder chris strengthen the middle class. sunday, authors talk about conservatism in the age of donald trump. tv,on american history c-span3, tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, sam houston state hughes on his claim to reduce poverty universy professor jordan on the 1864 civil war overland campaign. sunday at 11:00 a.m. eastern, a new monument at arlington
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national cemetery dedicated to the most 5000 helicopter and crew pilots killed during the vietnam war. watching this weekend on c-span on thewatch this weekend c-span networks. >> we hear from three veterans who received the medal of honor, the highest military award for valor. two received medals for their actions in the vietnam war, and the third for his actions in the korean war. this hosted by the american veterans center. >> i am the chief operating officer for the congressional medal of honor foundation it is an extreme privilege to be able to work for the recipients of the medal of honor and their foundation to help them perpetuate the legacy of the medal and its values of courage, sacrifice, integrity, commitment, and patriotism. we do that through several different types

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