All of you "Journalists" and "sports fans" should be ashamed of yourselves. Most of you sports writers probably wouldn't even have a job today were it not for this man. So it appears once again we the public will have to do your jobs for you, and give proper respect where its due.
Lester "Red" Rodney: 1911-2009
More Than a Sportswriter
By DAVE ZIRIN
It didn't make SportsCenter, but one of history's most influential sportswriters died this week at the age of 98. His name was Lester Rodney. Lester was one of the first people to write about a young Negro League prospect named Jackie Robinson. He was the last living journalist to cover the famous 1938 fight at Yankee Stadium between "The Brown Bomber" Joe Louis and Hitler favorite, Max Schmeling. He crusaded against baseball's color line when almost every other journalist pretended it didn't exist. He edited a political sports page that engaged his audience in how to fight for a more just sports world. His writing, which could describe the beauty of a well-turned double play in one sentence and blast injustice in the next, is still bracing and ahead of its time. He should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Instead he was largely erased from the books.
If you have never heard of Lester Rodney, there is a very simple reason why: the newspaper he worked at from 1936-1958 was the Daily Worker, the party press of the U.S. Communist Party. Lester used his paper to launch the first campaign to end the color line in Major League Baseball. I spoke to Lester about this in 2004 and he said to me, "It's amazing. You go back and you read the great newspapers in the thirties, you'll find no editorials saying, 'What's going on here? This is America, land of the free and people with the wrong pigmentation of skin can't play baseball?' Nothing like that. No challenges to the league, to the commissioner, no talking about Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, who were obviously of superstar caliber. So it was this tremendous vacuum waiting."
The campaign was integrated into the Party's anti-racist work of the 1930s: "I spoke to the leaders of the YCL [the Young Communist League]. We talked about circulating the paper [at ballparks]. It just evolved as we talked about the color line and some kids in the YCL suggested, 'Why don't we go to the ballparks-to Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds-with petitions?' We wound up with at least a million and a half signatures that we delivered straight to the desk of [baseball commissioner] Judge Landis."