Neyer: Was it harder for black players to excel in the 1950s?

From SABR member Rob Neyer at on February 9, 2015, with mention of SABR member Scott Simkus:

I’ve been reading this new book about Joe Black, 1952’s National League Rookie of the Year. As it happens, a) Sahadev Sharma just wrote about Joe Black, and b) I just read the chapter in the book where Joe Black received this letter:

Joe Black: I have bet my life savings on the Giants winning the pennant. I consider you to be the main reason why they are eight games out of first place. If you come in to pitch at the Polo Grounds Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, Sept. 6, 7, 8, it will be the last time you ever appear on any baseball mound. I live in a project over looking the Polo Grounds and you would be an easy target standing alone on the mound. I will watch your every move.

Black was hardly the first or last player to receive a death threat, and white players too. But this was on my mind when a special edition of Scott Simkus’s tremendous Outsider Baseball Bulletin newsletter arrived, after a long hiatus. The headline: Performing Under Pressuring During Integration Era.

It’s long been suggested that black players in the late ’40s and ’50s faced two significant obstacles. First they had to get a chance to play in the majors … and once there, they had to somehow cope with the prejudices and abuse of hostile fans, teammates, coaches, and managers. Which by all accounts was considerable.

But did all that abuse actually hurt their performance? Simkus figured a way to check.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: February 9, 2015. Last Updated: February 9, 2015.