Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line (Atlantic, $25),by Tom Dunkel, is sports journalism and narrative history at its best. While most Americans think of Jackie Robinson’s debut in the Major Leagues as the event that broke the color barrier in baseball, Dunkel has unearthed a remarkable and previously untold story of a formidable semipro baseball team in the mid 1930s that included some of the nation’s most talented black ball players, including Satchel Paige and Quince Troupe. The team didn’t play in New York City or Chicago or a major metropolitan area, but in the drought-ravaged, Depression-ravaged remoteness of Bismarck, North Dakota, in the mid 1930s.
Jewish sports heroes? You betcha! From boxers like Barney Ross, who dominated the professional ranks in the 1920s and ‘30s, to playground basketball stars who went on to be pros, like Red Holzman and Doph Schayes, to Sid Luckman who originated the position of the modern dropback quarterback, Jews have had an enormous impact on American sports. In Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame (Twelve, $26.99), Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy have compiled fifty biographical portraits that entertain, enlighten, and educate. The range of subjects is diverse, and so are the contributors. They include Simon Schama, David Brooks, Jane Leavy, Sholom Auslander, and David Remn