I have great interest in reading about 1954, my first year on the planet. It was an interesting time. President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about getting involved militarily in Vietnam after he authorized limited military aid to that country. Newsmen Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly produced a television exposé about Senator Joseph McCarthy. Jim Crow laws were still enforced in many states. Most importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. the Board of Education that American public schools should integrate all races. Much was changing during the year of my birth.
It was also a time of change for major league baseball. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in the previous year, the first franchise move since 1903, showing team owners how profitable moving a weary team to a new city could be. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles in 1954, a prelude to the Dodgers and Giants moving to the West Coast four years later. What may have been even more important to the way the game is played and who plays it is that 1954 was the first season that nearly every team in the pennant race had black players. The team that did not have any was the New York Yankees who failed to repeat as American League champs. Sports writer Bill Madden recounts this season in 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever.
In 1954, Madden tells a mostly chronological story featuring the teams that were seriously in the pennant race: Brooklyn Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, and New York Giants in the National League and the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees in the American League. Other teams are rare mentioned except when they played the contending teams. In the account, the author focuses on important black players Willie Mays, Larry Doby, Minnie Minoso, Monte Irvin, and rookies Henry Aaron and Ernie Banks. Other players who figure importantly in the story include Al Rosen, Pee Wee Reese, Dusthy Rhodes, and Johnny Antonelli.
Madden's 1954 reminds me of end of the season assessment articles written by Roger Angell for the New Yorker that I have read in the past. The book has less currency and more historical perspective, of course. It will interest readers who are baseball fans and/or those studying racial desegregation in America.
Madden: Bill. 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever. Da Capo Press, 2014. 290p. ISBN 9780306823329.