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The Commie Sports Pages

Adam Bernstein

Two great obits appeared in the last few days, both for Lester Rodney, who edited the sports pages of the Communist Party newspaper the Daily Worker in the 1930s and 1940s and who championed racial integration in sports. He was a minor figure in sports for much of his life, but as the obits in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times make clear, he was rediscovered by sports historians and feted toward the end of his life.

As the LA paper reports, "Beginning in the decade before Jackie Robinson suited up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, Mr. Rodney began pressing for the desegregation of baseball via columns and stories in the Daily Worker's sports pages. He called the ban against blacks in the major leagues 'un-American' and 'the crime of the big leagues.' "

Stanford University scholar Arnold Rampersad's biography of Robinson made a case for Mr. Rodney's significance as a crusader for integration: "The most vigorous efforts [to integrate baseball] came from the Communist press ... an unrelenting pressure for about 10 years in the Daily Worker, notably from Lester Rodney."

The NY Times, however, has the better ending. The article reports that Mr. Rodney had a wry side and told an interviewer about the time before the 1936 World Series between the Yankees and the New York Giants:

"I remember my first headline: 'Giant Power Threatens Yankees,' in 60-point railroad Gothic caps. I also remember thinking what fun it would have been if Cincinnati had won the National League pennant and the headline said, 'Reds Power Threatens Yankees.' "

By Adam Bernstein  |  December 25, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Adam Bernstein  
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Comments

It is doubtful that articles in a paper nobody read had much influence on anything.

Posted by: rpatoh | December 25, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

@rpatoh: You apparently don't realize how big of a deal the communist movement was in the 30s and 40s. The Daily Worker was actually a big deal in those days.

Posted by: dfbdfb | December 26, 2009 1:30 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: CommieBlaster | December 26, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Rodney was an obscure reporter who's now being touted in the liberal media because he was a small fish with now-chique commie credentials in a larger effort to integrate professional baseball. The Daily Worker was a Communist Party propaganda sheet that had little influence outside New York City. This is an overblown story that exagerrates Rodney's role and tries to rehabilitate someone who was a Stalinist until at least the late 1950s and admitted he was a committed leftist for his entire lifetime.

The Daily Worker was a newspaper published in New York City by the Communist Party USA, a Comintern-affiliated organization. Publication began in 1924. While it generally reflected the prevailing views of the party, some attempts were made to make it a paper that reflected the spectrum of left-wing opinion. AT ITS PEAK, THE NEWSPAPER ACHIEVED A CIRCULATION OF 35,000... Louis Budenz held the job of managing editor at the Daily Worker, but also served as an agent recruiter for the Soviet intelligence service, then known as the NKVD. While editor, Budenz participated in discussions with CPUSA Party Chairman Earl Browder and Soviet intelligence officials on plans for the assassination of exiled former Soviet leader Leon Trotsky. --Wikipedia

For comparison: From 1935 to 1961, The New York Times daily circulation rose from 465,000 to 713,000 and Sunday circulation from 745,000 to 1.4 million. --Wikipedia

And, in 1935, the New York Times was just one of many newspapers in the city.

Posted by: ChesDead | December 26, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

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