The Commie Sports Pages
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.' "
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