Baseball Rebels


Baseball Rebels

The Players, People, and Social Movements That Shook Up the Game and Changed America

Peter Dreier and Robert Elias
Foreword by Dave Zirin

408 pages
36 illustrations, index


April 2022


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2022


$36.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2022


$36.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Finalist for the 2023 Seymour Medal
Foreword INDIES Finalist in History 

In Baseball Rebels Peter Dreier and Robert Elias examine the key social challenges—racism, sexism and homophobia—that shaped society and worked their way into baseball’s culture, economics, and politics.

Since baseball emerged in the mid-1800s to become America’s pastime, the nation’s battles over race, gender, and sexuality have been reflected on the playing field, in the executive suites, in the press box, and in the community. Some of baseball’s rebels are widely recognized, but most of them are either little known or known primarily for their baseball achievements—not their political views and activism. Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line, but less known is Sam Nahem, who opposed the racial divide in the U.S. military and organized an integrated military team that won a championship in 1945. Or Toni Stone, the first of three women who played for the Indianapolis Clowns in the previously all-male Negro Leagues. Or Dave Pallone, MLB’s first gay umpire. Many players, owners, reporters, and other activists challenged both the baseball establishment and society’s status quo.

Baseball Rebels tells stories of baseball’s reformers and radicals who were influenced by, and in turn influenced, America’s broader political and social protest movements, making the game—and society—better along the way.

Author Bio

Peter Dreier is E. P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and founding chair of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. A former newspaper reporter, community organizer, and senior policy adviser to former Boston mayor Ray Flynn, he has authored or coauthored seven books, including The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. Robert Elias is a professor of politics and legal studies at the University of San Francisco. He is the author of several books, including Baseball and the American Dream: Race, Class, Gender, and the National Pastime. Dave Zirin is the author of several books, the sports editor for The Nation, and host of the weekly Edge of Sports podcast and radio show.


"In an age where increasing amounts of attention continue to be devoted to diversity and inclusion, Peter Dreier and Robert Elias reinforce the notion that we've come a long way but still have a long way to go. Baseball Rebels serves as a well-rounded volume that examines various aspects of the national pastime vis-à- vis the tumultuous social issues of race relations, the battle of the sexes— in more ways than one— and progressive activism."—Paul Hensler, NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture

"Drier and Elias have composed a welcome contribution to baseball's historiography that privileges the game's counternarrative of dissent and rebellion."—Dain TePoel, Journal of Sport History

"Well-written and convincingly argued, Baseball Rebels warrants a place on the shelves of fans and scholars alike. Baseball may seem like a fundamentally conservative sporting culture. But as this important book shows, beneath the surface, there have always been brave dissenters willing to challenge the status quo even at the expense of their own careers, and even in the face of long, daunting odds."—Derek Catsam, Journal of Popular Culture

"Baseball Rebels conducts deep dives into the ugly past in the game. The history lessons offered through the lens of Dreier and Elias make their book a must-read."—Don Laible, Bradenton Times

"For all the progress that has been made, we're still waiting for greater minority representation in front offices, for women to be part of the game, and for LGBTQ+ individuals to feel unashamed of who they are within the context of the game. Baseball Rebels makes you feel like it's only a matter of time before that's a reality, though, and that's a really good thing."—Chris D. Davies,

"Readers will find much in this volume that a second or third reading will bring new delight and interest."—Paul Buhle, Progressive Magazine

“Baseball is America’s game: it’s a game with an important and often-overlooked history of rebellion, and one that, with fits and starts, has helped lead the nation’s fight against racism, sexism, and homophobia. Don’t believe me? This incisive and compelling book proves it. . . . Highly recommended.”—Jonathan Eig, author of Luckiest Man and Opening Day

“It’s not just that Baseball Rebels homes in on the heroes (and reprobates) in the ongoing battles for civil rights and against gender discrimination. It’s that it does it with grace and humanity, telling must-read stories of barrier-breakers we know, like Satchel Paige, and others we ought to, like Frank Sykes.”—Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

“Baseball began in the cities, from a nostalgic longing for an agrarian paradise more ideal than real. That idealism—a wish for fairness and harmony on a level playing field—animated all that came after and is splendidly delineated in Robert Elias and Peter Dreier’s new book. Who is in, who is out, and who gets to decide: that has been the banner under which all baseball’s rebels have marched.”—John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball

“We all know about Ruth and Koufax. But as Dreier and Elias remind us, the game has also been played by Octavius Catto and Helen Callaghan, Frank Sykes and Glenn Burke—men and women who used the ballfields to fight for social justice and equality. Read this book, and you will agree that their stories deserve to be known.”—Joshua Prager, author of The Family Roe and The Echoing Green

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Dave Zirin
Resisting Racism
1. Battling Jim Crow
2. Building Black Institutions
3. Before Jackie Robinson
4. Crossing the Color Line
5. Defending Civil Rights

Resisting Sexism and Homophobia
6. Women in Baseball
7. Gay Men in Baseball

Today’s Activists and an Agenda for Change
8. Modern-Day Rebels
9. Baseball Justice: An Unfinished Agenda
Also by the Authors


Finalist for the 2023 Seymour Medal
Foreword INDIES Finalist in History 

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