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Lamb Opens Up About Conspiracy of Silence

Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball
Chris Lamb
University of Nebraska Press (April 2012)

Maybe the National Hockey League should give copies of Chris Lamb’s book, Conspiracy of Silence, to its fans who feel that because they have a medium in which to express their every immediate thought, they should share their racially bigoted opinions on Joel Ward and his game-winning goal for the Washington Capitals.

It seems so long ago that blacks were not allowed to play baseball. And the issue of their presence on the field and in front offices in modern day gets talked about almost every Jackie Robinson Day. Yet, it is clear racist opinions still exist and their traction might be just as strong as in the time Chris Lamb documents in Conspiracy of Silence.

Conspiracy of Silence takes the reader the racially-littered journey of segregation in baseball. From its early beginnings when it was only the black sportswriters — and there were barely any of those — who wrote about its necessary charge to Branch Rickey slyly giving Robinson a contract and paving the way for integration.

Lamb tells a complete story of both sides of the coin, though it is clear there was no concise reason why blacks were theoretically banned from baseball when there was actually no law, rule or secret creed in place to deny them the right. Despite written statements to the contrary, there was no gentleman’s code on the part of the owners and managers to prevent blacks from playing in major league baseball, but plenty of excuses arose for why there were none.

It isn’t until late in Chapter 9 that Robinson even makes his debut on the scene. But Lamb’s juxtaposition of racism in society and racism in baseball as well as the irony of what was going on in World War II — essentially the United States saying it is morally wrong for Hitler to go on discriminating against Jews when their own country was understating its own racism — made for a well-rounded account of the times and a nice framework for the argument for blacks in baseball.

Conspiracy of Silence is almost frustrating to read because the issue feels like it will never be resolved, but this is exactly what it felt like for the people of the time. The reader didn’t understand, just as the black sportswriters and desegregation supporters, why there was no rule prohibiting it, yet no blacks were in baseball.

Most likely just as frustrating as those who support Joel Ward, love the Caps or love hockey can’t understand where the hatred comes from for a notion that is already socially accepted.

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