What I’m Reading: “Uppity” by Bill White

With the passing of Bob Gibson and Lou Brock earlier this year, Bill White’s story is all the more important.

Uppity by Bill  White

From his days as the only black player on the San Francisco Giants’ Class B affiliate in Danville, Va., to his early days with the Cardinals playing under Solly Hemus and his leadership in changing the culture of Cardinals’ spring training, helping to make the St. Louis dugout one of the most progressive in major league baseball, White has an important story to tell.

In Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play, White tells that story, including the horrific challenges he faced as one of the first black players in the Carolina League. White’s story includes sitting on the bus during a road trip in the Midwest while his teammates ate in a restaurant that refused to serve him. He speaks of the epithets that were hurled at him as he played, and how the one time he allowed the fans to get to him and gave them the finger, he and his teammates needed to keep their bats in hand to safely get back to the team bus. Even then, the bus was pelted with rocks as they fled the stadium.

Even with the Cardinals, White’s road wasn’t easy. Though the leadership of men like White, Gibson, and Brock helped to make the Cardinals’ clubhouse one of the most forward-thinking in baseball at the time, it took work to make it that way. White explains why he spoke to an Associated Press reporter about the conditions black players faced in Florida in spring training, and how it made him feel to live and eat separately from the rest of the team.

Of course, White’s impact on baseball went far beyond his career with the Cardinals. He discusses how he got into broadcasting, starting with an opportunity offered to him by KMOX, and White’s sense of humor really comes alive when discussing his days as a Yankees broadcaster alongside Phil Rizzuto.

The final third of Uppity covers White’s tenure as president of the National League. White doesn’t pull any punches in discussing his relationships with commissioners A. Bartlett Giamatti and Fay Vincent, the umpires union, and the Major League Baseball owners. As White was leaving the role, he witnessed first-hand the owners’ moves to replace the independent commissioner of baseball role with someone who would be guided less by “the best interests of baseball” and more by the best interests of the owners.

White shares that while he has a lifetime pass to attend any baseball game he wants, by the time Uppity was published he had long since stopped attending. After thousands of games as a player and broadcaster, the business of baseball had made the game less fun, and as he admits early in the book, he never truly loved baseball – to him, it had always been a business opportunity.

Despite this, White found himself surrounded by some of the most interesting personalities in the game throughout his career and has an important story to tell about where baseball has been and where it is going.

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