Racism, Radio & Baseball
Posted by athomeatfenway on June 1, 2012
As I said in previous posts, one finds Baseball embedded in unlikely and surprising places.
I was in an Antiques Co-op scanning book spines when my eyes fell upon an orange colored hardcover titled, All about Amos & Andy and their Creators, Correll & Gosden.
Year of Publication: 1929.
Amos & Andy was a situation comedy set in the African American community that was hugely successful first on Radio in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and later on TV in the early 50’s.
Two Caucasian men, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, played Amos & Andy, putting on blackface and affecting an African American period dialect. Andy is the smart one. He is the President of the Fresh Air Cab Company. Andy is too lazy to even bait his own hook when fishing. He persuades his less astute sidekick, Amos, to do the baiting as well as any other dirty work that needs be done.
“Crude, repetitious and moronic” was how the Pittsburgh Courier described Correll & Gosden’s portrayal of African Americans in a 1930 denunciation of the show. At the time, The Courier was the largest circulation African American newspaper in the U.S..
I expected this book to be offensive. I saw photos, dialogue and text that exemplified how dumb, dishonest, greedy, uneducated and inarticulate these black folk were.
Meanwhile, Gosden & Correll are shown to be collegial, creative, hardworking, talented and even kind to black people.
“I am disgusted!” comes out of Amos as “I’se regusted !” “Multiplying and dividing” is “Muslyfyin and reviden” when Andy says it.
Amos and Andy were a couple of dum dums. So dumb they were hilarious to the superior white folks who accepted the stereotype.
When I turned to page 76 I found a sepia toned photo of Correll & Gosden, sans black face, surrounded by Ray Schalk and 8 uniformed members of the 1927 White Sox. They were entertaining Schalk and the boys with tales of a recent Southern performance tour.
I wondered what the connection could be between these performers and MLB. Could they have been part owners of a team at one time ? Or a minor league team ? Or just enormous White Sox fans who made sure this photo was included ?
I searched the web, the NY Times archives, even Google Images for any documented connection between MLB and Correll and Gosden.
In the end, I found no connection whatsoever. Until I do, I’ll presume that Amos & Andy were just associating their brand with the wildly popular sport of Baseball, just like Charlie Sheen in a photo op at Yankee Stadium.
In 1929, MLB likely didn’t mind the association with these performers of openly racist entertainment.
In 1912, Ty Cobb was suspended for beating a fan in the stands who had called him a “half-n****r”. Cobb said he would not take that from any man. He was quickly reinstated after his teammates didn’t show up for the next game in protest over Cobb’s treatment.
Leigh Montville’s fine book on Babe Ruth states that the Babe had to live with taunts about his heritage, frequently referred to by opposing players as “N****r Lips.”
When you really wanted to insult a man to throw him off his game 90 years ago, you used the N word.
It was all cool in that day and age.
So Radio and Print weren’t the only part of American society that viewed African Americans as second class citizens in 1929 — 18 years before Jackie Robinson was allowed to play in a MLB game.
Amos & Andy fit into American Society right next to Baseball. It was a perfect. America loved all-white Baseball just as it loved Amos & Andy, who could be heard 6 nights a week all year long.
Racism. Baseball. Radio. Publishing. It all went together.
What our grandparents regarded as normal can be thought of as an abomination today.
But Racism has not been abolished. You will hear it spoken aloud if you listen. I have.
It is just spoken more quietly and by fewer people than in Correll & Gosden’s times.
Go Sox !