Lester Rodney

Lester Rodney

Birth
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 20 Dec 2009 (aged 98)
Walnut Creek, Contra Costa County, California, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 45782249 · View Source
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Pioneer Sports Writer. He lobbied for the inclusion of black players in Major League Baseball ten years before Jackie Robinson broke the color line, his urgings ignored because he was a Communist at the time. Raised in Brooklyn (where he became a life-long Dodgers' fan) from the age of six, he earned a partial track scholarship to Syracuse University, but was unable to attend due to the failure of his father's silk business in the Crash of 1929. Rodney worked various odd jobs while attending New York University; in 1936, he joined the staff of "The Daily Worker" (which then carried little sports news), taking membership in the Communist Party USA at the same time, and immediately started reporting things the mainstream media neglected. He covered Negro League Baseball, particularly the accomplishments of superstars like Josh Gibson, Satchel Page, and Cool Papa Bell. Rodney gave the public quotes that the other papers did not, such as Joe DiMaggio's assertion that Paige was the toughest pitcher he ever faced, and manager Leo Durocher's acknowledgement that he would hire Blacks immediately if he could get permission from his bosses. Further, he attacked the overt racism of Baseball Commissioner Judge Landis who steadfastly refused to admit Blacks to the big leagues. During WWII, Rodney served in the US Army as a combat medic in the South Pacific; the war over, he resumed his post at "The Daily Worker", where he celebrated the 1947 arrival of Robinson, and other Negro League stars, in the Major Leagues. During the 1950s, Rodney wrote two books for young readers, but, due to the stigma of his Communist Party membership, published "The First Book of Baseball" under the name Benjamin Brewster and "The Real Book About Baseball" as Lyman Hopkins. In 1958, after learning of Stalin's human rights abuses, he quit "The Daily Worker", and Communism; relocating to southern California, he worked for the "Santa Monica Evening Outlook", then served as religion editor of the "Long Beach Press-Telegraph" until his 1974 retirement. Long unknown, Rodney's role in the integration of baseball came to light during the 1997 celebration of the 50th. anniversary of Robinson's entrance into the game. He was the subject of Irwin Silber's 2003 biography "Press Box Red: The Story of Lester Rodney, the Communist Who Helped Break the Color Line in American Sports". Rodney died of age related complications. Reflecting on the new fame of his later years, he said: "It's nice, but I don't make too much of it. It seemed like the right thing to do. When you changed baseball at that time, you changed the country."

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 25 Dec 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 45782249
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lester Rodney (17 Apr 1911–20 Dec 2009), Find A Grave Memorial no. 45782249, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Unknown.