Roush Review: Reliving Black Baseball History in ‘After Jackie’
Seventy-five years after he shattered baseball’s history of racial segregation, Jackie Robinson is being rightfully celebrated for his tenacity and activism. But what about those Black superstars who soon followed in his large shadow?
The illuminating History Channel documentary After Jackie (executive produced by LeBron James) focuses on three players who spent their glory years in the late 1950s and ’60s with the St. Louis Cardinals—Bill White (above, left), Curt Flood (above, center), and pitching ace Bob Gibson (above, right)—helping take the team to the World Series and a title win.
As they discovered while finding fame on the diamond during America’s civil-rights movement, integration didn’t necessarily mean equal treatment.
Each fought back against prejudice on and off the playing field: segregated housing during spring training in Florida, a racist manager (later fired) who felt Gibson and Flood weren’t smart enough to be in the starting lineup.
“It was tough for me to realize that I was working for somebody that didn’t like me because I was Black,” Gibson recalls in one of his last interviews before passing away in October 2020.
Flood made perhaps the greatest contribution to changing the game when he sued MLB over the reserve clause denying players control over their careers.
He lost at the Supreme Court—”The people that are first are probably the ones that get castigated the most,” he later reflected—but the case inspired the push toward free agency and the passage of the anti-trust Curt Flood Act of 1998. White also made his mark after retiring from the sport as a pioneering Black sportscaster and later as President of the National League.
These profiles of courage deserve their place in American and sports history.
After Jackie, Documentary Premiere, Saturday, June 18, 8/7c, History Channel