Prof. Cvornyek Lectures on Black Baseball and Black Jazz at Schomburg Center
From left, Black ballplayers and musicians photographed in “Life” magazine, and Robert Cvornyek, RIC professor of history.
In a program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, Robert Cvornyek, an expert in the history of Black baseball and professor and chair of RIC’s history department, along with Lawrence Hogan, emeritus professor of history at Union County College, and former Negro American Leaguer Jim Robinson explored the interrelationship between Black baseball and Black jazz.
Cvornyek, who is nationally recognized for his writing and scholarship on the history of Black baseball, said traditional Negro American Leagues gained much of their popularity around the same time as jazz and swing – during the Jim Crow Era. Due to segregation laws, Black musicians and athletes were limited to the same hotel accommodations when they were on tour. As a result, a close community was formed between the two groups.
“During the day you would have the musicians at the games, and at night the players would show up at the clubs,” he said. “I’ve interviewed some of the Black ball players of that era, and most of them are more interested in talking about jazz than baseball. They shared a common identity based on performance and aesthetic innovation.”
“…you couldn't toss a baseball without hitting a musician, and you couldn't whistle a tune without having a ballplayer join in…. We had Satchel Paige and Satchmo Armstrong; Blues Stadium, where we played our ball, and the Blues Room at the Streets, where we had a ball.” — Buck O’Neil, first baseman and manager, Negro American League
Recounting the origins of jazz and baseball with Cvornyek was Lawrence Hogan who has taught, researched, written and lectured on African American history for more than 40 years.
In addition, veteran Negro American Leaguer Jim Robinson shared his views on the interrelationship between baseball and jazz. Robinson was an infielder with the Philadelphia Stars, the Kansas City Monarchs (the longest running franchise of the Black baseball dynasty) and the Indianapolis Clowns.
This presentation included historic film footage, photos and live music from the Bill Saxton Trio. A book signing followed the lecture. Cvornyek’s publications include an edited edition of Effa Manley’s “Negro Baseball . . . Before Integration” and “Baseball in Newark.” Copies of Hogan’s recently published book “So Many Seasons in the Sun: A Century and More of Conversations With Baseball’s Greatest Clubhouse Managers” was also available for purchase and signing.