When the selection committee voted Alejandro “Alex” Pompez into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, some cried foul. A Negro-league owner during baseball’s glory days, Pompez was known as an early and steadfast advocate for Latino players, helping bring baseball into the modern age. So why was his induction so controversial?
Like many in the era of segregated baseball, Pompez found that the game alone could never make all ends meet. To finance his beloved team, the New York Cubans, he delved headlong into a sin many baseball fans find unforgivable—gambling. He built one of the most infamous numbers rackets in Harlem, eventually arousing the ire of the famed prosecutor Thomas Dewey. But he also led his Cubans, with their star lineup of Latino players, to a Negro-league World Series championship in 1947.
In this effervescent biography, the historian and sportswriter Adrian Burgos, Jr., brings to life the world of professional baseball during a time of enormous change. Following Pompez from his early days to the twilight of his career, Burgos offers a glimpse inside the clubhouse as both owners and players struggled with the new realities of the game. That today’s rosters are filled with names like Rodriguez, Pujols, Rivera, and Ortiz is a testament to Pompez and his lasting influence.