Peter Dreier at Harvard Book Store


Major League Rebels:
Baseball Battles Over Workers'
Rights and American Empire


Baseball Rebels:
The Players, People, and Social Movements
That Shook Up the Game and Changed America


June 23, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Havard Book Store welcomes PETER DRIER—sports historian and E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College—for a discussion of his books Major League Rebels: Baseball Battles Over Workers' Rights and American Empire and Baseball Rebels: The Players, People, and Social Movements That Shook Up the Game and Changed America.

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About Major League Rebels

A captivating history of the baseball reformers and revolutionaries who challenged their sport and society—and in turn helped change America.

Athletes have often used their platform to respond to and protest injustices, from Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick to Billie Jean King and Megan Rapinoe. Compared to their counterparts, baseball players have often been more cautious about speaking out on controversial issues; but throughout the sport’s history, there have been many players who were willing to stand up and fight for what was right.

In Major League Rebels: Baseball Battles over Workers' Rights and American Empire, Robert Elias and Peter Dreier reveal a little-known yet important history of rebellion among professional ballplayers. These reformers took inspiration from the country’s dissenters and progressive movements, speaking and acting against abuses within their profession and their country. Elias and Dreier profile the courageous players who demanded better working conditions, battled against corporate power, and challenged America’s unjust wars, imperialism, and foreign policies, resisting the brash patriotism that many link with the “national pastime.”

American history can be seen as an ongoing battle over wealth and income inequality, corporate power versus workers’ rights, what it means to be a “patriotic” American, and the role of the United States outside its borders. For over 100 years, baseball activists have challenged the status quo, contributing to the kind of dissent that creates a more humane society. Major League Rebels tells their inspiring stories.

About Baseball Rebels

In Baseball Rebels, Peter Dreier and Robert Elias examine the key social challenges—racism, sexism and homophobia—that shaped society and worked their way into baseball’s culture, economics, and politics.

Since baseball emerged in the mid-1800s to become America’s pastime, the nation’s battles over race, gender, and sexuality have been reflected on the playing field, in the executive suites, in the press box, and in the community. Some of baseball’s rebels are widely recognized, but most of them are either little known or known primarily for their baseball achievements—not their political views and activism. Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line, but less known is Sam Nahem, who opposed the racial divide in the U.S. military and organized an integrated military team that won a championship in 1945. Or Toni Stone, the first of three women who played for the Indianapolis Clowns in the previously all-male Negro Leagues. Or Dave Pallone, MLB’s first gay umpire. Many players, owners, reporters, and other activists challenged both the baseball establishment and society’s status quo.

Baseball Rebels tells stories of baseball’s reformers and radicals who were influenced by, and in turn influenced, America’s broader political and social protest movements, making the game—and society—better along the way.

Praise for Major League Rebels

"Baseball began in the cities, from a nostalgic longing for an agrarian paradise more ideal than real. That idealism—a wish for fairness and harmony on a level playing field—animated all that came after and is splendidly delineated in Robert Elias and Peter Dreier’s new book. Who is in, who is out, and who gets to decide: that has been the banner under which all baseball's rebels have marched." —John Thorn, Official Historian, Major League Baseball

"Most sports fans today know about Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James and how they have stood up for equal treatment for Blacks. They don’t know that there’s a long pedigree of professional athletes who have fought for player rights and worker rights for all Americans. Major League Rebels compellingly tells the story of these heroes from the 1870s to the 2020s and how their struggles have helped shape U.S. culture and politics." —Andrew Zimbalist, author of Baseball and Billions

Praise for Baseball Rebels

“Baseball is America’s game: it’s a game with an important and often-overlooked history of rebellion, and one that, with fits and starts, has helped lead the nation’s fight against racism, sexism, and homophobia. Don’t believe me? This incisive and compelling book proves it. . . . Highly recommended.” —Jonathan Eig, author of Luckiest Man

“It’s not just that Baseball Rebels homes in on the heroes (and reprobates) in the ongoing battles for civil rights and against gender discrimination. It’s that it does it with grace and humanity, telling must-read stories of barrier-breakers we know, like Satchel Paige, and others we ought to, like Frank Sykes.” —Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

Peter Dreier
Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College. His research, writing, and teaching has focused on urban politics, housing policy, and social movements, but has also written about the history and politics of sports and particularly baseball. He has written eight books, including The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012) and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (University of California Press, 2005). He earned his B.A. in journalism from Syracuse University and his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago.

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