The Conflict over Baseball Comedy

Rebecca T. Alpert

in Out of Left Field

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780195399004
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897360 | DOI:
The Conflict over Baseball Comedy

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This chapter recounts the role played by Jewish entrepreneurs and comedians incorporating amusements into the serious game of baseball. Precursors to the costumed mascots of today, clowning and novelty performers were part of a contested history that was particularly troublesome in black baseball given their association with blackface minstrelsy based on the worst stereotypes of African Americans. The chapter chronicles the role of Jews in minstrel and vaudeville traditions exemplified by the Jewish “clown princes of baseball” Al Schacht and Max Patkin. It examines the influence of the House of David, a team from a white Christian apocalyptic group in the Midwest that invented the pepper ball routine. It looks at the traditions of showmanship in black baseball, focusing on the controversial team the Ethiopian (Indianapolis) Clowns, owned and operated by Jewish entrepreneur Syd Pollock, and analyzes the contributions of the team's comedic stars, Richard King “Tut” and Reece “Goose” Tatum.

Keywords: blackface minstrelsy; novelty baseball; clown prince of baseball; House of David; Indianapolis Clowns; Goose Tatum; Al Schacht; clowning; mascots; vaudeville; stereotypes

Chapter.  17949 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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