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Cuban Star

How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball

Adrian Burgos, Jr.

Hill and Wang

Cuban Star Download image

ISBN10: 0809037203
ISBN13: 9780809037209

Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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A proud and boisterous Negro League team owner, Alex Pompez rose to prominence during Latino baseball's earliest glory days. As a passionate and steadfast advocate for Latino players, he helped bring baseball into the modern age. But like many in the era of segregated baseball, Pompez also found that the game alone could never make all ends meet, and he delved headlong into the seedier side of the sport—gambling—to help finance his beloved team, the New York Cubans. He built one of the most infamous numbers rackets in Harlem, rubbing shoulders with titans of the underworld such as Dutch Schultz and eventually arousing the ire of the famed prosecutor Thomas Dewey. He also brought the Cubans, with their incredible lineup of international players, to a Negro League World Series Championship in 1947.

Pompez presided over the twilight of the Negro League, holding it together as long as possible in the face of integration even as he helped his players make the transition to the majors. In his later days as a scout, he championed some of the brightest future Latino stars and became one of Latin America's most vocal advocates for the game.

That today's rosters are filled with names like Rodriguez, Pujols, Rivera, and Ortiz is a testament to the influence of Pompez and his contemporaries.


Praise for Cuban Star

"Burgos draws a wonderfully detailed portrait of Alejandro Pompez . . . The research is impeccable. The context provided is nuanced and rich . . . This book is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the Latinization of Major League Baseball."—Luis Clemens, NPR

"That there hasn't been a movie made on the life of Alex Pompez is probably because Hollywood would have rejected his story as too improbable. Then, it's also because there was no definitive book on his life. With Cuban Star, Adrian Burgos Jr. has provided one, and it's one of the best baseball books of the new millennium . . . Burgos, author of Playing America's Game, is a terrific writer and knows when he has a great subject. Pompez's life story ‘embodied both the dreams deferred and the promise of America's game with a twist.'"—Allen Barra, San Francisco Chronicle

"A few weeks ago, I was sitting at Dodger Stadium doing research for another book, when Dodger coach Manny Mota came over to say hello to my interview subject. I told Mota I had just finished reading a new book about Alex Pompez. Mota's jutted his chest forward, he pointed his thumb at himself and proudly said, ‘Alex Pompez signed me.' A generation of Latin ballplayers could say the same thing about the man whose fingerprints remain on the major leagues today, his life story told for the first time in flourishing detail in Adrian Burgos Jr.'s Cuban Star . . . Burgos, an associate professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who grew up across the street from the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx where Pompez is buried, tells a complex story with an easy directness his subject would have appreciated."—John Klima, Los Angeles Times

"Cuban Star goes beyond box scores, giving baseball's early players and executives their due, and showing the courage it took for minorities to play the game in the Jim Crow era. If you've ever wondered about the history of Latin American and black players in American baseball, then Cuban Star: How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball by Adrian Burgos, Jr. is a must read. Bring it to the ballpark with you—the stories it offers will surely enhance your time between innings."—Connie Aitcheson, The Brooklyn Rail

"The story of Alex Pompez gives readers a very different take on the integration of major league baseball from the feel good version that focuses on Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. There were losers as well as winners, and Pompez and other black baseball entrepreneurs have been largely ignored until now."—Roger Daniels, author of Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882

"Once again, Adrian Burgos has written a fascinating book about the stories behind the stories of the game of baseball. If you are at all curious about why the most common names in the major leagues are Martinez and Rodriguez, this elegant volume is for you."—Ken Burns

"When I came to the Giants organization in 1955, Alex Pompez went to bet for me in a way no one else did. He took me and the other young Latino players under his wing, teaching us English and guiding us through the radically charged terrain of the majors at the time. In this long-overdue book, Adrian Burgos vividly portrays Pompez as he was: a great, flawed man and a steadfast lover of the game."—Orlando Cepeda, Hall of Fame first baseman

"I know Adrian Burgos as a dedicated academic, historian, teacher, and true baseball fan. In Cuban Star, he's done a masterful job of casting light on a key Latin American baseball executive who has for too long gone unnoticed. A great read!"—Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame outfielder

"Highly recommended for those studying baseball and African American or Latino studies."—Robert Cottrell, Library Journal (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



The crowd gathered at the dock in Key West buzzed with excitement as they awaited the arrival of their special invited guest aboard the steamer Olivette. Once José Martí was spotted...

About the author

Adrian Burgos, Jr.

Adrian Burgos, Jr., is an associate professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line. His work has been featured on NPR and ESPN's SportsCenter, in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and in other media outlets.

© L. Brian Stauffer