Peterson, Robert W. 1925–2006

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Peterson, Robert W. 1925–2006

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 19, 1925, in Warren, PA; died of a heart attack, February 11, 2006, near Allentown, PA. Journalist, editor, and author. A journalist by trade, Peterson is best known as the author of Only the Ball Was White, the book that brought to light the history of Negro League baseball in America. A baseball fan from a young age, he recalled watching some of the black athletes play when he was a boy, including witnessing Josh Gibson's record-setting home run, which went farther than any other hit in Warren County. As a young man, he played baseball himself as a catcher, and had a chance to compete against some of the Negro League stars. After serving in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II, Peterson was a reporter for the Rockland Independent in Suffern, New York, in the early 1950s. Two years as city editor for the Titusville Herald was followed by a managing editor position with the Elyria, Ohio, Chronicle-Telegram. Peterson then joined the New York World-Telegram in New York City as an assistant news editor in 1961. He went freelance in 1966, writing for such magazines as Boys' Life, when he came up with the idea of a book about the Negro Leagues that became 1970's Only the Ball Was White. The Negro Leagues had been a struggling part of baseball's history for many years until it disbanded in 1951, a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Peterson felt that the many talented players of that league who never got a chance to play in the majors should be recognized for their talent. Combining research with oral history, he completed the seminal book on the subject that is still considered an essential resource for baseball historians. Later, Peterson would publish the sports history titles Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years (1990) and Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football (1996). He also wrote a book on the Boy Scouts and edited several other publications. It was for his knowledge of African-American baseball that he was most famous, however. One of his last activities was serving on a panel for the Hall of Fame that worked to select previously unrecognized black players to be honored at the Cooperstown, New York, museum. Before he died, Peterson was able to cast his votes for those he felt should be honored just before the final selections were announced on February 27, 2006.



Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2006, p. B13.

New York Times, February 16, 2006, p. A28.

Washington Post, February 18, 2006, p. B5.

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Peterson, Robert W. 1925–2006

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