Baseball has been very, very good to numbers of black and Latino players.

But the relationship of Major League Baseball to various minorities has also been destructive.

As Rob Ruck points out in Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game, the integration of the big leagues helped to kill the Negro Leagues, which had been significant not only for the players they employed, but for the businessmen who owned the teams and all those who had jobs within that game. The exportation of talent from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere has diminished the significance of the Winter Leagues in places where those leagues used to matter a great deal more than they currently do.

Ruck provides an excellent history of baseball’s expansion south. He gives Cuba a lot of the credit for that expansion, which helps to explain why teams there and in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic were employing white, black, and brown players led by white, black, and brown managers while the Major Leagues were still segregated. For black and brown players, coaches, and managers, the U.S. as a land of opportunity ranked behind those countries and others.

Since players from places like the Dominican Republic are not subject to Major League Baseball’s draft, they can be signed for much less than their U.S. counterparts. According to Ruck, this circumstance helps to explain why the number of African-American players has dropped steadily over the past few decades, though it isn’t the only reason.

The heroes of Raceball are men like Juan Marichal, Felipe Alou, and Junior Noboa. These former Major Leaguers are devoted to maintaining the independence of leagues and teams in Latin America, and to working out ways for baseball to serve as a positive force in their native lands, rather than merely as a relatively cheap source of labor for the multi-national corporation that Major League Baseball long ago became.