The pioneering African-American writer/broadcaster was a favorite around our household in the days of a kinder, gentler sports-talk radio format.
Rust, who also appeared on WNBC-TV news programs, died Jan. 12 at the age of 82.
In his 1976 book “Get That Nigger Off the Field!,” a history of black baseball, Mr. Rust remembered how “baseball was my life.”
“At one time I wanted to be a major league ballplayer, but I was black,” he wrote.
He told of racial epithets being hurled at him by some visiting ballplayers when he attended games at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.
In addition to Get That Nigger Off the Field: An Oral History of Black Ballplayers from the Negro Leagues to the Present, Rust collaborated on Darryl Strawberry’s 1992 autobio, titled simply Darryl. Richard Sandomir, the sports media writer for the Times, wrote about the book in “Turning a Celebrity’s Story into a Salable Book,” (March 23, 1992), in which he asks a question that I often wonder about (and to which I’m continually getting the answer to): How much of what we read is the athlete’s voice, and how much is “contributed” by the professional wordsmith?
Strong opinion and augmented phraseology mingled in his claim that being black on the mainly white Mets made Mr. Strawberry feel “as if I were playing baseball at Dred Scott Memorial Park in glorious downtown Johannesburg.”
That statement is one of many in “Darryl” that are hard to plausibly expect from Mr. Strawberry, now a Los Angeles Dodger, who never spoke with the book’s frequently florid style during his eight years in New York.
To which Rust responded, “I’m not putting words in his mouth…. I might change a phrase, but not the meaning.”
But is even that allowable? I’m just askin’.
You can read Sandomir’s article here (PDF file).