Bill Mardo, the crusading Daily Worker sports editor who helped force Major League Baseball to integrate with Negro Leagues players, has passed away. He was 88.
Mardo died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
From his position as sports editor and columnist with The Daily Worker, Mardo led the call to bring African-Americans to Major League Baseball. It was a crusade that began by Lester Rodney in the pages of the Daily Worker, the official house organ of the Communist Party of America. This was in the days — World War II — when Russia was our ally, before Communism because a bugaboo, and when a host of daily newspapers in New York City drove the debates of the day. Today it would be highly unlikely to see a Communist newspaper credentialed at any MLB ballpark, but in those days Mardo was a regular in the Ebbets Field press box.
In his columns, Mardo — along with Nat Low — exhorted fans to write the Dodgers front office and demand that an African-American be signed to a contract to break baseball’s color line. After several years of activism, which included picketing at Ebbets Field and other MLB ballparks, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey did just that, signing Jackie Robinson to a contract in 1945. Mardo and Robinson developed a friendship when he arrived to the Dodgers in 1947. It was the culmination of a fight that began at America’s political fringes: trade unions and leftist groups.
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