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Roberta J. Newman

With a professional background in illustration, graphic design, and a comparative literature, Roberta J. Newman has been and continues to be drawn to the connections between baseball, advertising, promotion, and cultural history, on both local and global levels. Her most recent work centers on these relationships, exploring ways in which advertising related to the sport reflects, and occasionally creates, social norms.  Newman has also researched and written extensively on the business of Black baseball, including, but not limited to the Negro Leagues, as well as the cultural history of New York.  A Professor of Liberal Studies at New York University, she strives to create work that is approachable at the same time it is solidly scholarly.   


Newman is the author of Here's the Pitch: the Amazing, True, New, and Improved Story of Baseball and Advertising, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2019, which received the SABR Baseball Research Award (2020) as well as the NYU Liberal Studies Award for Creative and Scholarly Excellence (2019).  She also co-authored Black Baseball, Black Business: Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar (2014), published by the University Press of Mississippi, for which she received SABR's Robert Peterson Recognition Award for excellence in Negro League research (2014).  In addition, Newman has contributed chapters to various anthologies dealing with baseball and advertising, and sports, race, and reputation, as well as publishing a plethora of journal articles.

Newman is a regular speaker at the NINE Spring Training Conference, with which she has been involved since 2001. She has also presented her work at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture on many occasions, as well as at annual SABR national conventions and the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference.  She has given talks on a wide range of topics, including the relationship between black baseball and jazz, baseball and labor, and baseball and fashion, in venues such as the Tamiment Institute Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, the Yogi Berra Museum and Research Center, and the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, She been a guest on both podcasts and radio.  An expert in New York in the 1960s, she's also given formal addresses and informal lectures on the topic at New York University.

Newman is a graduate of New York University (Ph.D, 2006), Parsons School of Design (BFA,1982), and the University of Chicago (MA, 1979).


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Baseball, advertising, and promotions

Baseball and the media

The business of Black baseball

Baseball and fashion

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Podcast & radio interviews

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Black Baseball, Black Business

Winner of the 2014 Robert W. Peterson Award for Excellence in Negro League Research from the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference, sponsored by Negro Leagues Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Roberta J. Newman and Joel Nathan Rosen have written an authoritative social history of the Negro Leagues. This book examines how the relationship between black baseball and black businesses functioned, particularly in urban areas with significant African American populations--Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, and more. Inextricably bound together by circumstance, these sports and business alliances faced destruction and upheaval.

Once Jackie Robinson and a select handful of black baseball's elite gained acceptance in Major League Baseball and financial stability in the mainstream economy, shock waves traveled throughout the black business world. Though the economic impact on Negro League baseball is perhaps obvious due to its demise, the impact on other black-owned businesses and on segregated neighborhoods is often undervalued if not outright ignored in current accounts. There have been many books written on great individual players who played in the Negro Leagues and/or integrated the Major Leagues. But Newman and Rosen move beyond hagiography to analyze what happens when a community has its economic footing undermined while simultaneously being called upon to celebrate a larger social progress. In this regard, Black Baseball, Black Business moves beyond the diamond to explore baseball's desegregation narrative in a critical and wide-ranging fashion.

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Here's the Pitch: The Amazing, True, New, and Improved Story of Baseball and Advertising

In the mid-nineteenth century, two industries arrived on the American scene. One was strictly a business, yet it helped create, define, and disseminate American culture. The other was ostensibly just a game, yet it soon became emblematic of what it meant to be American, aiding in the creation of a national identity. Today, whenever the AT&T call to the bullpen is heard, fans enter Minute Maid Park, or vote for favorite All-Stars (brought to us by MasterCard), we are reminded that advertising has become inseparable from the MLB experience.

Here’s the Pitch examines this connection between baseball and advertising, as both constructors and reflectors of culture. Roberta J. Newman considers the simultaneous development of both industries from the birth of the partnership, paying particular attention to the ways in which advertising spread the gospel of baseball at the same time professional baseball helped develop a body of consumers ready for the messages of advertising.

Newman considers the role of product endorsements in the creation of the culture of celebrity, and of celebrity baseball players in particular, as well as the ways in which new technologies have impacted the intersection of the two industries. From Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth in the 1920s and 1930s to Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Willie Mays in the postwar years, to Derek Jeter, Rafael Palmeiro, and David Ortiz in the twenty-first century, Newman looks at many of baseball’s celebrated players and shows what qualities made them the perfect pitchmen for new products at key moments.

Here’s the Pitch tells the story of the development of American and an increasingly international culture through the marriage between Mad Men and The Boys of Summer that made for great copy, notable TV advertisements, and lively social media, and shows how baseball’s relationship with advertising is stronger than ever.

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