Photo of Rob Ruck

Made Local

Rob Ruck


“Football has become the means by which Samoans shout their story to the world. Images of a stoic Jesse Sapolu, a raging Junior Seau, and a free-spirited Troy Polamalu broadcast a Samoan presence well beyond the islands.”

Rob Ruck

In Tropic of Football: The Long and Perilous Journey of Samoans to the NFL, award-winning sports historian Rob Ruck explains how a tiny Pacific archipelago produces more players for the NFL than anywhere else and the struggles of their journey. Tropic of Football unravels American Samoa’s complex ties with the United States. It explores an island, where boys train on fields blistered with volcanic pebbles, wearing helmets that should have been discarded long ago and moves from the Samoan archipelago to Samoan outposts in Hawai’i and California where holding on to fa`a Samoa is an existential challenge.

Rob Ruck is a Professor in the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin GameSandlot Seasons: Sport in Black PittsburghThe Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, the co-author with Steve Nelson and James R. Barrett of Steve Nelson, American Radical, and co-author with Maggie Patterson and Michael Weber of Rooney: A Sporting Life.

His documentary work includes the Mid-Atlantic Emmy-winning Kings on the Hill: Baseball’s Forgotten Men and The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game. Ruck was the guest historian for the creation of the Western Pennsylvania Sport History Museum. He was also a voting member of the special committee that elected eighteen individuals from black and Caribbean baseball to the Hall of Fame in 2006 and served as an advisor for Viva Baseball, a permanent exhibit on Latin baseball at the Hall of Fame.


Book Signing

A book signing will follow the lecture. The author’s current book will be available for sale from Classic Lines.

Tropic of Football by Rob Ruck


Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 6 p.m.


Free, with registration
Registration may also be completed via phone (412.622.8866).


South Wing Reading Room
Carnegie Library Main (Oakland), 2nd Floor
4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15213


Upcoming Lectures

Elizabeth Kolbert

R. F. Kuang

Percival Everett

Cat Bohannon