Book Review: The Soul Of Baseball

The Soul of Baseball
By Joe Posnanski (HarperCollins, $24.95)

Pair one great storyteller with another great storyteller and you have a pretty good idea of what you are going to get: A bunch of great stories is exactly what makes up “The Soul of Baseball, A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America.”

Brilliant Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski spent a year traveling around the United States with the late Buck O’Neil, the man intent on keeping the story of the Negro Leagues alive with an indefatigable schedule of speaking appearances that stretched from one coast to the other.

Posnanski was very familiar with O’Neil, who lived in Kansas City and co-founded the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame and Museum.

The closeness and respect the two men had for each other comes through in the book as the Posnanski uses a series of vignettes, many poignant, from their trips together to let you reader get a clearer understanding of O’Neil, one of baseball’s most beloved figures, and what the Negro Leagues were really like.

The most heartwarming part of the book is that O’Neil never showed any bitterness about his lot in life. He did not hold a grudge that racism kept him out of the major leagues as a player and manager, and that he was inexplicably left off the list of 17 Negro League players and executives who were elected to the Hall of Fame by a special committee in 2006.

Instead, O’Neil preferred to look at himself as a fortunate man who had the opportunity to play with and against such Negro League legends as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston.

“I lived, man,” O’Neil was fond of saying.

And O’Neil firmly believed that baseball continued to live in people’s hearts, even when so many people would tell him they were turned off by steroids, big egos and bigger salaries.

“Baseball hasn’t changed, you have,” O’Neil would often answer. “Go to a ballpark and you’ll remember what a great game it is.”

“The Soul of Baseball” isn’t just a great book; it’s also a strong reminder of the greatness of the game.