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by Buck O'Neil & illustrated by Steve Wulf & David Conrads

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-80305-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 The life of former Negro League player and manager O'Neil, whose folksy gentility was so winning in Ken Burns's documentary Baseball. Born John Jordan O'Neil in Carrabelle, Fla., in 1911, O'Neil started playing semi-pro ball at the age of 12. He signed with the Tampa Black Smokers in 1934, then played with the Miami Giants before being picked up by a farm team of the famed Kansas City Monarchs. There were other stops on the way to the big time, including a barnstorming stint with the Zulu Cannibal Giants, a team that played wearing grass skirts. O'Neil takes long, affectionate looks at old friends and teammates, including the legendary Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Pap Bell, Buck Leonard, Newt Allen, and ``the greatest player'' he ever saw, Oscar Charleston, who played for the Indianapolis ABCs in the 1920s. His ``favorite'' year--and its recounting is the highlight of the book- -was 1942, when he and his Monarch teammates beat Gibson and Leonard's Homestead Grays in the Negro World Series. His reminiscences and anecdotes are generally fresh and engaging, if sometimes a bit soft-pedaled: ``I never faced any real racism traveling around the country . . . Oh, you'd hear some kid make some kind of crack, but you didn't let that bother you none.'' He does, however, acknowledge Jackie Robinson's accomplishment--and his consequent struggles--in breaking the color barrier. And as a longstanding force on the Hall of Fame selection committee, he has ffought for the admission of former Negro Leaguers. O'Neil doesn't place himself on his all-time Negro League team--he was only ``very good''--but hopes to make it to the Hall of Fame someday, ``as a manager or for other contributions.'' Sweetly self-effacing, O'Neil's grace and charm play almost as well here as they do for the camera. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)