Most helpful positive review
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A fun read about a forgotten era.
on September 28, 2005
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lou Dials at a Baseball card convention. He was there with a small table, some cards, and some baseballs. I didn't know who he was and he kind of looked out of place. My curiosity made me ask. "ok so what are you doing here and I am sorry to ask who are you?" He smiled and asked "Have you ever heard of the Negro leagues?" To which I replied of course and named the common known names such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and of course Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. He smiled and said he played with them and spoke of others such as Buck O'Neil.
What started as a simple query with what I figured would be a quick thanks and move on turned into an hour or two. I ended up buying a ball and his cards to which he signed the ball and his card.
I later found this book on amazon and remember what Lou had mentioned; I picked it up. This book is a fun read. It reads like you are listening to the man.
This book tells you stories about the characters and great athletes he knew. He writes with passion about their playing abilities. You will get to hear about Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Bullet Joe Rogan, Martin Dihigo, Newt Allen, Jesse Williams, Willard Brown, Frank Duncan and many others of the Negro leagues.
He also mentions the club life of the days and eating with Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Big Joe Turner, Dinah Washington and Duke Ellington.
There are little tidbits of information that you normally don't know such as the fact that Louis Armstrong and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson owned teams.
He also talks about the legends of Cool Papa Bell's speed; how he was once called out when his own batted ball hit him rounding first and that he could turn off a light and get into bed before it went dark. The latter is actually true and he tells you why!
You also read about the end of the Negro leagues with the rise of Jackie Robinson.
Mr. O'Neil went on to manage the Monarchs and eventually scout and became the first African American to coach for the Major leagues.
As a scout he signed many players, Oscar Gamble, Lou Brock, Joe Carter, Bo Jackson. He mentions his one failure was missing Bob Gibson.
One of the things you will read is his admiration for his friend Satchel Paige, he is mentioned many times and he even tells you a story how Satchel nicknamed him Nancy.
In the book, he mentions that if you can get a copy of Satchel Paige's autobiography "Maybe I'll pitch forever" do it. After reading this I would think it's a safe bet.
After living the life he had and the people he played with and against, meeting music legonds, meeting Presidents Truman and Clinton, one of his proudest moments was getting his highschool diploma from the very school that wouldn't admit him. Mr. O'Neil is a special person. Even with what he went through living in the Jim Crow era, he seems to have managed to remain a kind and generous individual.