From Publishers Weekly
Posnanski, sports columnist for the Kansas City Star
, spent a year on the road with the iconic Negro Leagues player and manager Buck O'Neil (1911–2006), recording the magnanimous 94-year-old's encounters with scores of fans and his vast repertoire of entertaining stories. O'Neil, the first African-American to coach in the Major Leagues, was a tireless spokesman for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Posnanski is at his best when recounting O'Neil's baseball memories of the likes of legends Satchel Paige, Willie Mays and Josh Gibson. The author captures O'Neil's rhythmic voice and often relays it in italicized verse, while painting an uplifting portrait of a man who was without bitterness despite long experience with racial discrimination. Too often, however, Posnanski bogs down in mundane details that read like a travelogue of airports and tardy drivers. Many of the chapters have the feel of lengthy newspaper articles stitched together, lacking segues and narrative. Nevertheless, the final scenes are moving tales of the funeral of 103-year-old Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe and O'Neil's dignity when he was infamously passed over by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* After spending a few years trying to write a baseball book, sportswriter Posnanski lucked into a story that positively cried out to be told. Buck O'Neil, a Hall of Fame member and Negro League veteran who died last October, was a man who loved the game with a burning passion that never lessened in intensity. During the last year of his life, O'Neil joined Posnanski on a road trip to Kansas City (where Buck played for the Kansas City Monarchs), to New York, and to Minneapolis (for Buck O'Neil Day at the Metronome). Along the way, as O'Neil remembers names and faces from his life on and off the field, we are transported back to a time when baseball was, if not more innocent, at least more like a game and less like a business. There's also an important question lurking behind the anecdotes O'Neil tells and the joie de vivre he embodies: Does baseball today, with its drug abusers and profiteers and self-absorbed celebrities, still have the soul that it did when O'Neil fell in love with the game? For baseball fans, the book is a treasure trove of history, full of names that remind us of an older time--Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks--and stories that make us laugh, even as we wonder if baseball has changed too much ever to feel like it once did. Stirring, moving, and more than a little sad. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved