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The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America Paperback – March 11, 2008

4.9 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*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 Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060854049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060854041
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Is The Soul of Baseball a book about baseball? No.
Is The Soul of Baseball a biography of Buck O'Neil? No.

The Soul of Baseball is about life, the joys of living. Those little things we may do during the day that puts a smile on someone's face, that makes someone stop and - however briefly - put living back into its proper perspective.

Yes, Buck O'Neil brought joy through talking about baseball - Negro Leagues Baseball - and through his recollections from a blessed life. But, more importantly, he held a mirror up to us and made the simple request to look for our heart & soul, and then share that warmth with as many people as possible.

Author Joe Posnanski spent more than a year on the road with Buck O'Neil, chronicling the more than 200 events he attended nationwide at the ages of 93 and 94; from the largest to smallest ballparks, schools & media junkets and even to Washington, D.C. to give testimony before a Senate committee on why the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum deserved national designation.

There was poetry to many statements from Buck O'Neil, which Posnanski makes special for the reader. His recollections on a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, baseball camp run by a friend, Willie Spooner, says it best:

Nothing better
Than baseball. For kids.
Teach them all the lessons.
How to be a teammate.
How to be a man.
Nobody does it for you.
Gotta stand up.
I remember Willie
Used to tell those kids in Baton Rouge
It's better to steal second
Than to steal an apple.

You will laugh and cry and won't want the book to end. But books, like life, must have a final page.

Buck O'Neil passed away on October 6, 2006, at the age of 94. Share a smile with someone today and Buck O'Neil really isn't that far away. He still has that mirror in his hand, but this time he doesn't need any words; loving life needs no explanation.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who makes their living writing about baseball, Joe Posnanski is an inspiration. This is his first full-length book and he doesn't disappoint. He's made the story and humanity of Buck O'Neill something precious and poignant. He captured the side of Buck that we didn't often get to see. He was more than a symbol or a legend, he was a man. By capturing that spirit, we all get to hold onto the gift that O'Neill left for us - a joy for life, for a game, and for friendship. If Posnanski inspires me to write, O'Neill's story inspires me to live. If there's a better combination out there, I haven't found it.

- Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus
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Format: Hardcover
"The Soul of Baseball" is the most entertaining and engaging book on sports I've read, since I discovered W.P. Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe Jackson" (which would later become "Field of Dreams") in 7th grade, 20 years ago.

The great sportswriters can interpret the events from the field and the locker room, and craft them into stories that Joe & Jill Everyman can relate to. Nobody in the country is better at this than Joe Posnanski, Kansas City Star scribe, and two-time AP Sports Columnist of the Year.

With "The Soul of Baseball," Posnanski unveils the amazing id, ego, and super-ego of Buck O'Neil, a baseball icon and civil rights pioneer, on par with Jackie Robinson and Branch Ricky. O'Neil is more than a charismatic man, who tells great stories; he is a force of nature, a hurricane of love, affecting anyone who crosses in his path.

Posnanski follows the former player, coach, and scout as O'Neil educates the world about Negro League baseball. At 93-years-old, O'Neil's adventures in a 21st century America bring him into contact with cynical New York shock jocks, Negro League pretenders, and the occasional woman in a red dress. He embraces each one with the same amount of love and joie de vivre.

"The Soul of Baseball" is a great book for baseball fans, fathers and sons, and anyone who interested in one of the most remarkable individuals to live in the past century.

You'll want to re-read "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America" again and again, and gift it to as many friends and family members as possible.
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Format: Hardcover
This is my first review of anything on Amazon and I am sure that it will also be my last. However, I had to share the feelings that I have right now. I finished reading this book about 15 minutes ago and I don't think I have ever wanted a book to never end more than this one. This book is a little bit baseball, and little bit stories, and a little bit wit and wisdom. It is a lot like the jazz that Buck loved so much. Even if you don't really like baseball this book will touch you like not many other books can or will. It will grab your heart because this book is about a man that we can all learn from. Mr. O'Neil's life is a wonderful testimony of what being "better not bitter" is all about. When Buck spoke at the Baseball Hall of Fame where 17 Negro Leaguers were inducted into the Hall he had everyone there hold hands and sing with him, "The greatest thing, in all my life, is loving you." Well Buck, let me just say, the greatest thing for all of us was loving you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An individual, yet compelling and comprehensive, look back at baseball as a sport and social barometer of America. Buck O'Neil's stories about, and insights into, the game and the players are fascinating.

Mr. O'Neil's well defined baseball skill as a player and coach is exceeded only by his love of the game, and his ability to connect with players and fans alike on a deeply personal level.

This is a book about a philosopher, who, by chance, also played baseball.

Great read!
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