Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A beautiful soul

In February of 2006, baseball fans were stunned when the Baseball Hall of Fame selection committee released a list of 17 Negro League players and owners who were to be inducted into the Hall – and Buck O’Neil’s name was not on the list. Buck, who died in October of last year, breathed baseball. In almost eight decades of association with the sport, he was a player, a manager, and a scout. He knew legends like Satchel Paige and Willie Mays, saw the color barrier broken by Jackie Robinson, and eventually founded the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Sportswriter Joe Posnanski has penned a beautiful tribute to Buck with The Soul of Baseball: a road trip through Buck O’Neil’s America. He doesn’t talk about Buck’s record as a player, or the dignified way he dealt with racism, or his successes as a scout with the Chicago Cubs. Instead, he talks about the way people reacted to Buck, to his friendliness and his warmth, to his positive love for a sport that has seemed a little tarnished lately. Buck’s gentle manner and ability to touch people and make them happy is a far greater legacy than any batting stats. This is a lovely book of a lovely man who was always able to remember why baseball is so great.

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