Sportswriter Joe Posnanski drove Buck O’Neil around America promoting the Negro Baseball Leagues at ball fields in rural towns and major league stadiums during the last year of O’Neil’s life.
Buck may have been showing his age, but he had plenty of moments when something made him snap to life and he could tell stories as well as he ever did in his younger day. Bad buses, bad hotels, and stale sandwiches eaten on the buses because they were refused service in restaurants? Don’t forget the later days - Buck’s days - when Negro Leaguers rode the best buses, stayed in the best black hotels, ate at the best black restaurants, and socialized with the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald at the best black night clubs. Yeah!
Buck really paid his dues in the game, and today’s players knew who they were talking to. “Don’t be afraid to swing the bat, man! Swing hard!” he told a young Ryan Howard of the Phillies.
And he showed us how to rise above anger and rejection yet again - one last time -after failing to gather enough votes to be selected into the Hall of Fame. Posnanski was with him then and at the hospital at the very end.
If you would have given your right arm to drive Buck O’Neil across the country to baseball fields across America for an entire year, this book is for you.
Reviewed by Vince Shawver