I’m fortunate in that I get the opportunity to read lots of baseball books and discuss them with you and countless people. It’s certainly something that shouldn’t have much of a downside.
But like everything – there is a downside – and that is that occasionally I finally get around to reading a book, only to discover that I wish I had read it much earlier.
Such is the case with Joe Posnanski’s The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America. Let me the be the first to say that I came to this party way too late – and I have no excuse for why. However – as they say – better late than never.
It’s no secret that I have an admiration for Buck O’Neil and what he has contributed to the baseball world. From his playing days to his involvement with Ken Burns’ Baseball series, and onto his work with the Hall of Fame – Buck O’Neil has a lengthy list of contributions to the game, which makes him a fitting topic for a year-long look inside the life of this man.
To say that Buck O’Neil is one of a kind is both an understatement and a disservice. He’s almost one of those people who operates on another plane of consciousness and awareness, yet blends in with such seamlessness that it catches you off guard. In my few encounters with Buck – his sheer humanity was like the coolest glass water you’d ever had to drink on a hot summer day. Yet it wasn’t sappy – or theatrical. It was as genuine as a cool breeze of fresh air off the water.
As the basis for the book, Posnanski spent the 2005 season traveling with O’Neil around the country as he spread the word of Negro League baseball, love for one another and what has to be described as a calling to a higher state of living – though not through a gimmick or product, but through forgiveness, laughter and genuine interaction with one another.
Posnanski captures O’Neil and turns a year’s worth of stories into a feel-good 276 pages that you should have no trouble getting through. It’s certainly not heady material — this one will tug at the heart strings more than anything. The stories are familiar – yet the experience of being part of Buck O’Neil’s America should be unique. It’s easy to imagine you’re one of the people crossing paths with Buck — as you read it, consider how you’d interact with him.
The Soul of America is definitely a good read — and while I’m not sure it’s something that should find a permanent home on your bookshelf, it’s worth reading and adding to your knowledge base of the baseball world.