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Southern League: A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South's Most Compelling Pennant Race
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Southern League: A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South's Most Compelling Pennant Race

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  154 ratings  ·  36 reviews
"Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings in Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
On September 15, 1963, Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Street Church was bombed, killing four innocent girls, prompting Dr Martin Luther King, Jr to dub the city America’s most segregated. While Brown v the Board of Education had been enacted nearly a decade earlier, the South was slow to integrate any facet of society. With strong racist personalities in Bull Connor and Governor George Wallace dictating the law of the state, Alabama, and Birmingham specifically, was not a place where African A ...more
People of a certain age will remember Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. On the nightly news, viewers watched as the city's police force under the leadership of the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, beat Civil Rights marchers with clubs, attacked them with dogs, and sprayed them with high-pressure water hoses. So how could they forget? In his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," written after his arrest in April for marching in the city's streets without a permit, Martin Luther King wro ...more
Chris Brassfield
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This story is both a great baseball story and an excellent history lesson on the tension and violence in 1960's Birmingham. Highly recommended. ...more
Chuck Lipsig
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I believe that one of the largest, if not the largest, factors in the decline of racism since WW2 has been the integration of sports. Sports is one of the ultimate mixers of people, by race, class, and other factors. This is so, not just within the teams themselves, but within their fan-bases, who frequently mix with each other. Besides, it's more difficult -- not impossible, but more difficult -- to be a racist, when you're cheering for someone of another race to knock in the winning run (or sc ...more
Arthur Kyriazis
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of the best baseball books under the rader ever. It's about the 1964 Birminghman Barons, who played at old Rickwood Field. Rickwood Field was laid out precisely according to the dimensons of Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The main tenants in Birmingham were for many years a white minor league team, and the Birmingham Black Barons, a famous Negro League team which featured Satchel Paige when he first came up.

This book is about the Kansas City As farm team that played in Birmingham t
John Kaufmann
Mar 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball-sports
Mediocre, probably 2.5 stars (I gave it three stars). I was expecting more. The premise sounded good. The story line is placed in the south in the sixties when civil rights was front and center and starred two minority players, Blue Moon Odom and Bert Campaneris, who eventually went on the major league stardom with the Oakland A's. The book did a fair job of covering Odom and Campaneris, in particular how good they were. But it didn't give much of a look at their personalities or how they coped ...more
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
*I won this book as part of a First Reads giveaway*

Southern League tells the story of a minor league team in the heart of Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement. Colton tells the story of the team month by month through the stories of some of the players. It's interesting just how much the white players didn't realize just what the other players were dealing with.

I really enjoyed Colton going back and forth in telling the players' stories. He gave equal background on players of each race an
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Could not put it down and was sad when it ended. Just marvelous. Author Larry Colton writes about the Birmingham (AL) Barons, a minor Southern League team (part of the then Kansas City A's organization) that fielded its first integrated team in 1964, a notoriously horrible banner year and time in Birmingham. The 1964 team was competitive (the Southern League pennant race was a nail-biter), so excitement on the field against a backdrop of civil rights action and excitement of a ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Birmingham barons were a Double A team in the Southern League. The book focused on the team during the 1964 baseball season. The Barons were the first integrated to play in the South and the story tells of the difficulties the players most of them in their early 20's. Fans of Kansas City baseball will recognize many names, since the Barons were a farm team of the A's. You probably need to be a pretty good baseball fan to fully appreciate the book. But it does tell the story of some gutsy kid ...more
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For those baseball fans out there, this is a wonderful read. For those of us who are also history fans this is a wonderful read. I thoroughly enjoyed the meshing of the the two.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
In the spring of 1964 Robert Belcher was attempting to bring baseball back to Birmingham, Alabama after a three year absence. The flamboyant and legendary Charlie Finley, owner of the then Kansas City Athletics (A’s) and a native of Birmingham, agreed to sponsored the Barons as the Kansas City AA farm team and allow Belcher to field a team. But not just any team. The team that Belcher fielded was a team that made history as Birmingham’s first integrated sports team.

Larry Colton has captured, thr
patrick Lorelli
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports-biography
This is not just a baseball book. This book is about a time and a place that I know I did not see or experience. I cannot imagine what some of these men had to go through. The story takes place in Birmingham, Alabama in 1964. Baseball is coming back to this town and to other towns in the South. But like so much of everything else that is happening there are a lot of that don’t want baseball back. Because now it will not be segregated. The author Larry Colton, mostly follows 4 players, Johnny “Bl ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it
This was our December office book club selection. I am not a baseball fan, but I am a history fan. There is a lot of actual baseball talk, plays, scores, etc., in this book, so if you like that sort of thing, you'll enjoy this. If you're not a sports person, there's so much more to the book that you might want to read it anyway. In 1964, a minor league baseball team, the Birmingham Barons, reformed and became the first Southern League integrated team. Yes, Birmingham. In a series of short little ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: af-am-non-fic, sports
So, at heart this is a baseball book that happens to address a team that was integrated in Birmingham in 1964, right in the middle of some of the worst of the public Civil Rights difficulties (think of the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church). I think I expected it to be more thoroughly about the differences faced by the Black and White players. That was in there, absolutely. But it was a baseball book, loud and clear.

I'm not THAT much of a baseball fan! LOL

But it was really well written, suc
Dennis Brooks
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even if you don't love baseball, you should read this book. The tales it relates regarding racism from a critical era in our nation's history are tales that we should all understand. Mr. Colton focuses on certain players on the '64 Barons as well as the manager and owner, and he put enough time researching them to bring them to life. I found myself rooting for them, whether I knew their names prior to the book or not. They were just ordinary ballplayers and people doing what they needed to withi ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall, the book was ok.

Based on the title 'Civil Rights' I expected more than a smattering of stories inserted between baseball stats. Maybe if I were a bigger baseball fan, I would've enjoyed it more. Lots of stats.
While the book follows 4 players, I expected to hear more about how the players felt playing in such a racially divided city. Again, just brief, random stories...most of which aren't related to the baseball players themselves, but racially charged violence and events happening in
Jun 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I love baseball and I enjoyed this story of the Birmingham Barons during their first year as an integrated team in 1964 in Birmingham, Alabama. Anyone who was aware in the 60's can remember what the South was like during integration. I'm not knocking the South; I grew up and lived there most of my life. The book focuses on 4 players, 2 white/2 nonwhite (black, Cuban, etc). It tells of their days on the team, playing all over the South, and also gives some insight into their private lives. The le ...more
Civil Rights. Alabama. Integration. Heroes. Villains. Baseball. A pennant chase.

Maybe it's just because I'm a sports and history buff, but this is one of the most compelling yet little known stories ever told. Larry Colton is a wonderful writer and gives the setting, Birmingham just after the infamous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, and the players, black, white, Hispanic, northerners, southerners, tremendous depth and meaning. This is more than strike outs and homers...the minor lea
Alan Spinrad
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. The story of the integration of minor league baseball, on the field and in the stands, in Birmingham, many years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the big leagues, and only shortly after the awful violence in Birmingham, simultaneously brings hope that we can progress beyond such conduct and the attitudes that caused it, and a sense of shame that there is so much ground left to cover. Nevertheless, sports, with its often conservative mindset about how to play ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Southern League" chronicles the minor league baseball team Birmingham Barons during the politically charged 1964 season. In Alabama, the last bit of resistance to racial integration is strongly entrenched in the city of Birmingham. In spite of that, the Barons, the first integrated team in the city's sports history, took the field that year, uncertain of its future and the city's future. As the season wears on, the team slowly grows on the city, and becomes a symbol of unity in the face of uphe ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good book. The title is slightly misleading because it focuses on one key team in the Southern League, the Birmingham Barons, and not very much on the other teams. Regardless, what makes this story so compelling is the interface between baseball (America's pasttime) and some of the the death throes of American institutional racism. Good American values as exemplified by baseball and bad American values as exemplified by militant segregation. ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book on minor league baseball and racial integration during the tumultuous year of 1964 in Birmingham, Alabama. The author weaves a nice tale, with stories from four ballplayers (two black, two white) about that year and how they handled being the first integrated team in Alabama. Quick and easy read to boot.
Kathleen Burns
Sep 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-books
This was a good story but having just read The Warmth of Other Suns, I felt it was not as good a picture of racial tensions in the south as other readers thought. I also thought it read like a series of newspaper columns rather than a book. Not sorry I read it but I've read better baseball stories . ...more
Dale Stonehouse
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably more valuable as an historical narrative than baseball story, the one drawback being the tricks of memory of all his living witnesses and others being deceased. The author has special insight into the goals and dreams of the players, having pitched in one game in the major leagues in 1967.
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was scary, sad, fun & interesting. Even if you don't like baseball, you learn a lot about the racial conflicts going on the south, particularly in Birmingham, Alabama. Lots of evil in the political structure in Alabama at the time in the late 50s and early 60s. Highly recommend it. ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good account of the first integrated Birmingham baseball team. It does a good job of helping the reader learn about the players on the team. I think it could have used some better proof reading; I recall seeing two or three things that may have been typos.

I recommend the book.
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm not really a fan of baseball, but I truly enjoyed this book. It was a perfect mix of history, stories of people from different walks if life coming together & baseball. It was well written & quite interesting. ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent telling of the story about how financial self interest (Capitalism, to put it plainly) became a powerful force to drive desegregation the Alabama when baseball was driving crowds to the stands. I very much enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.
Frank Ogden
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book about the Southern baseball league. This league was instrumental in the development of Negro baseball players who were good to make the major league. Highly recommended for a serious baseball fan who wants to broaden their baseball knowledge.
Steve Lowe
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great story about southern league baseball an how the barons broke the color barrier in Birmingham. After reading this I have a deep appreciation for the players on that team an what they went thru. This is a must read for any baseball fan
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