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The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  3,534 ratings  ·  320 reviews
When Legendary Negro League player Buck O'Neil asked sports columnist Joe Posnanski how he fell in love with baseball, Posnanski had to think about it. From that question was born the idea behind BASEBALL AND JAZZ. Posnanski and the 94 year old O'Neil decided to spend the 2005 baseball season touring the country in hopes of stirring up the love that first drew them to the ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 27th 2007 by William Morrow
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Kim Neither. They talk about baseball and a little about jazz music in Kansas City during the 30s.

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May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Today May 6 is Willie Mays’ birthday. It is also the anniversary of the best pitched game in Cubs’ history. As all of us sports fans wait impatiently for live sports to begin again, one of the bright spots has been the writing of Joe Posnanski, columnist for the Kansas City Star and the Athletic. Posnanski has treated sports readers to his top 100 list of favorite players, culminating with Mays in the top spot. With this list receiving glowing reviews, Posnanski decided to treat us to his list o ...more
Sean Gibson
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely phenomenal book--Posnanski is a masterful writer. I reviewed this for Kirkus when it came out:
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Kansas City sports writer follows Negro Leagues legend, Buck O'Neil, for a year across the country. It's a fabulous, bittersweet biography of sorts of O'Neil and the League itself. The bitterness comes from the reader as you read all the hardships and slights that black players endured to simply play the game. However, O'Neil is nothing but a gut-bucket Zen philosopher throughout the entire journey. So, while parts of it will definitely anger you, O'Neil's spirit is nothing short of awe-inspirin ...more
This is a really important book about keeping the memory and history of the Negro Leagues alive, but instead of trying to recap the book or Buck O'Neil's stories, I'll leave you with two quotes in O'Neil's own words:

Before Jackie Robinson, there were men who played baseball. And we were good... People who saw us, man, we could play. We made a difference in this world.

What did I tell you? People say baseball's dead. Baseball doesn't die. People die. Baseball lives on.
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Baseball fans
To begin with: if you are a fan of baseball, you should read this book.

If you are a fan of Civil Rights, you should probably read this book.

This book made me smile on one page and cry on the next. It made me completely indignant about all of the injustices in the world, all of the unspeakably horrible things that happen in the tiniest actions (or inactions), and yet it left me unable to be truly angry about them - because that is the lesson of Buck O'Neil: How not to be bitter.

This book is incr
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
A fascinating story about Buck O’Neill the baseball player and arguably the game’s greatest ambassador. The book covers Buck’s travels around America in support of the Negro League Hall of Fame and anything baseball related. The events take place when O’Neill was 93 and the book’s narrative ends a year or so later when Buck dies at 94. The Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously created an annual Buck O’Neill ambassador award.

Posnanski is a award winning KC sportswriter. To write this book, with O’N
Beth Anne
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I've tried so many times to pull together my thoughts on this book. This book is told in a series of stories over the course of a year the author spent with Buck O'Neil. Together they traveled the country as Buck spoke at schools and various events, about baseball, the Negro Leagues, coaching, and ultimately life.

I love baseball in a life-long obsessive, intense joy kind of way. I knew as soon as I started I would enjoy this book, but the final 1/3 or so snowballed into a can't put it down fanta
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful story about what turned out to be the last year of Buck O'Neils life. The injustice and rejection the man faced in his life was over shadowed by his incredible attitude about life. This is only a brief statement of the power of this book. ...more
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now that I’ve finished reading it, I can’t really classify The Soul of Baseball. It’s not really a baseball book. It’s certainly not a biography. I can’t even say it’s a portrait of a man. The Soul of Baseball is so much more than any of that. I guess that, more than anything, I can call it a gift. A gift. Yes. I like that.

The Soul of Baseball is the result of sportswriter Joe Posnanski spending a little more than a year traveling the United States with Buck O’Neil. Buck, a man I’ve never met bu
Sam Bauman
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book a while ago. I really enjoy Posnanski's blog but I hadn't gotten around to reading the book. Well, I had kept it at work and was working late on an upgrade with some time to kill in the middle and it captured me so I had to read the whole thing pretty quickly.
The book is really just Joe following Buck O'Neil around for a while before Buck's death. But in the course of this he paints a wonderful picture of Buck O'Neil and what a good attitude he had despite what he went throug
Jimmy Autrey
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
I love baseball. I love Buck O'Neil. Sadly, I did not love this baseball book about Buck O'Neil. As much as I was looking forward to getting into some really good baseball stories from a guy who really lived it I was left wanting. The book got such good ratings for its writing, but almost all of the chapters followed the same script! Buck and I go to a game honoring former Negro League ballplayers. Buck smiles as he autographs baseballs. Another Negro League player complains about how he was tre ...more
Jesse Dougherty
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a reporter covering professional baseball, I don't know nearly enough about the legacy and history of the Negro Leagues. This story, told through the eyes of a 94-year-old Buck O'Neil, both reminded me of that and helped begin to fill a significant knowledge gap. After finishing it, I immediately started reaching O'Neil, the Kansas City Monarchs and other texts I could use to deepen my understanding of what Black players of that time experienced. Also, it's hard to go wrong with Joe Posnanski ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I grew up going to Royals games and reading Posnanski’s analyses. I grew up going to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and throwing a ball with my dad. Baseball is in my blood, and so is Kansas City.

This is the perfect place to say: I received a hug from Buck O’Neil. He hugged everyone in my family the night my father was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Fathers, initiated with an essay I wrote in school. Buck was an inspiration and a delight, and this book honors his memory so well. He was mor
Russel Henderson
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Like most baseball fans I was introduced meaningfully to Buck O'Neil for the first time in Ken Burns's magisterial Baseball documentary. His wit, his optimism, and his love of the game sparkled on film. Posnanski lets the reader spend a few hundred pages with him. Sadly the book is crowned by Buck's disappointment at a HOF snub (it remains a snub, and should be rectified ASAP), but so much of it is the joy, the kindness, and the wisdom that he shares with his traveling companion, his friends, an ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It doesn't get much better than this. Buck O'Neil's life, like so many greats of any field, far surpasses a baseball story. He had so much hope in his life, and was THE ambassador of the Negro Leagues Museum as he told their stories. It's a civil rights story as much as baseball history, and O'Neil is a guy that crosses the aisle and appeals to the goodness in everyone.

I've read Posnanski's articles for years and he's always been at the top of the list for me, but I think this is the first book
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, baseball
I had never heard of Buck O'Neil, and most of the other players mentioned in this book, because they played in the Negro League. Their nicknames, their stats, their teammates, are lost to history as old age takes them.

This glimpse into the life, baseball career, and gentle activism of a man pushing for recognition in the face of racism, was a beautiful, bittersweet memoir of an era in baseball that I wish I knew more about.
Cale Herreman
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author travels with Buck O'Neil, a still-sharp old man, so of course there is a lot of history in this book, of baseball, of social progress. But what comes through most in this book is the soul of a man who has no stock in hate, or bitterness. He remembers the injustices visited upon him and his fellow African-American players, but is glad to have lived to see the times change. Buck strikes up conversations with everyone he meets, but what he often wants to know is how people got to know ba ...more
Andy Vaught
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
“Think about this, son. What is my life about?”
“The greatest thing in all my life is loving you.”

The childhood baseball player in me couldn’t get enough. The connection to history was poignant and constant. And the adult in me who still loves the game wishes for glimpses like this into icons like Buck’s life. What a gift it must have been for Posnanski to have traveled and chronicled these stories and what gift it is to us that they’ve been curated and shared in such a compelling way.
David Blankenship
Jun 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book, more about the life of a generous and joyous man than it is about baseball. We might look at Buck O'Neil's life with regret and sadness for the things he was not able to do, but O'Neil would have none of that. He showed how to live graciously and gratefully in all things. ...more
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
I wish I’d learned more about the Negro Leagues at a younger age. Such a rich history.
Todd Stockslager
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Review title: Yes, I cried

Buck O'Neil was the real narrator of the Ken Burns Baseball documentary series, his story winding through and around the history of the game he wasn't allowed to play on its biggest stage. It was the first introduction for most Americans to this Negro League legend, who because of his soft spoken positive demeanor and Sarasota, Florida upbringing reminded so much of my grandfather who lived 50 years of his life in the same Gulf Coast town and spoke with the same accent
Stephanie Griffin
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: baseball fans.
Shelves: favorites
I recently watched the 10-disc Ken Burns series “Baseball” on DVD. In this series, my favorite interview person was Buck O’Neil. His enthusiasm was contagious, so I was thrilled to come across “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America”. It was written by the sports columnist Joe Posnanski, who followed O’Neil in his travels throughout the 2005 Major League Baseball season. O’Neil, at 94, was one of the last players left from the Negro Baseball League. He was also the first ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, bio
First of all, even though I grew up Canadian, I was raised on baseball. That's the real love.
I love reading about baseball, I love the history of it, and I love a good story.
Add onto it that Joe Posnanski is one of the best baseball writers out there today and he's writing about the universally beloved Buck O'Neil and you've got all the potential for a winner.

It doesn't disappoint. A man who never got to play in the Majors because of 'his beautiful tan' never held onto bitterness or anger, inste
Chad Supp
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Son, in this life, you never walk by a red dress." - Buck O'Neil

It's January, and there seem to be a lot of "reading challenges" out there, which I guess are meant to help fulfill the resolutions of those who want to read more. At least, that's what I'm using a reading challenge for. So here's a different kind of reading challenge: Read Joe Posnanski's "The Soul of Baseball - A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America," and then try not to put it in your top ten list of favorite books.

Speaking o
Matt B.
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The best sports book I've ever read that's not actually about sports. Its a quasi-biography about Buck O'Neil, a former Negro League player and manager, who even at 94 toured the country to spread awareness about the Negro Leagues' impact on baseball. A very quick read. Also, I'm not ashamed to admit it got a little dusty in my living room when reading the last 20 pages.

If you like American history, you will like this book.
If you like good people, you will like this book.
If you like books, you
Feb 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
this is what it means to really love the game---and america.
i knew nothing about buck o'neil or the negro leagues and the gradual integration of baseball. now i do. however, i learned much more from this book than the historical facts.
i learned that life is what you make it. well, maybe i already knew that, but i don't think i've ever read anything that inspired me to believe it the way this book and buck o'neil the person did.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you're not a baseball fan, know this: this is NOT a baseball book. It's a book about a very, very wise man who happened to play baseball a long time ago. There are a lot of well-known or famous people I would have liked to have met, but now that I've read this I actually regret not having met Buck O'Neil. Five minutes with him probably would have made me feel better about everything for the rest of my life. ...more
James Todd
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's difficult to summarize, but this was a treat to read. It's not just a baseball book. It's not just a biography. It has elements of history, America, nostalgia, how to treat people, human nature and life. Well written. ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Buck O’Neil. Negro Leagues baseball player and manager. Major League coach and scout. And the driving force behind the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The author documents his travels with O’Neil in the last year of the 94-year-old’s life. The book is funny, inspiring, and touching, and a gift for those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to hear these words, “I’m Buck O’Neil. What’s your name?”
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Annual book in honor of Dad. Beautifully written about a man who loved the game and never became embittered by injustice.
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Joe Posnanski is national columnist for NBC Sports. He has been named National Sportswriter of the Year and twice was awarded the best sports columnist in America by The Associated Press Sports Editors.

He has written five books:

“The Good Stuff,” was a collection of columns.

“The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America,” won the Casey Award as best baseball book of 2007.


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4 likes · 0 comments
“In our beautiful memory We were all handsome. We all could sing. We all had the heart Of the prettiest girl in town. And we all hit .300.” 5 likes
“Son, in this life, you don’t ever walk by a red dress.” 4 likes
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