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Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball's Greatest Forgotten Player

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  119 ratings  ·  26 reviews
2020 SABR Seymour Medal 
2019 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year

Buck O’Neil once described him as “Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Tris Speaker rolled into one.” Among experts he is regarded as the best player in Negro Leagues history. During his prime he became a legend in Cuba and one of Black America’s most popular figures. Yet even among serious sports fans, Oscar
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published November 1st 2019 by University of Nebraska Press
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Average rating 4.48  · 
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Bryan Alkire
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good biography. For the most part this year I’ve had good luck with sports themed work and this continued the trend. This bio is really good considering the dearth of primary sources. It’s readable and balanced. I particularly liked the inclusion of calculated modern stats to put Charleston’s play in proper context. It does tend to show he was among the greatest players of his era. I learned plenty here about a player I’d heard of, but never really read about. It’s well worth your reading time i ...more
Rob Neyer
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Utterly essential for anyone who cares about the history of Negro Leagues baseball (which is to say, anyone who cares about the history of baseball, period). Beer's research is phenomenal. ...more
Ask most baseball fans or historians to name the best players in the history of the Negro Leagues and the immediate answers are usually Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. However, if one takes a closer look at both the statistics available and the excellence of his play for a long period of time, the answer must be Oscar Charleston. Charleston's life and legacy are told in this excellent book by Jeremy Beer.

Whether one is researching Charleston's early life, his lengthy baseball care
Gabriel Ramos
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the few baseball books i couldnt put down. I didnt know much about this baseball star, but knew Bill James had him ranked in the top 10 players ever. Great book. Must read for sports fans
Vincent T. Ciaramella
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a cool book! I will admit that I knew almost nothing about Oscar Charleston beyond his name before reading this book. So when the author makes the claim that he is baseball’s greatest forgotten player he is dead on.

I won’t go though a play-by-play of his life in my review but I will touch upon some of my favorites parts of the book.

1. The Hotel Leagues. I had never heard of them and just their existence makes me want to research more.

2. All the history surrounding my home town of Pittsburg
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I loved learning about Charleston and the earlier parts of the Negro Leagues in particular, as there a re a lot of gaps in knowledge that the author fills in. I wish more of the book were about Charleston's larger impact and less on box scores, but the author is candid about the lack of primary source documentation that exists. In any case, this was very illuminating. ...more
This biography was lovingly and extensively researched, but an overly detailed approach proved to be a problem for me as a reader. That was because there were too many instances of statistics of games, and too little said about some of the larger-than-life characters of the Negro leagues, such as Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Pete Hill and John Henry Lloyd, who were stars in the first half of the 20th century. There were too many sentences that said that Charleston went 3 for 4 and his team won 3 ...more
Frank Murtaugh
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous book about an extraordinary man (and exceptional baseball player, to say the least). Charleston is among the few baseball legends (very close to the only baseball legend) with whom I was not familiar before reading Beer's Biography. It's a thorough telling of his life, without the added glow or hype an "unknown legend" often attracts from a writer or analyst. And Beer weaves modern statistics into the story, utilizing modern metrics like OPS+ to contextualize Charleston's brilliance on ...more
Joe Vasile
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is nothing short of tremendous. Given the resources available, this book is the most thorough accounting of the life of Oscar Charleston that we could hope for. This was clearly a massive undertaking and Jeremy Beer hit a home run with it. I really appreciated how the scope of the book dealt with not only Charleston's baseball career, but the evolution of the Negro Leagues in the 20th century.

Charleston is without a doubt one of the 10 greatest ballplayers of all-time, and hopefully t
Dick Hamilton
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good biography of, as the title indicates, one of the great forgotten baseball players of all times. The author has to deal with the handicap of the limited information on Charleston but works through this using the information available, including access to family members and related documents. In addition, Charleston passed away over sixty years ago so the ability to interview individuals who actually saw Charleston play in his prime is limited. If nothing else, this book reminds us of the g ...more
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written and meticulously researched, this book kept me entranced from beginning to end. Every baseball fan knows the names and legends of many of Charleston’s white contemporaries, or even those of the Negro League players of the next generation, but somehow Oscar Charleston’s story - even the embellished legends like those that I’ve heard about Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, or Cool Papa Bell over the years - have slipped through the cracks. What a shame - and what a blessing Jeremy Be ...more
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm embarrassed by how much I didn't know about Oscar Charleston, who is probably the best baseball player I knew very little to nothing about. I suspect many others could say the same, and if so, Beer's precise and thoughtful biography is the antidote. The book does slow down now and again, but because this is so much unexplored territory, as a reader, I certainly cut Beer a little extra slack. He's done a yeoman's work here, and I finished the book with a ton of knowledge I lacked going in. ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember the first time I heard of Oscar Charleston. Probably in the Bill James Historical Abstract as that seems to be when he got more widely recognized as one of the all-time greats (by the white press that is). I've read books on some of the other Negro League greats and this one really stands out to me as there wasn't much out there on him so the research had to be time consuming. But Jeremy did an outstanding job putting it all together in a very readable format. ...more
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well researched dive into the career of a forgotten legend. I'm a huge baseball fan and I have to admit that I barely remember ever hearing about Oscar Charleston. After reconstructing stats from boxscores we get to see just how dominating Charleston was on the field. He more than earned his reputation as the greatest in the game. ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic book! I admit that prior to reading it I knew very little about Charleston beyond the stories of his contemporaries ranking him with Ruth, Cobb, and Speaker. Now I know that Charleston was one of the most important contributors to the game for 40 years. The author’s research was through and impeccably done. This book is a must-read for all baseball fans.
RJ Koch
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Travis
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First read for me in depth about a Negro League star, the life, the trials and tribulations. Closed the book with a newfound deep, deep appreciation and awe of these men and what they were able to accomplish, considering all that opposed them. Oscar was no doubt a great player.
Josh Duggan
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic rendering of a life story of a man whose legacy took an unimaginable amount of research to render as beautifully as done here. Beer's painstaking work to help bring a figure of such historical import shows on every single page. This is a must-read for any serious baseball fan. ...more
An important book on a nearly forgotten Negro League Hall of Fame player.
Catherine  Mustread
Interviewed on Baseball by the Book podcast 031620
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written and researched book on one of the games all time greats. Absolutely essential reading for any fan of the game
May 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball
Very well researched book with little material to work with.
Terry Meier
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This is an excellent and well researched tribute to baseball great Oscar Charleston. It has a detailed history of the various Negro Baseball Leagues in addition to Charleston's biography. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Well researched look into the life and career of a mostly forgotten Negro National League great. The Author make the case that Charleston was indeed the greatest player from the Negro Leagues. His legacy has largely been over shadowed by Josh Gibson and the color line being broken in MLB.
rated it it was amazing
Nov 18, 2019
Josh Curran
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Jul 09, 2020
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Jun 29, 2020
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I am a principal partner at American Philanthropic, a consulting firm, and chairman of the board at the American Ideas Institute, publisher of The American Conservative magazine and website. I am an Indiana native who like so many other Hoosiers lives in Arizona. My biography of Negro Leagues legend Oscar Charleston was published on November 1, 2019, by the University of Nebraska Press.

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