Barnstorming to Heaven: Syd Pollock and His Great Black Teams

Overview


A rare insider’s perspective on baseball’s great barnstorming age.
   
The Indianapolis Clowns were a black touring baseball team that featured an entertaining mix of comedy, showmanship, and skill. Sometimes referred to as the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball—though many of the Globetrotters’ routines were borrowed directly from the Clowns—they captured the affection of Americans of all ...
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Barnstorming to Heaven: Syd Pollock and His Great Black Teams

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Overview


A rare insider’s perspective on baseball’s great barnstorming age.
   
The Indianapolis Clowns were a black touring baseball team that featured an entertaining mix of comedy, showmanship, and skill. Sometimes referred to as the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball—though many of the Globetrotters’ routines were borrowed directly from the Clowns—they captured the affection of Americans of all ethnicities and classes.

Alan Pollock’s father, Syd, owned the Clowns, as well as a series of black barnstorming teams that crisscrossed the country from the late 1920s until the mid-1960s. They played every venue imaginable, from little league fields to Yankee Stadium, and toured the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, the Canadian Rockies, the Dakotas, the Southwest, the Far West—anywhere there was a crowd willing to shell out a few dollars for an unforgettable evening.

Alan grew up around the team and describes in vivid detail the comedy routines of Richard “King Tut” King, “Spec Bebob” Bell, Reece “Goose” Tatum; the “warpaint” and outlandish costumes worn by players in the early days; and the crowd-pleasing displays of amazing skill known as pepperball and shadowball. These men were entertainers, but they were also among the most gifted athletes of their day, making a living in sports the only way a black man could. They played to win.

More than just a baseball story, these recollections tell the story of great societal changes in America from the roaring twenties, through the years of the Great Depression and World War II, and into the Civil Rights era.
 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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“Syd Pollock’s son, Alan, grew up with the Clowns and worked for his father in various capacities. Alan finished drafting Barnstorming to Heaven shortly before his death, and veteran baseball writer James Riley edited the manuscript and shepherded it through publication. Alan Pollock lovingly recounted the routines of King Tut and the Clowns and recorded a treasure trove of anecdotes. His insider’s account of the business side of baseball barnstormers is fascinating and illustrated by a superb collection of photographs. Barnstorming to Heaven is excellent baseball history, a must for every fan’s bookshelf.”—The Alabama Review

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“It is part memoir and part history of the country’s most successful barn-storming baseball team, a changing group of black ballplayers, including three women, who attracted fans for their inspired clowning, but who were also dazzlingly accomplished players.”—Boston Sunday Globe

“This is a fond farewell to baseball’s barnstorming tradition and its greatest proponet, Syd Pollock of the Indianapolis Clowns. A must-read for every fan.”-- Robert Peterson, author of Only the Ball was White
 
 

Library Journal
Syd Pollock (1901-68) was a New York promoter who owned the Indianapolis Clowns during the heyday of the barnstorming teams of black professional baseball. Devised as much for entertainment as athleticism, the team became a part of the Negro American League in 1943 and toned down the clowning. Syd's son Alan compiled this flavorsome and fond memoir about a team that could both take a chance on a 16-year old named Henry Aaron and inspire the comedy of the Harlem Globetrotters. Will deepen any baseball collection. Paul M. Kaplan, head of adult services at Lake Villa District Library, IL, has reviewed for LJ since 1988. Robert C. Cottrell, author of Blackball, the Black Sox and the Babe, teaches history at California State University, Chico. Gilles Renaud is a judge on the Ontario Court of Justice, Canada. Margaret Heilbrun is social sciences editor, LJ book review Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817357221
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Alan Pollock was editing this manuscript when he suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. His widow approached longtime friend, and author of The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, James A. Riley, to complete the project.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction James A. Riley 1

Part 1 Celebration: The Essence of the Clowns 5

1 The Heart and Soul of Black Baseball 7

2 Peanuts, Goose and Ed 22

3 Nature Boy, Prince Jo and Birmingham Sam 34

Part 2 Syd Pollock: The Man Behind the Clowns 39

4 Dad and Baseball 41

5 View from the Office 51

6 View from the Bus 60

Part 3 The Twenties and Thirties: Road Map 69

7 Blue Sox, Red Sox and Cuban Stars 71

8 Enter the Clowns 82

Part 4 The Forties: With Fire 93

9 Denver Post Tournament Champions 95

10 Bunny and Buster 106

11 Style Defined and Refined 114

12 Highlights and Insights 121

13 More Tales of Goose and Tut 130

14 Life on the Road 137

15 At the Helm 149

16 Remembrance of Players Past 161

Part 5 The Fifties: The Jody Transition 171

17 First Pennant 173

18 Repeat Champions 215

19 A Shortstop Named Henry 224

20 Toni Stone 238

21 Charlie, Connie and Peanut 252

22 Jackie Robinson's All-Stars 266

23 On the Road Again 271

24 Farewell to the King 287

25 Bobo, Yogi and Chauff 296

Part 6 The Sixties: A Section Reserved for Whites 309

26 No Camelot for the Clowns 311

27 The Clowns in Cooperstown 317

28 Bobo Revisited 327

29 My Roomie 334

30 On Being Black and on the Road 350

31 Riding into the Sunset 358

32 One Last Hurrah 369

Part 7 As Mailmen Whistle 377

33 The Last Whaler 379

34 Legacy 389

Epilogue 394

Index 395

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