I Was Right on Time

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Overview

From Babe Ruth to Bo Jackson, from Cool Papa Bell to Lou Brock, Buck O'Neil has seen it all. As a first baseman and manager of the legendary Kansas City Monarchs, O'Neil witnessed the heyday of the Negro leagues and their ultimate demise. In I Was Right on Time, Buck charmingly recalls the important events that helped shape the evolution of the game as black baseball's greatest stars were finally accepted into the white major leagues. Buck first tells of his early barnstorming days as all-black teams made their ...
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Overview

From Babe Ruth to Bo Jackson, from Cool Papa Bell to Lou Brock, Buck O'Neil has seen it all. As a first baseman and manager of the legendary Kansas City Monarchs, O'Neil witnessed the heyday of the Negro leagues and their ultimate demise. In I Was Right on Time, Buck charmingly recalls the important events that helped shape the evolution of the game as black baseball's greatest stars were finally accepted into the white major leagues. Buck first tells of his early barnstorming days as all-black teams made their way across the country, a long way from the familiar comforts of his Sarasota home. He tells of the remarkable rise of Satchel Paige and the tragic fall of Josh Gibson, of the shame he experienced playing first base for the grass-skirt-wearing Zulu Cannibal Giants, and of the pride he felt playing against white major leaguers like Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller in black vs. white all-star games. He recalls the time when jazz great Lionel Hampton served as the first base coach for the Monarchs, linking two unique and distinguished American institutions. And he tells of the difficulties and struggles of getting by in a racially divided country, and of relishing the moment when Jackie Robinson amended history by breaking the color barrier in 1947, as Buck himself did in 1962 by becoming the first African-American to coach in the major leagues.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although O'Neil was a star in the Negro baseball leagues for many years, starting with a semipro team at the age of 12 and signing with the pros at 23, he achieved his greatest fame as one of the major figures in Ken Burns's acclaimed PBS series Baseball. A first baseman, he played mostly for the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1941 he met Satchel Paige, with whom he developed a close friendship. He became the Monarchs' playing manager in 1948; when black baseball folded because of post-Robinson integration, he was a scout and a coach for the Chicago Cubs from 1956 to 1988; and he has scouted for the Kansas City Royals ever since. His autobiography, written with Wulf, an editor at Sports Illustrated, and freelancer Conrads, is a cornucopia of delightful anecdotes, including an episode that resulted in Paige dubbing him "Nancy" and the period when he played with the Zulu Cannibal Giants, who increased their take at the gate by barnstorming in grass skirts. No fan of the sport should miss this volume, which is as entertaining as it is informative. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (June)
School Library Journal
YA-This memoir is an excellent discussion of the Negro Baseball Leagues and the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s. Most fans of the game will enjoy O'Neil's descriptions of his adventures from his birth in Florida to his groundbreaking position as the first black coach in major league baseball. The book is also an excellent primary source on the Negro Leagues or cities during integration, particularly Kansas City where O'Neil spent quite some time. The underlying message of the book is always to enjoy what you are doing. The informal tone and the amount of white space per page will make this offering appealing to less-motivated students. Photographs appear in a centerfold. Easy to read, this title is an excellent choice for YAs.-Fred Amico, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Wes Lukowsky
Ken Burns' documentary opus "Baseball" was a mixed success, but a universally praised element was the commentary by former Negro League legend Buck O'Neil. Now 82, O'Neil is still active in the game as a scout for the Kansas City Royals. A three-time Negro League all-star and a successful coach and manager, O'Neil later served as a scout for the Chicago Cubs, during which time he discovered Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Lou Brock as well as future inductees Joe Carter and Lee Smith. In a comfortable, conversational style, he recounts his decades in baseball from the perspective of a man who is pleased with his life's work. He was a contemporary of such great Negro League stars as Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, and he made his living as a baseball man before Jackie Robinson broke the color line and after. Though racism closed many doors and made others difficult to open, O'Neil doesn't carp over the what-ifs; rather, he celebrates what was. Highly recommended for all baseball fans.
Kirkus Reviews
The life of former Negro League player and manager O'Neil, whose folksy gentility was so winning in Ken Burns's documentary Baseball.

Born John Jordan O'Neil in Carrabelle, Fla., in 1911, O'Neil started playing semi-pro ball at the age of 12. He signed with the Tampa Black Smokers in 1934, then played with the Miami Giants before being picked up by a farm team of the famed Kansas City Monarchs. There were other stops on the way to the big time, including a barnstorming stint with the Zulu Cannibal Giants, a team that played wearing grass skirts. O'Neil takes long, affectionate looks at old friends and teammates, including the legendary Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Pap Bell, Buck Leonard, Newt Allen, and "the greatest player" he ever saw, Oscar Charleston, who played for the Indianapolis ABCs in the 1920s. His "favorite" year—and its recounting is the highlight of the book—was 1942, when he and his Monarch teammates beat Gibson and Leonard's Homestead Grays in the Negro World Series. His reminiscences and anecdotes are generally fresh and engaging, if sometimes a bit soft-pedaled: "I never faced any real racism traveling around the country . . . Oh, you'd hear some kid make some kind of crack, but you didn't let that bother you none." He does, however, acknowledge Jackie Robinson's accomplishment—and his consequent struggles—in breaking the color barrier. And as a longstanding force on the Hall of Fame selection committee, he has ffought for the admission of former Negro Leaguers. O'Neil doesn't place himself on his all-time Negro League team—he was only "very good"—but hopes to make it to the Hall of Fame someday, "as a manager or for other contributions."

Sweetly self-effacing, O'Neil's grace and charm play almost as well here as they do for the camera.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684803050
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/2/1996
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.73 (h) x 0.96 (d)

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