By Buck O’Neill and Steve Wulf
Buck O’Neill started as a baseball player with a semipro team near Kansas City when he was 12 years old. He went into the Negro baseball leagues at age 23 and became a star in the baseball world of blacks. His team was the Kansas City Monarchs and he played first base. He became friends with Satchell Paige and they became close friends.
He became the manager of the Monarchs in 1948 while all of the players were trying to get into major league baseball. The team folded as baseball became integrated and he became a coach for the Chicago Cubs from 1956 to 1988. He saw it all. He took in the lives and careers of many of the top names like Cool Papa Bell, Babe Ruth, Lou Brock and many others that were baseball royalty.
He tells of the barnstorming his earlier teams would do as they traveled around the country playing baseball for small amounts of money. How Bell and Paige were stars to the black communities. He told of playing in grass skirts to increase their attendance or where Satchell Paige would call him “Nancy”. He got that name as he got Satchell out of a jam that involved Paige’s fiancee unexpectantly showing up when an Indian girl named Nancy was visiting in his room.
Here is an excerpt from pages 114-115:
I also went hunting with him. That was his favorite pastime besides baseball, and Satchell was a terrific hunter. One time we were up in North Dakota and we were staying in a big house where we did our own cooking. Satchell liked to mess around in the kitchen, and he said, “Let’s go out and get some prairie chicken and have it for dinner.” So we went out, and he went out, and he was on one fender of the car and I was on the other, with another guy driving, and we got our guns out and got ready to chase down our kill when we saw it. Along came a big, juicy pheasant right across the road. I wanted to shoot it, but Satchell said, ” No, no, no- I was gonna eat prairie chicken and that’s what we’re gonna get!’ That was Satchell. When Satchell wanted something, he wouldn’t settle for something else.
Then, too, Satchell was a conservationist in that he didn’t believe in keeping more than one fish or shooting more than one bird….. one time we decided to go fishing in the Everglades one morning. On the way back from the fishing hole, we passed a mass of water mocassins, squirming and writhing all around the boat. I had never seen so many snakes in one spot, much less poisonous ones. I grabbed a .22 to shoot the snakes, but again Satchell stopped me. “put that rifle down, Nancy,” he said. “This is their domain. We’re the intruders.”
This is an entertaining book that gives the reader a greater understanding of baseball before integration of the game. It is worth a spot on your bookshelf. The book is from 1996 but the information is timeless.