As summer began and I was encouraging the boys to do some reading to fill free time, I figured I should walk the walk.
I'm not an avid reader like I was when I was in grade school. I read a lot of magazines, newspaper and Internet articles, but I realized I hadn't read a book since last summer. I started a couple over the last few months, but never finished them. So, I stopped at the library and went back to the section on biographies, which are what I like to read best and just picked out a few with familiar names or interesting covers.
In the past three weeks, I've read several biographies/autobiographies (Billy Crystal, Richard Picciotto, Sarah Palin, Simon Cowell, Bob Muzikowski.) Next will be Michelle Obama and Michael Jordan. However, one of the books I read had me smiling and crying continuously as I turned the pages. It was "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America" by Joe Posnanski.
The book touched upon many topics, but was a story about Buck O'Neil and his year on the road at age 94 pretty much as an ambassador for baseball. I had never heard of Buck O'Neil before I opened the book.
In a nutshell, O'Neil played in the Negro Leagues in the years before Jackie Robinson's entrance into Major League Baseball. He became the first African-American coach in the majors in 1962 and worked as a coach and scout for my favorite team - the Chicago Cubs - for 33 years.
In later years, he was a member of the Veterans Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his own words, he was a good - not great - player, although he led the Negro American League in batting average in 1946.
That tells you about his career, but there's always more to a person than their work performance.
And it was the parts of the book that weren't about his playing days that impressed me most. I was inspired by his zest for life, his kindness toward strangers, his positive attitude, his affection for jazz music, his efforts to establish a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, his push to give recognition to his exceptional fellow players and his way of greeting people with a hug rather than a handshake.
In the book, there were stories about his many public appearances and how he always led off by having the crowd join hands and sing along with him, whether he was speaking to a classroom of first graders or a room full of professional athletes.
After reading the book, I looked him up on YouTube and watched video of him singing his signature lines: "The greatest thing in all my life was loving you." I've since also started reading O'Neil's autobiography, "I Was Right On Time."
O'Neil had a spirit we should all emulate and "The Soul of Baseball" is great summer reading for young and old. Its lessons are the epitome of the messages we should be sending to our youth and the kinds of reminders many adults need.
If you decide to read it on my recommendation, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you thought of it.
The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Carrie Steinweg, the mother of five, lives in Lansing. Reach her at email@example.com.