Baseball and Barbecue and other stuff

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A roundup of recent places to hear/read me yammer on about Oscar:

The wonderful Baseball and Barbecue podcast.

The Philadelphia Baseball podcast with author Bill Kashatus.

An online interview with the great Negro Leagues researcher and stortyteller Ryan Whirty.

Various radio shows, including Sports Lit 101, Upon Further Review, and Query and Schultz.

 

 

The New York Daily News

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ran an excerpt from Oscar Charleston yesterday, in which I discuss Oscar’s role scouting for Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Presumably the article provided readers with a welcome interlude between stories about headless corpses and dogs driving cars.

By spring 1945 two years had passed as Branch Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, deliberately searched, to no avail, for the first black man to sign for his team.

Part of the problem, he believed, was that it was hard for his white scouts to show up at Negro League games without arousing suspicion. It was even harder for them to get accurate inside knowledge about the character and background of any given player. Oscar Charleston and a new black baseball circuit called the United States League (USL) provided Rickey with a solution to this twofold dilemma.

More here . . .

Reviews and radio

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While we wait for the New York Times to weigh in, here are three reviews of Oscar Charleston from the last week:

Wes Lukowsky at Booklist:

An invaluable contribution to baseball history.

The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books:

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.

Bob D’Angelo, The Sports Bookie:

Oscar Charleston fills a void in baseball history, providing context and nuance to a great player who was enigmatic in life — and in death.

My thanks to D’Angelo for catching my error in spelling Ebbets Field with two “t’s.” Won’t be the last typo called out, I’m certain, but it is the first!

I was honored to do six radio shows last week. It was especially cool to be the Query and Schultz show, both of whom asked great questions, in Indianapolis on Friday. Here’s the recording.

 

Baseball by the Book . . .

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is a wonderful, seriously thoughtful podcast on baseball topics hosted by Justin McGuire. It was an honor to talk about Oscar with him. You can listen to our conversation here. We touch on a bunch of topics, including the bad luck Oscar had in being misremembered in Roy Campanella’s autobiography.

If you are a baseball fan, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to the podcast.

The libraries are going to be full of OSCAR CHARLESTON,

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surely, after this nice review in Library Journal.

Quoth one Gus Palas:

In this thorough account, Beer has created a definitive work on Charleston’s life and accomplishments. The result is a fascinating story and an important piece of sports history.

I ask you, dear reader, what self-respecting librarian could fail to order this book after reading such words? I would shudder to meet such a person.

Anyway, my thanks to Mr. Palas!

 

Here’s a photo of Oscar no one has ever seen . . .

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. . . or almost no one, at any rate. And with exactly seven weeks to go until Oscar Charleston is released, it seems appropriate to share it here.

The photo was shown to me by Elizabeth Overton, great-niece of Oscar’s wife Jane, just months before she (Elizabeth) died in March 2018–far too young, I might add. Elizabeth and her daughter Dr. Miriam Phields were incredibly helpful to me. I owe them both a great deal.

In summer 2017, I paid Elizabeth a visit in her Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, home to talk to her about Janie and collect some photos. We had a lovely conversation, and I learned much about Janie and her family, but other than this photo of Oscar pasted onto a wooden statue, a gift he had once given Janie, Elizabeth had no pictures of Oscar.

Then, a day or two later, Elizabeth gave me a ring. She had found another of Janie’s photo albums, and this one included two pictures of my subject.

I soon dropped in on Elizabeth to see these images. One (below), of Oscar standing with Pittsburgh Crawfords secretary John Clark, a man who would go on to become an astute political journalist, I had seen before.

But the other was completely new. Here it is:

We have here, it seems, a young, Jazz Age Oscar, probably right around the time at which he met Janie (that is, 1922 or thereabouts). As you can see, he is leaning against a porch post and dressed casually in driving cap, sweater, tie, and pinstriped pants.

It’s like no other photo of Oscar I’ve ever seen. I especially love the way Oscar gazes straight into the camera with a steady, cool, piercing stare. You can see why few people ever dared mess with this man.