I have talked on here of people being humble and fading into the scenery. For some people, that works just fine and they go about their business, happy about being left alone. Then there are others that while happy to fade into the scenery, are still able to make a difference to those folks around them and have a positive influence on everyone they meet. Today’s book takes a look at a person who made every life around him a little brighter.
Joe Black’s story is a very interesting one. Not so much for the baseball career, but for his life off of the diamond. Except for one good year in 1952, Joe Black’s career in baseball was fairly mundane. Due to arm troubles and a late start to his career with the Dodgers, Black really could just be remembered as a flash in the pan one year wonder. Luckily for us fans and the people whom Joe met, he was so much more and spent his life sharing with others.
This new book gives a detailed account of Joe Black both on and off the field. It shows his beyond poor upbringing in New Jersey, how he overcame racial undertones to make the major leagues and how his career struggled after his somewhat magical first year in 1952. What I found particularly entertaining about this book was the story of Joe’s life after baseball. It shows how he went from being a school teacher and coach to a lifetime of being an executive for Greyhound Bus Lines. The book also explores causes Joe had a soft spot for, how he helped the poor and unfortunate and never truly forgot where he came from. He always remembered what it was like to grow up poor and that inspired him to help others wherever he could. Through his church and his daily job at Greyhound, Joe was able to touch many lives, even if just for a few minutes, and those folks were better just for meeting Joe. His life after Greyhound is also remembered and his works through the MLB Baseball Assistance Team. It shows what a caring individual Joe was and no matter what stage of his life he was at, he always had time to give and care.
Now the down side of this book. Joe’s daughter, Martha Jo Black is listed as lead author. From what you find in the book, Martha Jo is just giving commentary as to what is being written about. Almost an inside look at what transpired. It is placed sporadically throughout the book and probably would total 10 pages of the books 354 pages. So I found that confusing. The other problem I had, was that the story was not in chronological order. It would jump 50 years from chapter to chapter so you struggle to find continuity in the story.
Those two points listed above which I did not care for aside, it is a very interesting story. If you can get past the timeline issue, the readers should really enjoy it. Joe Black was a brief shining star in baseball and has almost become the forgotten Dodger, but should definitely remembered for the person he truly was.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Chicago Review Press