Southern League by Larry Colton
A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South's Most Compelling Pennant Race

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Synopsis

"Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings in Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
1963

Anybody who is familiar with the Civil Rights movement knows that 1964 was a pivotal year. And in Birmingham, Alabama - perhaps the epicenter of racial conflict - the Barons amazingly started their season with an integrated team.

Johnny "Blue Moon" Odom, a talented pitcher and Tommie Reynolds, an outfielder - both young black ballplayers with dreams of playing someday in the big leagues, along with Bert Campaneris, a dark-skinned shortstop from Cuba, all found themselves in this simmering cauldron of a minor league town, all playing for Heywood Sullivan, a white former major leaguer who grew up just down the road in Dothan, Alabama.

Colton traces the entire season, writing about the extraordinary relationships among these players with Sullivan, and Colton tells their story by capturing the essence of Birmingham and its citizens during this tumultuous year. (The infamous Bull Connor, for example, when not ordering blacks to be blasted by powerful water hoses, is a fervent follower of the Barons and served as a long-time broadcaster of their games.)

By all accounts, the racial jeers and taunts that rained down upon these Birmingham players were much worse than anything that Jackie Robinson ever endured.

More than a story about baseball, this is a true accounting of life in a different time and clearly a different place. Seventeen years after Jackie Robinson had broken the color line in the major leagues, Birmingham was exploding in race riots....and now, they were going to have their very first integrated sports team. This is a story that has never been told.

 

About Larry Colton

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Larry Colton is the author of several notable works, including COUNTING COUP, GOAT BROTHERS, and NO ORDINARY JOES.. He has written for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and the New York Times Magazine. A former pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Colton himself played in the Southern League in 1966 for a farm team in Macon, GA.
 
Published May 14, 2013 by Grand Central Publishing. 303 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Former professional baseball player and current sports journalist Colton (No Ordinary Joes: The Extraordinary True Story of Four Submariners in War and Love and Life, 2010, etc.) returns with an account of the 1964 season of the racially integrated Birmingham Barons of the Southern League.

Mar 28 2013 | Read Full Review of Southern League: A True Story...

Book Reporter

Despite some of these minor flaws, SOUTHERN LEAGUE deserves to be considered one of the eye-opening books of its type and will serve as a teaching tool for those who believe that sports --- and life --- in America was always as it is today.

May 31 2013 | Read Full Review of Southern League: A True Story...

Oregon Live

"Southern League: A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South's Most Compelling Pennant Race" focuses on the 1964 season of the Birmingham Barons (who were in the same league in which Colton played as a pitcher with the Macon Peaches), and skillfully unfolds a fast-moving story of ...

Jun 01 2013 | Read Full Review of Southern League: A True Story...

Post and Courier

Colton relives the season through four players: Odom and outfielder Tommie Reynolds, blacks in an often hostile environment, and white teammates Hoss Bowlin, a second baseman and good ‘ol boy from Arkansas, and the late Paul Lindblad, a pitcher from Kansas.

Jun 02 2013 | Read Full Review of Southern League: A True Story...

Willamette Week

By all accounts, Birmingham, Ala., was the epicenter of .

May 29 2013 | Read Full Review of Southern League: A True Story...

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