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Barnstorming to Heaven, Barnstorming to Heaven, 0817314954, 0-8173-1495-4, 978-0-8173-1495-8, 9780817314958, , , Barnstorming to Heaven, 081735722X, 0-8173-5722-X, 978-0-8173-5722-1, 9780817357221, , , Barnstorming to Heaven, 0817386335, 0-8173-8633-5, 978-0-8173-8633-7, 9780817386337,

Barnstorming to Heaven
Syd Pollock and His Great Black Teams
by Alan J. Pollock
Edited by James A Riley

Quality Paper
2012. 424 pp.
Price:  $39.95 t
E Book
2012. 424 pp.
Price:  $39.95 d

A rare insider’s perspective on baseball’s great barnstorming age.
The Indianapolis Clowns were a black touring baseball team that featured an entertaining mix of comedy, showmanship, and skill. Sometimes referred to as the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball—though many of the Globetrotters’ routines were borrowed directly from the Clowns—they captured the affection of Americans of all ethnicities and classes.

Alan Pollock’s father, Syd, owned the Clowns, as well as a series of black barnstorming teams that crisscrossed the country from the late 1920s until the mid-1960s. They played every venue imaginable, from little league fields to Yankee Stadium, and toured the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, the Canadian Rockies, the Dakotas, the Southwest, the Far West—anywhere there was a crowd willing to shell out a few dollars for an unforgettable evening.

Alan grew up around the team and describes in vivid detail the comedy routines of Richard “King Tut” King, “Spec Bebob” Bell, Reece “Goose” Tatum; the “warpaint” and outlandish costumes worn by players in the early days; and the crowd-pleasing displays of amazing skill known as pepperball and shadowball. These men were entertainers, but they were also among the most gifted athletes of their day, making a living in sports the only way a black man could. They played to win.

More than just a baseball story, these recollections tell the story of great societal changes in America from the roaring twenties, through the years of the Great Depression and World War II, and into the Civil Rights era.

Alan Pollock was editing this manuscript when he suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. His widow approached longtime friend, and author of The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, James A. Riley, to complete the project.


"This delightful offering about the infamous African American traveling baseball team of the 1920s-60s, the Indianapolis Clowns, is equal parts memoir and history. As the son of the owner of the Clowns, Pollock was in a unique position to offer insights, recollections, and period photographs. Sadly, he died while the book was in the final stages, and Riley (a noted Negro Leagues historian) completed the project. The Clowns were the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball for decades, bringing their unique brand of skill and raucous entertainment to far-flung corners of North America. Players with colorful names like King Tut, Kalihari Evans, Impo Barnhill, Piggy Sands, and Spec Bebop took the field in colorful costumes--anything from grass skirts to Indian war paint and feathers--and displayed their true skills with baseball sleight-of-hand exhibitions that kept the crowds coming back for more. Organized chronologically, the book is a pleasing mixture of narrative history and personal anecdotes. In contrast to other Negro League history books on the market, this one contains no footnotes, endnotes, or bibliography. Still, readers interested in baseball or American social history will likely be intrigued by Pollock's tale.  Summing Up: Recommended. All readers; all levels."

“Syd Pollock’s son, Alan, grew up with the Clowns and worked for his father in various capacities. Alan finished drafting Barnstorming to Heaven shortly before his death, and veteran baseball writer James Riley edited the manuscript and shepherded it through publication. Alan Pollock lovingly recounted the routines of King Tut and the Clowns and recorded a treasure trove of anecdotes. His insider’s account of the business side of baseball barnstormers is fascinating and illustrated by a superb collection of photographs. Barnstorming to Heaven is excellent baseball history, a must for every fan’s bookshelf.”—The Alabama Review

“It is part memoir and part history of the country’s most successful barn-storming baseball team, a changing group of black ballplayers, including three women, who attracted fans for their inspired clowning, but who were also dazzlingly accomplished players.”—Boston Sunday Globe

“This is a fond farewell to baseball’s barnstorming tradition and its greatest proponet, Syd Pollock of the Indianapolis Clowns. A must-read for every fan.”-- Robert Peterson, author of Only the Ball was White

“I remember well the first time the Monarchs played the Clowns. Our fellas were whoopin’ it up, . . . talkin’ about beating up on them and runnin’ them out the ball park, so I told them not to be taking that ball club lightly. Said I’d played for them in ’34 and they were Major League caliber then. Skinny Barnhill struck out 17 Monarchs and beat us 2–1.”-- John “Buck” O’Neil

“A real find, a very rare insider’s view of the bygone universe of the barnstorming clown teams that enlivened Negro League baseball. Writing with humor and affection, Pollack places the reader on the field, on the buses, and in the stands watching the riotous Indianapolis Clowns perform their magic as ballplayers and entertainers par excellence.”-- Jules Tygiel, author of Baseball’s Great Experiment