“Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues” by Bob Motley, Byron Motley and Larry Lester
Baseball, Negro Leagues, umpire, memoir
December 27, 2011
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Bob Motley was an umpire for the Negro Leagues starting in the late 1940’s for over a decade. He considers himself fortunate to be able to have called games involving some of the best players in baseball history and he shares some wonderful stories about those years in this entertaining and humorous memoir. Along with his son Byron and author Larry Lester, Motley recalls his time as an arbiter with reverence and entertains the reader with stories of life in the Negro Leagues and his views on the quality of baseball played in those leagues.
Motley grew up in Alabama during the era when racism ran rampant in the Southern part of the United States. He also was one of the first African-Americans to enlist in the Marines and serve in World War II. Despite the struggles of his childhood, he never comes across as bitter or angry about that time in the country’s history. Of course, he believes that it was not fair to people of color but instead of writing about the bad times, he concentrates on the good times he had in that era. This is evident throughout the book as he tells his stories in a manner that will make a reader smile and laugh, whether it is about his high school dance, calling balls and strikes for a game in which Satchel Paige is pitching, or just thinking about his family.
Speaking of Paige, that is the player for whom Motley has the most respect. He devotes an entire chapter to the legendary pitcher, even claiming that he might have been even faster than modern fireball pitchers like Randy Johnson. Even his tale about making sure his “STRIIIIKKKEEE” call on the first pitch he saw Paige throw was told in reverence.
While stories about other players don’t have quite the same bravado, Motley does speak fondly of other legendary players who played in the Negro Leagues such as Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. Motley comes across as a person who loved baseball and the history of the game. Not just with his stories of players, but also with his tales about ball parks. He recalls his first time at Comiskey Park when he “rolled around on the grass like a little kid making snow angels.” I couldn’t help but smile to read a book written by a man who simply loved the game this much.
Much like the attitudes of many of the Negro League players who were just happy to have the chance to play the game, Motley does the same with this book. He loves talking about his umpiring career and how the Negro Leagues produced some very competitive and entertaining baseball. This book is a winner that should be read by all baseball fans.
Did I skim?
No – this was a wonderfully entertaining book and I wanted to enjoy every story.
Pace of the book:
Excellent – Motley never drones on too long during any one story and because he tells the stories in a very cheerful manner, the reader will be moving quickly through each chapter.
Do I recommend?
Anyone who is interested in baseball history, Negro Leagues history or just a good collection of interesting and funny tales will enjoy this book.