Teacher-turned-author takes children’s book about Buck O’Neil to Cooperstown
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kristy Nerstheimer remembers what stood out to her the most the day she met Buck O’Neil during a visit to her classroom.
“His spirit of love,” she said. “He was so charismatic and I immediately fell in love with that spirit. He just had a way of speaking to the crowd and making the kids feel loved.”
When Nersheimer wanted to share more of her story, she couldn’t find it easily accessible, but a professor at Park University was already working to solve this problem.
“Kathy Howe had a vision to introduce or offer more diverse books, non-fiction books for children, so she came to The Little Fig,” said Sherry Bushue, owner of the local publishing house.
Through much collaboration and thought, the Nonfiction Writers Intensive course was born.
“You could submit an idea and there was a chance of publication at the end,” Nerstheimer said. “That’s the idea I submitted, because I really want kids to get to know and love Buck like I do.”
His idea—a book about O’Neil titled after his favorite song, “The Greatest Thing”—was chosen for publication.
“It was surreal. It was truly a dream come true,” she said. “I’ve wanted to be a children’s book author for a while and it was just pure joy.”
The book tells the story of O’Neil’s baseball journey through a time of segregation and how he overcame with and through love.
O’Neil’s family, Major League Baseball, the Chicago Cubs, and even the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum all signed the license and endorsement.
NLBM President Bob Kendrick said the book will introduce many more children to O’Neil’s lasting legacy.
“I wish every child in America could be touched by the spirit of Buck O’Neil,” he said. “With this beautifully written and illustrated book, they can.”
Nersheimer explained what inspired her to write “The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil.”
“I really fell in love with the whole story of what he went through and what he was able to accomplish and do in the name of baseball and in the name of love,” she said.
This year, The Little Fig helped bring “The Greatest Thing” into the fourth-grade curriculum in Sarasota, Florida, where O’Neil was born.
Nerstheimer will give a reading from his book at 10 a.m. on Monday July 25 at the Cooperstown Library, where O’Neil will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Sunday.
A portion of every sale of “The Greatest Thing” benefits the NLBM and a foundation set up for Buck O’Neil’s family.