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Book Review: "Gridiron Gauntlet"

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I received this book for the purpose of reading and reviewing it on Baltimore Beatdown. It sat on my counter for a few weeks and I finally picked it up the other day and then couldn't put it down. I read it over two days and was fascinated to find out as much as I thought I knew about the history of the NFL, I really didn't have a clue.

Gridiron Gauntlet: The Story of the Men Who Integrated Pro Football in Their Own Words, by Andy Piascik (Taylor Trade Publishing) is a book anyone who truly claims to be a fan of the early NFL needs to read. Most sports fans know the story behind baseball's Jackie Robinson breaking MLB's color barrier, but the stories about the twelve players in this book are each as interesting and eye opening about the horrible treatment they received despite their abilities and contributions, and you'll be surprised to learn the identities of the men who treated them so badly only a few decades ago.

When speaking of the players who were African American stars in the NFL, most people nowadays speak about Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, and even Baltimore's own John Mackey. However, African Americans were in pro football long before the second World War. The problem is that they essentially disappeared from the game from 1934-1947. Once they "re-appeared," they were discriminated, segregated, ridiculed and overlooked for so many positions, awards and opportunities. Their achievements, records and skills were virtually unmatched in those times, yet buried and virtually forgotten.

When you read about players such as running back Joe Perry, whose overall statistics would trail only Jim Brown's if accurately recognized, you'll be amazed at what the football world kept out of the spotlight and has only recently began to uncover and remember. There's the story of Charlie Powell, who not only played pro football, he also played major league baseball and boxed professionally. That makes him the only person in the world who can say he played baseball for Bill Veeck, fought Muhammad Ali and sacked Bobby Layne!

If these snippets garner your interest, pick up a copy of Gridiron Gauntlet and research the men who get so little credit for what they contributed not only on the gridiron, but in the lives they lived before and especially after their playing days were over. There are numerous references to Baltimore in the book, both good and not so good, as a place to visit, live and play. Trust me, you won't want to put it down and will feel better about yourself for knowing the stories and real truth behind these great men. Thanks should go out to the author, Andy Piascik, who keeps their memories alive in Gridiron Gauntlet: The Story of the Men Who Integrated Pro Football in Their Own Words.