For his third memoir, author Ken Ohm is telling a story he has carried with him for 64 years.
In the summer of 1956, Ohm played baseball with the Brown Bombers, a mixed-race baseball team from Emporia. He had just finished his freshman year of college and was, he said, obsessed with the sport. When he reached out to the coach, William “Possum” Williams, Ohm said, he was desperate for a pitcher and replied, “Heck, you’re brown enough.”
The response became the title of Ohm’s memoir: “Brown Enough: A Tale of a Mixed-Race Baseball Team — Summer of ‘56.”
“It was a phenomenal experience, to be the only white guy on an all-black team,” Ohm said. “In today’s social situation, turns out it’s not that much different than it had been 64 years ago.”
For 10 weeks, Ohm traveled with the Bombers, a team of seven black men, three Mexican men and Ohm. While they didn’t travel extensively, or great distances, he’s never forgotten the impact of being a member of the team.
At the time, Ohm had spent most of the spring and summer outdoors, working constructions jobs, on the farm or building houses, and he said he had a pretty deep tan when he talked with Williams. While he was the only white player, Ohm said, he doesn’t recall much backlash from other teams regarding his skin color.
Ohm doesn’t call his novel a traditional memoir. The book is technically a work of fiction sourced by his own memories and historical news clippings from the Emporia Gazette.
“I went to the museum of history in Topeka and also visited the Emporia Public Library to see the Gazette files,” Ohm said. “I spent a good amount of time with their micro reader and found actual stories of the games, so I’ve included those in the book.”
Ohm said about half the stories in “Brown Enough” are word for word from the archives, with others embellished from his own memory.
“Brown Enough” was published by Mennonite Press Inc. in Newton and is available for sale in Topeka at Portico, 900 N. Kansas Ave., and the Wheatland Antique Mall, 2905 S.W. 29th St. in the Brookwood Shopping Center. It is also available online at flinthillsstories.com or Amazon.com.
Ohm is a retired college professor who taught in Wyoming and Kansas. He retired in 2009 from Washburn University and began writing shortly afterward. He published his first memoir, “Spatzies and Brass BBs: Life in a One-Room Country School,” in 2012. “Brown Enough” is Ohm’s fifth published work.
For information, visit flinthillsstories.com.