What a long, strange trip it’s been: I started The End of Baseball in the summer of 2001. Ten drafts, thirty-four rejections later, and countless hours spent writing and researching the thing in the confines of my office and here we are–the book is published, and even better, people are reading it and I get the privilege of talking to readers in a bookstore. After many seasons of grim solitude, I can tell you that this is a wonderment.
Last Saturday night marked the official beginning of The End of Basebal Book Tour at Magers & Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis. Billed as the first annual Baseball Book Bonanza, the reading included myself, Dan Levitt, author of Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankee’s First Dynasty, and Tom Swift, author of Chief Benders Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star, two good guys who’ve written a pair of great books.
And what a crowd! There were over fifty family, friends, children, a baby, colleagues, fellow inebriates, former co-workers, curious readers, and probably irritated book buyers who wanted to get a copy of Paul Bowles’ Sheltering Sky but couldn’t because some of my pals were blocking that section of the fiction aisle.
No matter, the thing went off perfectly, without a hitch. This is not to say that things weren’t going to go without a hitch. You have to understand that I finished the first draft of this novel some four years ago, which means that I finished the research some five years ago, though every now and again I had to go back and wade through my notes and the source material to double-check the work.
At a baseball game a week or so ago, a friend asked me a question about Martin Dihigo–one of the players in the book–wondering if the man who could play every position had one in particular that he was particularly adept at. The answer I gave him was right, though it didn’t square with the Negro Leagues Museum (in their Hall of Fame he’s at second, though in later years he was most adept in the outfield and on the mound.) So I’ve been in a cold sweat thinking to myself that there’ll be some angry SABR member in the crowd who’ll ask me about Buck Leonard’s shoe size or, more importantly, why I chose Gene Benson to play outfield over Luke Easter (Easter simply wasn’t on the radar at the time according to my source.)
Then there were all the little concerns, most notably whether or not, as my dreams warned me, I’d remember to wear pants. I was afraid that I’d be gesticulating wildly, or sound like a 33 record played at 78 speed. Maybe I’d rip my new suit, a vintage number from the 40s that I picked up almost literally at the last minute from Lula’s Vintage Wear in St. Paul, MN (the tie I snagged at an estate sale years ago).
None of this happened, of course, otherwise I probably would have opened with apologies to everyone for such embarrassments. It was a real pleasure to get up there and recount the path to the book, which began with that little nugget about Bill Veeck buying the Phillies on page 171 of Veeck As In Wreck, and essentially focusing my life on that for the next 48 months.
I couldn’t have picked a better way to start: both Ed and Tom’s readings were very insightful, and I learned a lot. No to mention the fact that The End of Baseball sold out at the reading. So thanks to everyone for coming, for buying the thing, and submitting themselves to the test run. Thanks, too, to David Unowsky at M&Q for making the damn thing come together. We even had beer and Twizzlers. And I remembered to wear pants.