Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Judging a book by its cover: The Natural

Last month, I heard a  fascinating episode of The Leonard Lopate Show about what we “see” when we read. The guest was Peter Mendelsund, whose primary occupation is that of a book cover designer. You can listen to the segment here:

August was a busy month for Mendelsund. Not only did he publish the aforementioned What We See When We Read, bur also Cover, about the creative process and all the thinking that goes into coming up with the most appropriate book art.

Bernard Malamud’s classic novel of fall and redemption has been around since 1952. Over the decades, it has been wrapped by a number of wildly varying covers. I wonder how the discussions went for some of those designs?

I tried put these covers in guestimated order of publishing (except for the Robert Redford movie tie-in). If anyone has specific information abut the various editions, please let me know.


Just a few observations:

  • Some of the covers are downright dull, leaving me to wonder what the book might be about (in particular the “pinstriped” version with the script font). But the Dell paperback is just the kind of pulp design we’ve come to love from that era, full of sexual tension in a PG-13 manner.

  • I know I’ve seen that drawing of the runner sliding into home plate before, but can’t recall the details.

  • The Yankee on the left of the cover is Ron Blomberg but who are the other two? I’m wondering if that’s Bernie Allen on the right.

  • The book on the left of the middle row strikes me as coming from the late-60s, early-70s, with a kind of psychedelic/horror flavor.

  • The book on the right of the next-to-last row was published in England; the one on the left of the bottom row, Australia.

Judging a book by its cover: The Natural

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy anniversary, Moe Berg

http://img1.imagesbn.com/p/9780679762898_p0_v1_s260x420.jpgWhere does the time go? The Bergino Baseball Clubhouse will celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Bergthe definitive biography of one of game’s true characters –with a program featuring author Nicholas Dawidoff on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m.

Dawidoff’s other boosk include, Baseball: A Literary Anthology and The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love and Madness in an American Family. He also published Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, so the Bergino conversation will include the differences between writing about baseball and football.

Dawidoff, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Fly Swatter, is a contributor to The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone.

Seating is limited so RSVP is strongly suggested. Contact 212-226-7150 or bergino@aol.com.

Happy anniversary, Moe Berg

Friday, August 22, 2014

Baseball best-sellers, Aug. 22

Note: Just like Chuck Lorre’s “vanity cards” at the end of The Big Bang Theory, you should read these list stories to their conclusion; the end is always changing, even though the theme is basically the same, finishing up with a self-promotional message.

On with the show…

Here are the top ten baseball books as per Amazon.com, as of this posting.

Caveat 1: Print editions only (at least for now); because I’m old school.

Caveat 2: Since the rankings are updated every hour, these lists might not longer be 100 percent accurate by the time you read them. But it’ll be close enough for government work.

Caveat 3: Sometimes they’ll try to pull one over on you and include a book within a category that doesn’t belong. I’m using my discretion to eliminate such titles from my list. For example, for some reason a recent listing included Tarnished Heels: How Unethical Actions and Deliberate Deceit at the University of North Carolina Ended the “The Carolina Way”, which, far as I can tell, is not at all about baseball, at least not in the main. For the sake of brevity, I will be omitting the subtitles, which have become ridiculously long in in some cases in recent years, also at my discretion.

  1. Moneyball, byMichael Lewis

  2. The Natural, by Bernard Malamud

  3. The Closer, by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey. (Bookreporter.com review)

  4. The Science of Hitting, by Ted Williams

  5. The Mental Game of Baseball, by H.A. Dorfman

  6. Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time, by Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson

  7. Where Nobody Knows Your Name, by John Feinstein (Bookreporter.com review and Bookshelf Conversation)

  8. A Nice Little Place on the North Side, by George F. Will

  9. The Greatest Baseball Stories Ever Told, by Jeff Silverman

  10. Coaching Youth Baseball the Ripken Way, by Cal Ripken Jr.

Does the Little League frenzy have anything to do with the fact that four of the top ten books have to do with how to play the game, physically and mentally? (Betcha there’s a book on Mo’ne Davis is in the works.)

Although there’s no baseball book, per se, on the NY Times‘ best-seller list, it’s worth mentioning that Charles Krauthammer’s Things That Matter  (#25)  includes several essays regarding his love for the national pastime in general and the Washington Nationals in particular.

Not on this list? 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Ya’ll are gonna do something about that, right? Only 10 copies left on Amazon*, so don’t delay ;) Just sayin’.

And if you have read it, thanks, hope you enjoyed it, and please consider writing a review for the Amazon page. Doesn’t have to be long (or even complimentary, if you didn’t like it), but anything would be appreciated.

* Amazon.ca recently received a new shipment.

Baseball best-sellers, Aug. 22

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nice to be remembered

My friend Jeff alerted me to the fact that a mention of the book was included in the latest edition of the Brooklyn College Alumni Magazine. Pretty cool.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Where's the love?

Sorry for a second consecutive self-promotional item, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to see that 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die wasn't part of ForeWord Magazine's Best of the Year Awards in the adult sports category. At least it didn't make the final cut; I have no idea if it was even considered. 
This is kind of a like a tree-falling-in-the-woods thing: If I had not heard about it, would I have made this noise? Or something like. 
Congrats to the other baseball authors: James Buckley for America's Classic Ballparks; Larry Ruttman for American Jews and America's Game; Joe Niese for Burleigh Grimes; Russell Schneider for Cleveland Indians Legends; Larry Rossman for New York Yankees Then and Now; and Raphael Hermosa for Speak English! The Rise of Latinos in Baseball ("and to the other non-baseball writers," he said reluctantly.)  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Go west, 501 Baseball Books...

Jon Leonoudakis is at the Nine Conference in Tempe, Arizona. I've never been but hope to some day. In the meantime, according to this picture he posted in Facebook, I'm represented.

A reminder: If you'd like an autographed bookplate and/or checklist for your copy of 501, just send me an email with your name and snail-mail.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jeff Pearlman, I feel your pain

Recently, my Facebook friend Jeff Pearlman, author of the new Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, posted this on his blog, reprinted in full:
Writing books is what I love to do.

I’m not just saying this. It’s my true passion; something that brings me happiness for 1,001 different reasons. I love delving into subjects. I love sports. I love travel. I love sitting in the rear of a coffee shop, digging through clips. I love finding myself lost in research. I love being able to drop my kids off at school in the morning. I love picking them up in the afternoon.

Writing books is what I love to do.

Promoting a book, however, is very hard. But, more than hard, it’s gut-wrenching. I’m not sure how many people even realize this, but Amazon has a ranking system that many authors live and die with. It literally ranks all books by sale totals. Some authors—King, Hillenbrand, Gladwell—know they’ll hit No. 1 without much effort, then stick at/near the spot for months, if not years. Other authors never even think about such things—they write purely for joy and thrill, and even having a book on Amazon is reward.

I don’t fit in either category. I’m not Gladwell. I’m not the guy who’s just happy to be there. I think, with Boys Will Be Boys, I peaked at No. 6 on Amazon—a huge thrill. Showtime recently hit No. 23, also pretty sweet. But, unlike the supersonic guns, I struggle mightily to remain in a high perch. I’m not entirely sure why. Name recognition? Quality? Marketing? Really, it’s a riddle I have yet to solve. But I desperately want to get there; want my books to sell and sell and sell and sell and sell. Instead, I watch—hand in front of eyes—as my book slowly heads down the mountain. I mean, I’m not complaining. I get very high, and am grateful for that. But as one goes from 23 to 43 to 56 to 68 to 98 to 122 … well, it sucks. I try doing more and more media; more and more Tweets; more and more … anything. Everything.

This, however, is the riddle that plagues me.

This keeps me up nights.
To which I respectfully reply


Dude, as of this writing, Showtime is 159 for all books. And Boys was 6??? Not to compare our situations -- you've got several critically-acclaimed books to your credit from major publishing houses; I've got one from a university press -- but the highest my book every ranked was 9,005. And I was thrilled! Are my standards that much lower?

You've published some great baseball titles, including The Bad Guys Won: A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid, and the Rest of the ... Put on a New York Uniform--and Maybe the Best and The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality, that latter of which I included as one of the 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die(which, also as of this writing, ranks a tad south of 752,000). And you're already fretting that Showtime might dip down to 123?


Come on, Jeff. Think of all the other full-time professional writers who would love to be in your shoes. You're getting major air time on sports talk radio and TV and you know the reviews will be piling up across the country. I think I've got a gig on my town's cable access station in a week or so. Not to mention you write for Sports Illustrated!
Don't get me wrong. I'm very grateful for whatever events and appearances I've had and the conversations and e-mails about 501; it's been a real hoot.. But if you ever wanna swap professional lives for a week or so -- with the appearances, acclaim, and royalties -- let me know.