Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mixed feelings

Even as a first time author, I totally realize that not every publication will run a review of 501. I even understand that there will be some less-than-glowing reviews. Still I have Google alerts looking for mentions, and since I blog about other books for the Baseball Bookshelf, I have alerts in place for that too. It's getting pretty busy now, as lots of books are coming our and various outlets are running reviews, either individually or as "roundups."

But what am I to make of this from Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin, who starts his baseball book overview thus:

George Plimpton knew the score. A generation or so ago, the late Paris Review editor developed what he called the "Small Ball Theory" of sports writing, which posits "a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes — that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature."

There are, he explained, "superb books about golf, very good books about baseball, not many good books about football or soccer, very few good books about basketball and no good books at all about beach balls."

Of course, baseball writing isn't what it was in Plimpton's day: There's too much of it, too many exposés and clubhouse memoirs, too many overly romanticized memoirs about little league or lost heroes, the simplicity of another time.

And yet, each year his theory is borne out by new books that surprise us — if only by reminding us that we still can be surprised. Histories, biographies, meditations on the sport and its meanings: At its best, the literature of baseball continues to offer a curious double vision, in which the game exists as much in the mind, in the imagination, as it does on the field.
Compare that with the introduction to 501:

In his introduction to The Norton Book of Sports, George Plimpton described his “small ball theory” of literature. Plimpton, who served as editor for the anthology, believed there was “a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes—that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature” (13).

Accordingly, since the national pastime employs one of the smaller pieces of sporting equipment, there have been “very good books about baseball,” he wrote.

Sure, it’s a cliché to say that baseball is a metaphor for life (and points off for the unimaginative author who insists on including the Jacques Barzun line, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball,” in his book), but precisely that notion is reflected in the wide range of genres from fiction to philosophy, statistics to science, and biographies to business, among others.

Perhaps it’s the leisurely pace of the game, stretched out over several hours and played during the languid days of summer, that lends baseball to the printed word. The Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown boasts a collection of more than ten thousand volumes dating back to the early nineteenth century, and the Library of Congress has similar holdings.
And yet there is no mention of 501 among the books he reviews.

Is it just me? Am I being paranoid? Or is this just an amazing coincidence, a case of great minds thinking alike in referring to Plimpton at this time?

Friday, March 29, 2013

New reviews, articles posted to '501 Baseball' site

Even though the book isn't official released until April 1 -- no fooling -- the reviews are starting to trickle in. Had a really fun time talking with fellow sports and book enthusiast Tom Hoffarth from the Los Angeles Daily News. Hoffarth, who writes the sports media column for the paper, has an annual "30 baseball books in 30 days" feature, for which I have made suggestions when asked. 

501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die This year he was kind enough to include a couple of blog posts in his "Farther off the Wall" (here and here) as well as a very kind piece in today's print and on-line edition. I'm also told it will wrap up the 30/30 feature at the end of April.

Dennis Anderson from the GateHouse News Service syndicate, published a review, which you can read here.

I also had an interview earlier this week with Pat Williams of the Orlando Magic, who hosts a radio show in that city. That will run sometime soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Christmas/Hanukka/Kwanza comes early

I went to the bookstore and what did I see?
501 Baseball Books, looking back at me...

Made my semi-regular trip to the Barnes and Noble near my office. Now, the book doesn't officially come out until April 1 (no fooling, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), but since I know some readers -- to whom I am most grateful -- already have their copy via Amazon*, I was wondering...

Alas, I didn't see it among the new books, displayed with the front showing (as opposed to older titles, arranged with their spines outward. Still curious, I went to the customer computer and discovered that they did have it in stock. So I went back again; still nothing. Finally, I asked a clerk.

Third time's a charm. There it was: a single copy on the bottom row.

Mixed feelings. On the one hand, this really makes it official; it's available in a book store! On the other hand, one copy? Mixed in with all the other books and almost impossible to see? What's up with that? How is anyone going to find it by chance, as many readers do. And what happens if they sell it? Will the store manager realize this and order more? I know there are numerous marketing considerations in play. "Real estate" is important (location, location, location) and I don't understand what's involved with that (I'm pretty certain there's some financial remuneration to the retailer for prominent placement).

And maybe this was a sample copy? Maybe -- hopefully -- there will be many more copies, more easily accessible, once the official release day comes and bookstores highlight the baseball titles to commemorate the start of the season.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I must say I placed the book as you see it below, in order to take the picture.

*As of this writing, 501 is #7 in Books/Education & Reference/Writing, Research & Publishing Guides/Publishing & Books/Bibliographies & Indexes/Literature and #67 in Books/Literature & Fiction/History & Criticism/Books & Reading/General and keeps moving back and forth in the Sports&Outdoors/Baseball category.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

And the category is...

An unexpected, but most welcome, surprise: Thrilled that (as of this writing) 501 is in the top 100 baseball titles, but it's also the #3 title in the category of "Literary Bibliographies & Indexes," as well as #47 in "General Books & Reading."

Friday, March 15, 2013

'501' Review:

Benjamin Hill at published this review yesterday. He points out, justifiably so, that there aren't a whole lot of minor league books in 501, and I know I will always smack myself about omitting a worthy title. Perhaps if it had been 1,001 Baseball Books...

Kaplan's '501 Baseball Books' and nine other Minor League titles he might have considered.

Monday, March 11, 2013

'501' Q&A: Howard Megdal happy to spend time chatting with Howard Megdal, author of The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball's Chosen Players  (Harper, 2009).

With all the new Jews coming up to the Majors since TBT was originally published (Ike Davis, Michael Schwimer, Ryan Sadowski, Josh Satin, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish, et al) this one might be ripe for an update.

You can listen to the conversation here or on the 501 website, where you'll find interviews with others whose work appears in the book.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Giving back

Happy to have donated a copy of  501 to my local library, care of Dawn Quinn, Borrower Services Supervisor. The MPL has been the source of many happy hours of reading enjoyment over the years.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I always wanted a cool nickname

When I was manager of the Brooklyn College baseball team, it was always lazy stuff like "Kap."

When I was a softball instructor at camp in Montreal, it was "Brooks," for Brooklyn.

But now...

Just noticed this on the spine of the book.

They call me...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Library Journal, Feb. 15, 2013

Click on image to enlarge in new window.

Now hear this: '501' segment on 670 the Score

What: An interview with Steve Rosenbloom and Wayne Randazzo from 670 the Score, the top rated sports radio station in Chicago

When: Saturday, March 2, 1 p.m. EST/ Noon Central

Where: Streaming live at the station's website; posted as a podcast following the airing.