Monday, June 24, 2013

An oldie but a goodie: John Tunis

One author that frequently comes up in comments about who I neglected in 501 is John Tunis, who published  a series of books for younger reader about fictitious players for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The list includes:
  • The Kid from Tomkinsville, 1940
  • Keystone Kids, 1943
  • World Series, 1944
  • Rookie of the Year, 1944
  • The Kid Comes Back, 1946
  • Highpockets, 1948
  • Young Razzle, 1949
  • Schoolboy Johnson, 1958
He also wrote novels about other sports, as well as non-fiction. I recently read Keystone Kids because of the anti-Semitic content. It is impossible to go through it without thinking of the recent feature bio-pic 42. It has been said you can't compare the experiences of African-American and Jewish players because the latter group could always try to hide their religion, which the former obviously can't hide the color of their skin. Nevertheless, Keystone Kids is a shocking commentary on anti-Jewish sentiment, especially given its publication during the midst of World War Two and the Holocaust.

Of course, given its audience, Keystone is full of the Pollyanna-ish sentiment of cooperation and acceptance in this great land of ours. And, of course, there's a happy ending, although I must say I'm glad the Jewish player did not hit the pennant-clinching home run. It was sufficient that he stood up to the bullies on his own team (in addition to the opposition) and finally did win that acceptance.

The subtitle for the 1987 Odyssey Classic version I read asks, "Will prejudice cost the team the season?" From the introduction by Bruce Brooks, another author of books for young people,

What a simple trap it is, too: Hey guys, says the author, here's out new rookie catcher. Name of Klein, Jewish boy, hits for power, good arm. Can really help the club. Okay, fellahs--play ball.

But the ballplaying changes around the presence of Jocko Klein. Sure, he hits for power, chucks a good ball -- but he's Jewish. That changes everything, right?

Which leads me to ask an obvious question: Why did the character asking the introductions feel compelled to include that Klein is a "Jewish boy." After all, neither of the real-life Kleins -- Chuck, the Hall of Fame outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, or Lou, who played five years in the Majors before managing for parts of three more -- were Jewish, so you couldn't just go by the surname. (Then, too, the players start calling the rookie him "Buglenose," another stereotype regarding the Jewish appearance.)

To read such a book now (Keystone was recently re-issued as an e-book by Open Road Media) , is a bit jarring. It's like watching the classic film Gentlemen's Agreement, in which an enterprising magazine writer has the brilliant idea of tearing the cover off anti-Semitism by pretending to be Jewish. For the most part (thank goodness), it's hard for contemporary young people to fathom that this was the situation and that such conditions were practically considered the norm. Then again you have a Paula Deen situation, which is quite sad, regardless of those who would "excuse" her because she is a member of a generation and culture for whom such disparaging was considered the norm.

As I maintain on my Bookshelf blog, I do not include juvenile literature for the most part. There is too much duplication of subject matter and too much lesson-teaching for my adult interests, although it is practically a requirement of that genre. That said, my curiosity is piqued, and I will continue to explore the Tunis' baseball oeuvre.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The 'tyranny' of Amazon's rankings (and a call for reviews) (UPDATE)

I don't do this too often, look at how the book is doing via Amazon's convoluted ranking system. Early on I might check it once every couple of days and was thrilled by how well it was doing, ranking as high as  9,005 among all books. And I know the window is relatively brief, that most sales come in the first few months.

So I'm not giving up hope when I saw this morning that it had fallen to just under 400,000. I know the rankings fluctuate wildly from one hour to the next and that there's a disclaimer from the Amazon author service that the metrics used do not accurately reflect the number of books sold. The publisher tells me 501 is doing very well for them and a second printing had been ordered.

While visiting the page, I discovered a new review, making for a total of six. Always gratifying to read such kind words. Also thankful for the emails and phone calls I've received politely pointing out my mistakes, both by commission and omission.

So I invite those who've read 501 to submit reviews to Amazon. Doesn't have to be long or even 100% positive. As the expression goes, I don't care what you write about me as long as you spell my name write. (Funny story from last night's program at the Montclair Public Library with Filip Bondy. The NY Daily News sports columnist spoke of being involved in a lengthy strike at the paper during which time he sought out freelance work.He landed a gig with Sports Illustrated but was frustrated by the mania over fact-checking, something the veteran reporter did not have to contend with at the newspaper. So after various edits, follow-up phone calls, etc. the magazine misspelled his name in the by-line.)

Thanks for your support.

UPDATE (June 21): Sure enough I checked this morning and the ranking is now

#81,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Crazy, man.

'501' at Montclair Public Library

Spent a fun evening with veteran sports columnist and author Filip Bondy and some knowledgeable and inquisitive folks at an authors' event hosted by the Montclair Public Library last night.


You can see more photos here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kaplan appearance at Montclair Public Library, June 19

This time for sure (click to play audio file).
I will be appearing with NY Daily News sports columnist Filip Bondy to discuss our new books at the main Branch of the Montclair Public Library tomorrow (June 19) at 7 p.m.

For more information, call 973-744-0500, ext. 2235.

Be there, or be square.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Words of few men

Or women. I guess I was a little disappointed at the turnout (or lack thereof) at the [Words] bookstore in Maplewood on June 9. But it was a nice day, so perhaps people were more into being outdoors.

Nevertheless, it's never not fun talking about baseball and books with people who are interested in the topic(s). Thanks to Dave and his son, Isaac, for coming out, and Words owner Jonah Zimiles for hosting (as well as the gift bag!).

 FYI, I did sign a few copies of 501 for the store. I mean, Fathers Day is coming up... Just sayin'.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How'm I doing?

With apologies to the late Mayor Edward Koch. 

I'm frequently asked, "How is the book doing." The short answer is, I really don't know. My publisher tells me it's doing quote well, so much so that they ordered a second printing (although I don't know how many copies were run the first time). I signed up for the author's service on Amazon, which offers lots of information (uselful and not too).

For example, as of this writing, I learned that 501 is:

Not to appear ungrateful, but I do wish it was among the top 100 baseball titles.

Furthermore, I learned there are 100 "geographic regions" on the map (contiguous U.S.; I guess there are just no bookstores in Alaska and Hawaii). According to the map, the most copies have sold in the New York area. Again, I'm not sure what constitutes this info. Is it only books sold in physical stores, and doesn't include Amazon? Are these all the stores that carry the book, or only the ones polled by the outfit that supplies such data to the Amazon author service?

501 has sold in 74 of the 100 "markets." What's up with that? You folks in the other 26 are really letting me down. Thanks to the one person in Springfield, MA -- my home town -- who bought a copy. Also to those folks in Lexington, Altoona, Memphis, Mobile, Providence, Decatur, Dayton, Evansville, Spartanburg, Flint, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, and Birmingham (among a few others) who bought the local copy.

As for the rest of you, get busy. Please.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Next up: Words in Maplewood, NJ

Hope some of you can make it!

In case you can't make out the address info, it's 179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ; phone 973-763-9500. I'll be coming straight from a softball doubleheader, so if someone wants to bring a snack, that would be greatly appreciated ;)

Ronnie K. at the BEA!

UNP asked if I'd be interested in working an author autograph session at the Book Expo America trade show, held at the Javits Center in NYC last weekend. At first I was thrilled. Then I was worried: what if no one showed up for my time slot? What if no one likes the book. Everybody hates me! Very middle-school.

But it turned out to be a rewarding experience. The line stretched out quite a ways and the people were quite engaging. Even picked up a few invitations from book store owners and librarians.