Inkwell: Authors and Artists
I of course ignore the breasts (ruz) Tue 24 Sep 02 10:26
Howard, in your research for the book (which I am currently reading and enjoying), did you come across any research which might prove or disprove the legend of Bill Veeck and the Phillies? In 'Veeck As In Wreck,' Veeck wrote of a plan he hatched to buy the Phillies in 1943 and stock them with an all-starteam of Negro League players, only to have his plan foiled when news of it leaked out to the other owners. However, researchers have been unable to uncover any evidence of this beyond Veeck's claims.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Tue 24 Sep 02 12:37
Ruth was Catholic, but _ naturally _ not a particularly devout one. And Harry Hooper, to my knowledge, was all right... <alden>, the history of integrated baseball did disappear before Robinson, but reemerged in a couple of pretty good books. The original National League was integrated with Bud Fowler, Moses Fleetwood Walker and Frank Grant. Walker's brother also played, I believe for a team in (Toledo?)Ohio or Cleveland (I'm not at the house right now, so I can't look it up). It all ended when Cap Anson of the White Sox threatened a boycott of the entire league if blacks weren't banned. The reason, <alden>, is because baseball is a closed institution, beyond at times even the federal government. The owners have made the rules, set them in stone, and until 1966 (the advent of a real players union) was untouchable. It's the same reason the reserve clause lasted 100 years, and labor is such the acrimonious topic that it is. <ruz>, That's a great question about Veeck. I enjoyed very much the SportsCentury documentary on him (ESPN for once avoided the showtime and got to the facts) and everyone in the game speaks well of him, even for a maverick. But that Phillies story has always intrigued me. I tend to think that it was more bluster than bite for one reason only: to try something like that, in 1943, when the all-powerful Commissioner Landis has been on record against integration, it cannot leak. That it did, made me a little skeptical about the claim. I believe that Veeck had good intentions, but may have spoken a little loudly and killed any chance of making it happen. That's why Rickey was so secretive in '46 when the wheels finally turned.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Tue 24 Sep 02 13:42
What was Rickey's motivation, in your opinion? (I haven't read up on this since I was 10, and I suspect kids' books on Robinson may have glossed over a detail or two.)
I of course ignore the breasts (ruz) Tue 24 Sep 02 13:48
I know you're asking Howard, but in my opinion Rickey acted out of equal parts desire to right a huge wrong, and desire to gain a competitive edge.
pointy, but rarely undeservedly savage (vard) Tue 24 Sep 02 14:11
That's my guess too.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Tue 24 Sep 02 14:32
I third the motion. Also, and I have never read this anywhere, but I wonder what Rickey saw in the political climate at that partcular moment to go forward when no one else could. How did he know the coast was clear? I suspect the reason is he and Walter O'Malley had agreed to see this thing through no matter what, which means he cleared the coast himself.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Tue 24 Sep 02 15:04
And God bless 'em.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Tue 24 Sep 02 15:54
As we move on the publicity trail, Jonathan Yardley wrote a nice review of the book, while snipping at me for not being a "prose stylist" as J. Anthony Lukas (well who the hell is?), the big question thus far has always focused on Tom Yawkey, and whether or not he was a bigot. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6075-2002Sep11.html It is funny, and perhaps I am thinking too much about along racial lines, but very few interviewers have asked about the experiences of the players, which was probably my chief reason for doing the book, instead opting to focus on whether or not the powers in charge of the Red Sox were racists. The reason for this, I suspect, is that people are more interested in the team as a whole and its moral direction. At a reading I had at the Boston Public Library, we talked about this concept and one older black guest said, "The reason is because only the most well-read whites care about black history. It's not part of our radar as a country." Wow. What a depressing thing to say.
I of course ignore the breasts (ruz) Tue 24 Sep 02 16:08
Depressing but nevertheless true, alas.
David S. Greene (dsg) Wed 25 Sep 02 09:28
I think the man's probably right. Howard, I believe it was in Ken Burns' "Baseball" one of the people posits that Jackie Robinson is THE most important figure in the civil rights movement of the 20th century, and should be considered as more critical than MLK, since what Jackie did came first, and all the important work of the Reverends King, Jackson et al took place while standing on Jackie's shoulders. The more I think about this the more sense it makes, especially given the stage on which he performed, the levels of excellence he acheived, and the nearly superhuman efforts he must have gone through to endure the horrific abuse, especially in the first years of his career. Where would you place Robinson in the important events of baseball history and American history?
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Wed 25 Sep 02 12:21
Well, for me, I'm clearly biased. I don't put as much stock in the great achievements of players pre-Robinson because Ruth Gehrig, Wagner, etc... were playing without competing against entire groups of people _ blacks, Latins, Asians. Therefore, Robinson is the swivel point when the game became whole. Coupled with the fact that I believe there were so many people who weren't sure about the "experiment," I shudder to think what would have happened to integration had he failed on the field, or worse, ended up in some kind of scandal. That adds to the pressure to be perfect. In the larger framework of American civil rights, I think Robinson is, even moreso than Muhammad Ali, the most important athlete in American history. I put him over Jesse Owens only because the black condition didn't change significantly as a byproduct of his success in the '36 Olympics. As Leonard Koppett said, "after Robinson, black people became present. They were no longer in the background."
pointy, but rarely undeservedly savage (vard) Wed 25 Sep 02 13:09
To go back to Boston -- I was astonished to learn from the book that the Celtics were the first NBA team to break the color line. I had never heard that before. Do you agree with JoJo White's analysis? That the city of Boston would never have supported a majority-black team? even a majority-black BASKETBALL team??
I of course ignore the breasts (ruz) Wed 25 Sep 02 13:18
> I was astonished to learn from the book that the Celtics were the first > NBA team to break the color line. I'm astonished too! I obviously haven't gotten to that part of the book yet. Although espn.com says that Washington beat the Celtics by one day as far as playing a black player is concerned, even though the Celtics were the first team to draft a black player: <http://espn.go.com/gen/s/2002/0225/1340314.html>
John Ross (johnross) Thu 26 Sep 02 11:43
How did the Braves fit into this picture? Did they have any black players before they left Boston? Did they have any kind of support from the black community? Were they under the same pressure from the cuty councilman to break the color bar? As for the Celtics, I think I remember hearing Russell say that they were the first team to start five black players, but obviously, that came years later.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Thu 26 Sep 02 14:09
City Councilor Izzy Muchnick went to the Braves first, and was immediately rebuked. He then went to the Red Sox, which said they would consider the idea. They weren't serious, but that gave Muchnick hope. Invigorated, he focused only on the Red Sox. The Celtics were the first team to start five blacks, and I think it was 1963, breaking the unspoken rule of never playing more blacks than whites at the same time.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 27 Sep 02 10:12
Howard, "Shut Out" is published by Routledge, which doesn't usually publish books of this type. (Its catalog is mostly academic, I believe.) Could you tell us a bit about the process you endured shopping the manuscript? And why did Routledge agree to take "Shut Out"?
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Fri 27 Sep 02 15:57
Sure, bring up the painful memories, why don't you? It all started back in April or May 1998, when I finished the proposal. No one wanted it. I remember three publishers distinctly. Crown: "A good idea, no question. But it's far too regional a book for us to publish it." Random House: "A compelling story, but perhaps the book should be written as a biography or through the experience of one player." But when they heard the list of black players, they weren't impressed that Jim Rice or Burks or Mo Vaughn were sexy enough names, and thus took a pass. Houghton-Mifflin: "A tremendous idea, but it might be too regional, and also, we're not convinced that Red Sox fans, the core constituency you want to buy the book, will purchase a story that isn't laudatory of their team. A good idea that we don't think will sell. But, if someone publishes it and it does well, we'd be happy to take another look for paperback." So they wouldn't take the risk but would leap in for the reward. Then, there was a 28-year old editor at Routledge named Brendan O'Malley, who happened to be a diehard Red Sox fan from blue collar Somerville, right on the Red Line past Cambridge, who saw the book, got it immediately, and demanded Routledge jump on it. At the time, Routledge had dreams of moving into the trade space to enhance their profile. My book was supposed to usher them into new territory. Then the economy tanked. Then Brendan quit. And essentially, the book was an island at Routledge, which had changed strategies. It was the square peg in the round hole. We persevered, them with a book that didn't fit their profile, me with a contract with no advocates at the publishing house. My new editor, in fact, told me that she would "never have purchased this book, but there's nothing we can do about that now." Yet, it is in stores...no small miracle, really.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 27 Sep 02 16:23
Wow, great story. So are they arranging your tour, or are you doing the publicity yourself pretty much?
David S. Greene (dsg) Fri 27 Sep 02 17:25
Brendan was too good for them. I'm proud as hell to have an *autographed* copy.
Dave Zimmer (zimmerdave) Fri 27 Sep 02 17:47
I've always been an SF Giants fan (grew up idolizing Willie Mays and am a huge Barry Bonds fan -- people can say what they want about his personality, but Chris Berman rightly compared his dominance as a hitter to Wilt Chamberlain's basketball dominance the other night on ESPN), but I'm also a great baseball fan, *period*, and can't wait to read your book. Question ... how did you treat the Jim Rice - Fred Lynn era in your book? IMHO, Rice was the superior player, but never got the praise from the fans/press that Lynn did and, as you stated earlier in the topic, "Rice seemed beaten down by the climate." How would you characterize the relationship between Rice and Lynn?
(fom) Fri 27 Sep 02 20:06
What a story -- I'm so glad the book got published!
Andrew Alden (alden) Fri 27 Sep 02 20:24
I can see this book appealing to an academic publisher. It is thoroughly researched and deeply sourced. It has its moments of soaring rhetoric and stemwinder storytelling, but it's mostly pretty sober. Frankly, it is not the book I expected from a newspaper journalist. If I can indulge in a baseball analogy, it's the work of a starting pitcher rather than a relief specialist. If I can compare it to academic works, it's more like a repurposed thesis than a pundit's ploy for talk-show glory. As a work of history, I see it as a primary source that will belong in every baseball writer's library. Congratulations for doing that important groundwork! Do you have more books planned? How do you like the long form of the book after a career's worth of journalism?
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 28 Sep 02 20:06
And the hilarity of it all is this: Houghton-Mifflin now called to say they are interested in the paperback rights. At least they are true to their word. 45: The Jim Rice/Fred Lynn dynamic was an interesting part of the book, one that was enhanced when Rice talked about the conflict of which you speak, on page 163: "Here I am coming into a situation. They had Freddy Lynn. He was supposed to be the golden child. Mr. Everything. And here comes this nigger from South Carolina who was every bit as good, and was one of the top five players in the American League, and it was a different story. It didn't work out the way everyone thought it would. They didn't know what to do. I wasn't white. I wasn't Irish and I wasn't from Boston, but I knew the rules. I wasn't going to say or do anything that was going to put what I had in jeopardy." Rice put me off for two years before talking about this earlier this year. Sean McAdam, one of the better reporters covering the Red Sox for the Providence Journal, said this: "Maybe it was convenient to play them off as polar opposites. If Lynn was the carefree Californian, Rice was naturally the opposite, the sullen black guy. I always thought his bark was bigger than his bite, but at times he almost seemed to conform to the perception. He never let people see that he was having fun. He still harbors a lot of bitterness."
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 28 Sep 02 20:13
<alden>, there was nothing better than doing this project. One, writing a book was so much *fun*! Sure, it was a bitch, too, but fun because it was your headache. You weren't doing someone else's work, you were constructing your own arguments, fighting to create your own structure, and taking the story in the direction you chose. Writing now isn't easy, but the 500-word notebooks disappear like vapor after writing a 135,000 word manuscript. And it is very insightful of you to bring up the newspaper vs. book writer because when I started the proposal, one of the roadblocks from publishers was the "newspaper people can't carry full-length narratives" stigma. I certainly hope I have another few books in me. I had a great conversation a few weeks ago with Roger Angell, who writes circles around most _ if not all _ of us and he said he hated book writing. He's 82 years old, comes from the greatest of literary stock _ E.B. White was his stepfather _ and he said his first and only book "A Pitcher's Story" on David Cone, "damn near killed me." Of course, he started it at age 79...
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Sun 29 Sep 02 09:20
His first and only book that was a book from start to finish, that is; there are several books compiling Angell's wondrous baseball writing for the New Yorker. And you're right, Howard: He's the best ever (which is no slight to Howard, Roger Kahn, Frank Deford or any other fine baseball writer past and present; Angell is simply above everyone, in the way Ted Williams was). Every couple of years or so I reread the long essay he wrote back in the '70s about the difficulty of hitting. It's a masterpiece about the fundamental, pitcher-hitter confrontation around which the game of baseball is built. May I ask a technical question? You mentioned at the San Francisco reading that Jim Rice finally opened up to you this past spring. I'm wondering how you fit this late-late-late information into the manuscript. Did you have to change much of the material in an entire chapter, or were you able to pare Rice's comments to fit neatly into an existing section without changing much around it? Was there a stop-the-presses! call to your agent?
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