September 13, 2011

This blog’s gone quiet for now.

Join me over at my new Literary Friendships blog.

Baseball’s Day of Reflection

July 13, 2011

This day, the quietest of the baseball season, always makes me reflect.

I don’t get to Yankee Stadium as often as I would like. But this week, I realized I’ve been there on three amazing occasions.

It was frustrating at the time, but in hindsight, it’s kind of apt that I was in the bathroom when Roger Clemons came out of the game in the seventh inning on the day he notched his 300th win. Because, well, Roger, it’s hard to support you wholeheartedly right now. But I seem to recall that he also registered his 4000th strikeout in that game, a kind of nifty double-play.

Watching Robinson Cano’s performance in the Home Run Derby on Monday reminded me of that amazing performance by Josh Hamilton in the 2008 Home Run Derby in the Bronx. The unlikelihood of 50K+ of us all standing and shouting our heads off FOR A TEXAS RANGER is something I will never forget. All those moon shots! The house was rocking.

And then there was Saturday. Derek Jeter Day. Oh my goodness. We approached the stadium hopeful, but not terribly hopeful—when the pressure’s on, it can’t be easy to get two hits, right? It’s been well documented, Jeter’s five hits, his 3000th hit being a home run, his five for five day, his game-winning single. But what a day at the stadium.

The new stadium doesn’t seem to rock the way the old one did, but we sure brought it close with De-rek Je-ter chants for every at bat, the crowd growing almost unbearably excited as he worked the count—it was full and then some for his first two at-bats. The elevator operator told us it was going to happen that day. “He’s put it off long enough,” he said.

And that at-bat: pure magic of the most electric kind. The ball didn’t seem like it was going out, though it sure seemed like a good hit. And then it took our brains a moment to register—not only did he do it; he did it with a home run. Everyone was screaming with insane abandon. Old ladies were high fiving each other. The roar seemed destined to keep the game from ever resuming.

But the game must go on. And how great that the Yankees—against David Price!—found a way to win.

We stayed until the very end–including the on-the-big-screen press conference with now-famous home run ball catcher Christian Lopez. It’s worth noting that on all three occasions, I was there with my son, my Yankee good luck charm.

Here’s to the second half.

Three Thousand

July 8, 2011

Yeah, I know. For someone who loves baseball, I sure do go quiet during baseball season. For explanation/justification, please see my other blog.

My son and I are going to the Yankees game tomorrow. Which means I’m only half-heartedly rooting for Derek Jeter today. Because we all know he’ll reach this milestone—he’s only two hits away. He’ll likely do it this weekend. And selfishly, I want to be there.

Jeter started playing when I was pregnant with this very same son, and so it seems right to me that we should be in the house.

I understand that is not logical.

I have a similar problem with fantasy baseball. I will almost never draft a Met or a Red Sox player. As a self-respecting Yankees fan, how could I? But I’ve had other AL East players on my team. And I’ve wished well for them. It feels wrong. It makes me feel dirty.

Baseball fandom: it’s complicated.

Celebrating Effa Manley, Newark Style

May 25, 2011

When I started writing a book about Effa Manley, more than anything, I wanted it to be published. I’d written many children’s books to that point and only one had been published, and that was by a regional publisher few had heard of. I promised myself that if it was published, I would celebrate.

I researched, wrote, and sold the book in 2006. I received the contract in 2007. The book was published in 2010.

Many writers plan launch parties for their books. I had visions for mine! I wanted a great baseball bash for Effa. SHE LOVED BASEBALL debuted in October, during the playoffs–too late in the year for any kind of minor league tie in. (I also wanted to celebrate at the Museum of Natural History the month IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? came out. That one didn’t pan out either.)

It took some time, but I eventually realized that a book can be celebrated any time—not just the month it releases.

On Saturday, we’ll be celebrating. With the Newark Bears. It’s Effa Manley Day, boys and girls. This is the Bears’ mascot, Effa, visiting a school with me earlier this week. We shall meet again in Newark. It’s going to a blast.

Tim Raines (former Expo and Yankee) is now the Bears’ manager, and he’s going to read the book to kids in the green room before the game. I believe my very own daughter will be throwing out the first pitch. The first 75 kids through the gate will get a free copy of SHE LOVED BASEBALL, courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books (which sure beats the magnetic schedule I seem to get every time I go to any team’s ballgame).

When I wrote the early drafts of SHE LOVED BASEBALL, I spent a lot of time trying to imagine the excitement of a ballgame in Newark in the 1940s. And I love that we will be celebrating this book in precisely that environment—smelling the sweet and salty baseball smells, hearing the cheer of the crowd grow into a roar, all while looking out at the NYC skyline. It’s going to be quite a night.

If you want to join us, you can find all the info here.

Author Meets Subject’s Scrapbook. Also: SNOW!

April 25, 2011

We woke to snow in Cooperstown. Not the accumulation kind of snow; just the wow, doesn’t late April mean anything kind of snow.

Before setting out to the Hall of Fame, I told my family not to feel bad for me if they were the only ones in attendance at my talk. They promised.

It was a comedy of errors once we arrived, leaving our coats in the car, running for the closest entrance, realizing it was the wrong entrance, running from door to door in the aforementioned snow, until we found our way inside. But we did. And we weren’t late.

My husband, son and daughter were not the only ones in attendance; the seats were all filled. People listened. I talked too fast, forgot to say some important things, and didn’t remember to ask for questions, but somehow I still think it went pretty well. Or well enough. Wellish.

The coolest part was that Stephen Light (who holds the enviable title Manager of Museum Programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame) had Effa Manley’s actual scrapbook there in the room with us.

I’m only a mild research geek, not the worst kind of research geek, but wow, did I love seeing that. When I had viewed the scrapbook for my research in the Hall’s A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center, I had looked at a microfiche copy on one of those crazy old machines. This was the real deal. With Effa’s scrawled notes all over the place. I especially liked that after a long, positive story about herself in a New York newspaper, Effa wrote, “This is a good story.” (!) More often she passed along the praise to her husband, Abe.

I loved paging through that scrapbook. (And I didn’t once try to hatch a Lucy-Ricardo-like plan to sneak it out. A true sign of maturity.)

She Loved baseball display at Hall of FameI signed a good number of copies of SHE LOVED BASEBALL, with a bigger smile each time I signed one for a Yankees fan. There was one Mets fan–an eight-year-old–who is the only girl playing baseball in her town’s all-male little league. I smiled quite a bit when signing hers, too.

Perhaps most exciting of all was talking about the possibility of a return appearance next spring. That trip would be in support of my next baseball picture book, BROTHERS AT BAT: THE TRUE STORY OF AN AMAZING ALL-BROTHER TEAM, illustrated by Steven Salerno. There was talk of taking over Doubleday Field for a game….I’m just saying.

Stay tuned.

The Road Back

April 19, 2011

When I first set out for Cooperstown in 2006 to research the book that would become She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, it seemed like a fun adventure. A mother of two relatively young children, I didn’t have a lot of time to myself, so setting out in a smelly rental car for a long road trip seemed kind of like the high life.

Five years later, I’m going back. (Okay, I’ve been back in the interim too, but that doesn’t serve this story.)

I remember stopping into the Hall of Fame bookstore my first time there, looking at all the wonderful books, and hoping that my notes would make that unlikely journey from disjointed mess to a manuscript deemed worthy of acquisition. And further hoping that some day I might be honored enough to be invited to sign my book in the Hall of Fame bookstore.

I’ve been to enough book signings to know they’re not the magical events we all imagine them to be before we published.

But it’s different at the Hall of Fame.

After I give a short speech on Effa Manley and her scrapbook on Thursday, I’ll be heading up to the bookstore to sign my book. I’ll be sitting there, surrounded by great baseball books. It’s almost like a shot of baseball directly into the bloodstream, a direct absorption of history and tradition.

It’s a long ride, and this time I’m bringing my family with me. It’s not my favorite drive, the New Jersey-Cooperstown route, but I suspect I’m going to be grinning the whole way. And maybe I’ll let someone else do the driving.

Stay tuned.

Paper Pile-Up Alert

April 4, 2011

It’s been so good to watch baseball again. (And to spend a little too much time on fantasy baseball rosters.) Sadly, the crazy gods in charge of scheduling have somehow made April a wildly busy month for me. I’ll be back with a real post shortly.

Until then, some links to other She Loved Baseball news and interviews:

There was a terrific piece by Holly Cara Price in the Huffington Post.

Doret at the Happy Nappy Bookseller ran an interview this weekend.

I contributed an essay about writing She Loved Baseball to a Kidlit Celebration of Women’s History Month.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a great  review of three children’s books on baseball.

Thanks for checking in. Until next time, folks.

Happy opening day, friends.

March 31, 2011

The Season To Be Jolly

March 28, 2011

When I was young, I tried to frame time in a way I could handle. Like this: The day after the day after tomorrow, there will be baseball again. Yankees will take the field in the Bronx. And all will be right in my world. Surely I will start sleeping through the night again. I’ll stop clenching my jaw to the point of awful headaches. My house will be clean? Too far. I always go too far.

In celebration of finally reaching the very week that promises opening day, some favorite baseball quotes:

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” -Rogers Hornsby

“It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti

“So I’m ugly. So what? I never saw anyone hit with his face.”     – Yogi Berra

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” -Satchel Paige

“The true harbinger of spring is not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of the bat on the ball.” – Bill Veeck

“Nothing flatters me more than to have it assumed that I could write prose–unless it be to have it assumed that I once pitched a baseball with distinction.”        - Robert Frost

“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base.” – Dave Barry

Three days and counting. Fa la la la la la la la la.

The Most Famous Woman In Baseball: Interview with Author Bob Luke

March 21, 2011

When I wrote SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY, one of my go-to resources was a book by James Overmyer, QUEEN OF THE NEGRO LEAGUES. At the time, it was the only existing biography of Effa Manley.

Author Bob Luke has just come out with another, and has graciously agreed to be my guest for a short interview here about his experience writing about Effa Manley in his new book, THE MOST FAMOUS WOMAN IN BASEBALL.

What attracted you to Effa Manley’s story?

She caught my attention as I was working on my two previous Negro league books – - a biography of Willie Wells, who played for and managed the Eagles – - and a team history of the Baltimore Elite Giants who played in the same league as the Eagles. I kept hearing this passionate, assertive, female voice pushing for efficiency, fairness, and equality in a crowd of good ole boys who turned a deaf ear to her pleas to their lasting detriment. I had to find out more about her.

Do you have a favorite Effa anecdote?

I can’t say I have a favorite anecdote, but I do admire her style and consistency. She never backed down from players, sportswriters, team owners, major league officials, the Mexican consulate – - anyone she thought stood in her way. At the same time she was thoughtful and considerate toward those who served the team well – - helping former players with loans for homes and businesses, sending Christmas packages to players in Europe during World War II, and thanking sportswriters who gave what she considered to be informed coverage to herself and the team.

In what ways do you think the Eagles differed from other Negro League teams and in what ways were those differences attributable to Effa?

I don’t think the Eagles differed much from the other teams.  They all played on a shoestring, their star players were forever jumping the team for better pay elsewhere, they traveled long days and nights on rickety buses to a never ending series of scheduled league games and barnstorming games, all while contending with Jim Crowism.  Eagles’ players received more advice than players probably did on other teams. Effa advised them on all manner of things – - how to dress, comport themselves in public, handle their money, where to live, never go places alone, don’t drink too much. She never failed to criticize players who showed up late for spring training or defaulted on loans. She always had the welfare of her team and the behavior of her players uppermost in her mind and on her tongue.

What do you think Effa would have said upon hearing that she was going to be the first — and as yet, only — woman inducted into the Hall of Fame?

I imagine she would have been pleased. Who wouldn’t? But I also think she would have protested that the Hall inducted the wrong Manley; that the honor should have gone to Abe. She always said Abe knew more about baseball than she did, and that she was just helping him out. For sure though, she would have pasted newspaper clippings covering her induction into her scrapbook.


Thanks so much, Bob, for taking the time to talk about your book.

Bob Luke and I will be on hand to celebrate Effa Manley Day with the Newark Bears on Saturday, May 28 (Memorial Day weekend) at their great ballpark. It’ll be an awesome night–we’ll honor Effa at the start of the game, and celebrate with fireworks afterward. The ballpark affords fantastic views of the NYC skyline, and it’s going to be a very fun, very memorable evening. We hope to see you there!


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