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.

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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.


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.

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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!


Women’s History Month

March 13, 2011

Hop on over to this blog http://kidlitwhm.blogspot.com/2011/03/something-that-is-meaningful-telling.html for my guest post about writing Effa Manley’s story.


Author in the House

February 6, 2011

Event Details: Effa Manley and her Scrapbook
Authors Series
Thu, 21 Apr, 2011 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Noted children’s author Audrey Vernick, visits the Hall of Fame to present a special program for families on Effa Manley, the first woman inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Using Manley’s personal scrapbook (a copy of which resides in the Hall of Fame’s archive) as an example, Vernick will help families create a memento of their visit to Cooperstown. The program will be followed by a book signing, with Vernick signing copies of her book, She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story.  This program is included with the cost of admission.

Location:Learning Center, First Floor

http://community.baseballhall.org/page.aspx?pid=544&cid=1&ceid=343&cerid=0&cdt=4%2F21%2F2011