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Sunday, October 09, 2011

John Feinstein: Question for Red Sox fans

Last Chance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Eight…

As soon as the last day of the regular season concluded, I was convinced there was a book to be done that would focus strictly on that final day, arguably the most dramatic in regular season baseball history. I thought—think—that if you go back to the eight teams involved in those four deciding games, focusing on the four teams fighting for the playoffs but also including the other four teams and get players, managers, coaches, broadcasters to walk you through that day in detail, you have one hell of a story.

My agent, Esther Newberg, who is one of those Red Sox fans who is STILL mad at Bill Buckner, says the story might be good but no Red Sox fan will buy the book even if you get really good stuff from Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz et al.

I understand that feeling. In 2008 when my book on Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina came out, I got a really nice note during spring training from Gary Cohen, the Mets longtime play-by-play announcer who is a good friend. Gary wrote that he loved the book, in fact thought it was the best one I’d written.

I wrote back, thanked him and asked him if it might be possible to come on for an inning or two one night to talk about the book, the process of writing it, why I chose Glavine and Mussina—typical promo stuff.

Gary’s answer was to the point: “John, I loved the book and you know I’d love to help in any way. But after the way last season ended (Glavine getting shelled for seven runs in 1/3 of an inning with the season on the line on the last day) there’s not a Mets fan alive who wants to hear the name Tom Glavine again anytime soon.”

He was, of course, right.

So, Red Sox fans, is Esther right on this one too?

Repoz Posted: October 09, 2011 at 12:16 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: books, media, products, red sox

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. AndrewJ Posted: October 09, 2011 at 01:14 PM (#3957480)
I dunno.

FUN FACT: Esther Newberg was one of RFK's secretaries during the 1968 presidential primaries, and she was at the party with Mary Jo Kopechne and Teddy Kennedy the night of the Chappaquiddick incident.
   2. TerpNats Posted: October 09, 2011 at 01:34 PM (#3957487)
The inference I get from Esther Newberg is that only Red Sox fans read books. Is that presumption among the reasons why the Bosox have become so reviled?
   3. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: October 09, 2011 at 01:45 PM (#3957493)
Newberg is 100% correct. Every single person south of the D.C. Capital Beltway and between Interstates 5 and 95 is a irrelevant functional illiterate who survives primarily by hunting and banging rocks together.
   4. Dale Sams Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:36 PM (#3957514)
Esther Newberg, who is one of those Red Sox fans who is STILL mad at Bill Buckner


Get. Over. It.

No, I'd buy the book. Especially if you get really good stuff.
   5. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:36 PM (#3957515)
I'm the biggest Red Sox fan you'll find, and I would read this book. It was an amazing day of baseball, and the timing of the events of that day coincided perfectly. I'm telling all of you non-Red Sox fans: We're pissed, but those two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 continue to take a lot of edge off of the disappointment of 2011.

It's hard to get too grumpy about 2011 when your region's teams, in the last decade:

1) have a baseball team with two rings, and two other Game 7 ALCS losses;
2) have a basketball team with a ring, and a Game 7 Finals loss;
3) have the defending NHL champion, after 40 years of no rings; and
4) have an NFL team with three rings, and another Super Bowl loss.

We have nothing about which to complain, in the big picture...
   6. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:40 PM (#3957517)
I'd have to be convinced there was a reason to get it. Having just seen it unfold I'd want to know what the book was going to give me to make it worth my time.

I think it would work better in many years such as the book about the 1908 race to give fans who weren't there some perspective on this incredible day of baseball.
   7. HowardMegdal Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:48 PM (#3957523)
As I wrote on his blog, I'd be interested in this book for the subject matter, but I buy John Feinstein books because John Feinstein writes them.

FWIW, I think Theo Epstein has a more complicated track record with Red Sox fans than Tom Glavine has with Mets fans. Theo won a couple of championships, I believe. Glavine punished the Mets for a decade and a half, then won nothing in New York.

That Glavine/Mussina book is just fantastic, by the way.
   8. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:50 PM (#3957524)
To my knowledge, Feinstein has never apologized for his public comments on the Duke lacrosse case.
   9. Dale Sams Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:51 PM (#3957527)
I'm already over it. 2009 made me upset. 2011 made me mad. I'd much rather be mad than upset.
   10. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 09, 2011 at 03:14 PM (#3957535)
FUN FACT: Esther Newberg was one of RFK's secretaries during the 1968 presidential primaries, and she was at the party with Mary Jo Kopechne and Teddy Kennedy the night of the Chappaquiddick incident.


Hmm... sounds like there might be a book there.

I think it would work better in many years such as the book about the 1908 race to give fans who weren't there some perspective on this incredible day of baseball.


Myabe. But research and write it now, so you have all the fresh perspectives. Then wait until 2021 to publish it.
   11. tfbg9 Posted: October 09, 2011 at 03:17 PM (#3957537)
I got over it the moment Valverde K'd Arod. It would've been pretty hard to deal with had the NYY's gone all the way, the collapse that is.

The beauty of being a Red Sox fan is that as long as the Yankees don't win the WS, its a perfectly acceptable year.

Go Brewers and Rangers!
   12. Don Malcolm Posted: October 09, 2011 at 03:22 PM (#3957538)
The shill pages, part 906A...Feinstein is saying (without actually saying it...): "C'mon, fans, write a bunch of comments here that will convince my editor to go get me a nice advance."

The argument he should be making to Esther is--"hey, SOMEBODY is going to do this book...wouldn't it be better if I did it rather than someone else?"

From what he wrote, it sounds as though he's only about 60% sold on his own idea.
   13. Gamingboy Posted: October 09, 2011 at 03:25 PM (#3957540)
I'd read a book about the day of 162. It had everything. Then again, I'm not a Red Sox fan, I'm a baseball fan (who's teams are usually the Twins, Orioles and whoever is playing the Yankees).
   14. Lassus Posted: October 09, 2011 at 03:53 PM (#3957558)
I'd disagree with GB in this instance, for me I think a book JUST about 162 isn't quite enough. I would say a substantial lead-in regarding all that led up to the last day, THEN the last day. Half the book the former, half the book the latter, give or take.

Also, Howard, you should forward him this page.
   15. TerpNats Posted: October 09, 2011 at 03:59 PM (#3957565)
Funny no one is asking how Braves fans feel about this concept.
   16. Don Malcolm Posted: October 09, 2011 at 04:04 PM (#3957567)
unny no one is asking how Braves fans feel about this concept.

See #3.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: October 09, 2011 at 06:22 PM (#3957638)
Have you ever known Esther to be wrong?

The book should be exactly 162 pages long. With 6 good chapters and 2 chapters that are just OK tacked on.
   18. Nasty Nate Posted: October 09, 2011 at 06:37 PM (#3957643)
this is like the one where Theo thought he could make it in the real world and Cliff emptied out his room and turned the living room into a furniture store and something something cockroach
   19. robinred Posted: October 09, 2011 at 06:41 PM (#3957646)
I agree with Lassus. If the author (Feinstein in this case) skillfully contextualized the events of Games 162 within the larger stories of the teams and players, preferably IMO by going back and forth in time, so to speak, it could be a great book.

One model for this is Joshua Prager's book, The Echoing Green, which is a joint biography of Thomson and Branca, and also a social history, focusing on Oct 3 of 1951. I bought it at an airport bookstore before a cross-country flight, not expecting much. But it is excellent.

I can see why Boston and Atlanta fans would not want to read the book Feinstein is proposing, through.
   20. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: October 09, 2011 at 06:43 PM (#3957648)
Well, it's hyperbole to say "No Red Sox fan will buy it," but I think that she's probably correct if her point is that a lot of Red Sox fans would not be interested in buying it because it caps a really rough time.

I read a fairly long SI story in 1987 (I believe) that rehashed the '86 series and in particular the final two games, but I highly doubt I would have bought a book on the subject.
   21. A Random 8-Year-Old Eskimo Posted: October 09, 2011 at 06:54 PM (#3957652)
One model for this is Joshua Prager's book, The Echoing Green, which is a joint biography of Thomson and Branca, and also a social history, focusing on Oct 3 of 1951. I bought it at an airport bookstore before a cross-country flight, not expecting much. But it is excellent.

I agree. I also bought the book basically on a whim and found it one of the best books - baseball or not - I've read in the past few years.
   22. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: October 09, 2011 at 10:34 PM (#3957962)
One model for this is Joshua Prager's book, The Echoing Green, which is a joint biography of Thomson and Branca, and also a social history, focusing on Oct 3 of 1951. I bought it at an airport bookstore before a cross-country flight, not expecting much. But it is excellent.


Othjer good baseball books about one day are Dan Okrent's Nine Innings and Lew Paper's book on Don Larsen's perfect game (title escapes me at the moment.) Personally, I'd prefer something from an outsider fan's perspective than from a pro, but I don't work for a publisher. It's not my call.
   23. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: October 09, 2011 at 10:58 PM (#3957994)
One model for this is Joshua Prager's book, The Echoing Green, which is a joint biography of Thomson and Branca, and also a social history, focusing on Oct 3 of 1951. I bought it at an airport bookstore before a cross-country flight, not expecting much. But it is excellent.


I found it a mite too florid myself, but YMM(and obviously does)V. Not that's it's bad, by any means. I got to read it as a judge for Elysian Fields Quarterly's Dave Moore Award and it earned a second-place vote from me, behind A Well-Paid Slave by Brad Snyder.
   24. Rough Carrigan Posted: October 09, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#3958023)
No, she's not right. But then she seems to have a ridiculous perspective so that's not surprising.
   25. Matt Welch Posted: October 10, 2011 at 12:58 AM (#3958081)
Mike Sowell's "One Pitch Away" is a very solid book in a similar vein.
   26. robinred Posted: October 10, 2011 at 02:48 AM (#3958115)
I found it a mite too florid myself,


Fair point, but I thought the style worked about 98% of the time, because, like that of the great Robert A. Caro, who appears to be an influence on Prager, Prager's style was combined with great flow and precise and arresting detail.
   27. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 10, 2011 at 04:09 AM (#3958144)
The master of all "one day" books is Arnold Hano's A Day in the Bleachers, a detailed account of a fan's day in the Polo Grounds bleachers during game one of the 1954 World Series, the game with the Willie Mays catch. And another fine book with the same theme is Jonathan Schwartz's A Day of Light and Shadows: One Die-Hard Red Sox Fan and His Game of a Lifetime: The Boston-New York Playoff, 1978. This one's a very small book of only 64 pages, but the writing is superb.

And P.S.: Used copies of each of these books begin at one cent on Amazon. Talk about a steal.
   28. McCoy Posted: October 10, 2011 at 04:18 AM (#3958145)
Wouldn't James Joyce be the master of all "one day" books?
   29. Something Other Posted: October 10, 2011 at 07:49 AM (#3958168)
And P.S.: Used copies of each of these books begin at one cent on Amazon. Talk about a steal.
How do they do this? Or all the abe.com books that go for, maybe, a buck plus shipping? The book has to be bought, or at least found, then transported and stored, then someone has to pack the thing and cause it to be mailed. It's nuts. I'm amazed ANY used bookstores survive.
   30. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: October 10, 2011 at 11:03 AM (#3958177)
The book should be exactly 162 pages long. With 6 good chapters and 2 chapters that are just OK tacked on.


This sounds like a few of Feinstein's books that I've already read. Essays blown up to book length.
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: October 10, 2011 at 11:56 AM (#3958186)
And P.S.: Used copies of each of these books begin at one cent on Amazon. Talk about a steal.

How do they do this? Or all the abe.com books that go for, maybe, a buck plus shipping? The book has to be bought, or at least found, then transported and stored, then someone has to pack the thing and cause it to be mailed. It's nuts. I'm amazed ANY used bookstores survive.


1. Most of these places don't have open shops, so they're paying warehouse-level rents at worst, and no extra rent at all in some cases, if they're dealing out of their houses. If fact, many home dealers can get a tax writeoff for claiming a room or three of their house as a business expense. I never did that, but it was suggested to me many times, and it's perfectly kosher.

2. With Amazon's $3.99 postage, you're really paying $4.00 for those "1 cent" books. It's still a steal, but it's not a penny. And with media mail rates, a dealer can usually make a nominal profit when the book is small and light, as it is in both of these cases.

3. Most of those "$0.01" books come to the sellers in large lots where the allowed outlay is for the other books, where the demand to supply ratio is far more favorable to the seller. Books like the Hano and the Schwartz, great as they are, are known to probably something like .01% of Amazon's browsers.

4. Those $0.01 books are usually titles in such great oversupply that if you want to sell them, the $0.01 price is virtually mandatory. The far greater problem is that if you try to sell them even for $0.02, you run the risk of never selling them, and you wind up with an inordinate amount of shelf space tied up in dead inventory. If you have an open shop, you can have a sale to get rid of some of these books, but the time and trouble to put on one of those sales is usually more trouble than it's worth, for many reasons.

5. But the overall moral is that if you overlook the many intangible benefits of brick and mortar used book shops---that's a whole separate subject---this is the golden age of books from the POV of the book buyer. Take away the top 1% or 2% of genuinely scarce and rare titles, and the inflation-adjusted prices of the other 98% to 99% have fallen off a cliff in the past 10 years. For better and for worse---and believe me, it's both---the balance of power has shifted almost completely from the seller to the buyer.
   32. Something Other Posted: October 10, 2011 at 10:44 PM (#3958594)
@31--thanks for the education. I really do miss the actual, physical used bookstores. Wandering though, spotting and buying titles I never would have otherwise, spending an hour or two in a subject section I've never learned much about, flirting, spending an afternoon in one with my sweetie, looking each other up when we found something interesting or amusing...

I know it's sacrilegious but B and N does an almost tolerable job. The three drawbacks are 1) they actually play music in the stores. WTF? 2) Staff, including managers, who yap with outdoor voices 3) the money that gets funneled out of town.

I suppose it'll draw shrieks, but what a shame we didn't limit chain stores/franchising.

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