Neal Karlen, 2000
Sometimes a book comes out that ties several interests of mine together, and immediately becomes a must read for me. My hero (George Will) writing about my favorite sport (baseball), Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, is one example of that happening. Another example is Slouching Towards Fargo. Combining subject matters of Darryl Strawberry, Bill Murray and Independent League Baseball, I was all over this one and gobbled it up quickly once I got my hands on it back when it was released in 2000. I dusted it off again last night and skimmed through it. It would make a great movie, and I wish someone would think about doing it.
As I mentioned in my very first post, Darryl Strawberry was the first baseball player I followed, and I collected the heck out of his cards. Additionally, I used to live in Lubbock, Texas and at the time there was an independent league called the Texas/Louisiana Association. The Lubbock team was called the Crickets, named after Buddy Holly’s (Lubbock native) band. The games were cheap, the baseball was actually not bad, and the atmosphere was odd. It felt a little like a mix of minor league baseball and roller derby. So a book that combined these two subject matters was right up my alley.
The book is based on a two season run of the St.Paul Saints, probably the most well known independent league team out there, who were partially owned by Bill Murray and Bill Veeck, and trotted out such players as J.D. Drew, who at the time was holding out for more money after being drafted by the Phillies, Jack Morris, and Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry at this time had been kicked out of baseball, broke, on probation, and trying to find a way back to the big leagues.
The author of the book was sent to cover this potential hot mess by Rolling Stone Magazine. He intended to do a “hatchet job” on Murray and Strawberry and write a buzz worthy article for the magazine. The book is the story of what he saw in that two year run and his fast changing views of the subject matters.
I am sorry to say, this book is no longer in print, and the only copies I see available are used copies on bn.com and amazon.com. The good news is these copies are dirt cheap.