Monday, January 30, 2012

Here's the Pitch

Fenway 1912 was just awarded the 2012 Seymour Medal by the Society for American Baseball Research as the best baseballbook of biography or history of 2011.

Below, from January 2008, is my pitch that sold the book, which came to me while I was driving to the dump one Saturday morning:

" . . .As you well know, Fenway Park opened in 1912 and the 2011 season represents the ballpark’s 100th season. There are certain to be a great number of book titles that will be published tied to this anniversary, primarily illustrative in nature. But I think I have a winner.

I propose to do a book called “1912: Fenway’s First Season and the First Great World Series.” The book would primarily be a narrative covering Boston’s 1912 season and the subsequent World Series versus the New York Giants, a best-of-seven affair that lasted eight games due to a tied game, amid charges of fixes and frauds, featuring pitchers Smoky Joe Wood and Christy Mathewson, New York Giants manager John McGraw and characters like Nuf Ced McGreevey of the Royal Rooters, Mayor John Fitzgerald, and Sport Sullivan, who would later become notorious for his involvement in the Black Sox scandal. The Series was a nail-biter that wasn’t decided until the tenth inning of the final (eighth) game, an absolute classic between two baseball behemoths.

But inside this narrative I will also tell the story – and stories – of Fenway Park. For example, when, on April 26, 1912, Red Sox first baseman High Bradley hit the first home run over what will one day be called the Green Monster, that will be a takeoff point for an in-depth look at the history of that feature. The famous pitching match-up of September 6, 1912 between Smoky Joe Wood and Walter Johnson, that featured both pitchers warming up just in front of the dugout, surrounded by fans, would serve as a take off point to discuss the history of Fenway’s bullpens. In this way I can simultaneously tell the story of the season and the World Series and the story of Fenway Park.

Timing will be everything for this book. Just as Red Sox Century took advantage of the Red Sox 100th season and beat other “anniversary” books to the punch by 6 months to a year, so will 1912. I envision a pub date of either Fall 2010 or Spring 2011 so the book is available during season 100 of Fenway, the start of the celebration – and in advance of the glut of Fenway titles.

That would mean a manuscript deadline of somewhere between Fall 2009 and Spring 2010. Factoring in the time for research and writing, I think this book needs to be pitched in the next few months.

What do you think?

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Out of the Rack and Ruin"

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!