September 20, 2014

20 Years in Baseball

March 14, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

There’s nothing quite like publishing a book a decade to put your life into perspective.

I didn’t intend to become a compiler of quotations. It was an accident. Back in 1990, I was just out of college, semi-unemployed, and trying to make my way in LA. I was in between futile attempts at writing movie scripts, so I decided to bounce a book idea off some publishers. I thought a paperback full of pictures and wacky captions that featured some of the funniest baseball quotes would be a big seller.

No one else thought so. Except this publisher from North Carolina who was interested in a more scholarly collection. No pictures. No wackiness. Just the best quotes I could find, with full ascriptions (dates, biographical data, etc) and oh by they way, could I have it done in nine months?

Fortunately, I had come into a bit of money by winning $3,000 on the cheesiest game show in the history of basic cable–Supermarket Sweep (Don’t judge me–that’s what out-of-work people do in LA) . The winnings allowed me to pay rent for the summer and buy a 1974 Mustang II for $500 so I could research and write my book. I was thinking something snappy like Youneverknow: Baseball’s Funniest Quotations. My publisher, McFarland & Company, said it should be something generic, like Baseball Quotations. We added a long subtitle: The Wisdom and Wisecracks of Players, Managers, Owners, Umpires, Announcers, Writers and Fans on the Great American Pastime, which definitely explained what the book was all about if you couldn’t decipher the main title.

Don't judge me. They gave me $$$

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Amateur Athletic Foundation sports library in LA. They had all the reference material I needed. I spent almost every day there, learning about the game that I thought I knew so well. Looking back, I can’t believe how books ever got published before computers. I had a dinky Mac, and the whole manuscript fit on about 20 discs. There was no email.

So the book was published in 1991 and featured 2,023 quotations. I got married that summer. So yeah, ’91 was a good year.

1993 wasn’t so bad either because Ballantine bought the paperback rights, converted it from a scholarly text found mostly in libraries, and re-branded it as a $5 mass market paperback. It sold a modest 30,000 copies until that little labor stoppage in 1994 put the brakes on every baseball book on the market. No one wanted to read about the game, and my book went right off the backlist without warning. Today I can still find a few well-worn copies online for a penny (plus shipping).

From 1995 to 1999 I moved to Houston, became a high school English teacher and had two boys. In 2000, it was time to revisit the book. Not surprisingly, I found a lot I had missed the first time around. I also discovered the joys of microfiche while spending my summer in the basement of the Rice library and logged more time there than I did in all my time as an undergrad.

The second edition was fully expanded and wound up more than double the original size (4,271 quotes). Rebooted as The McFarland Baseball Quotations Dictionary, the book was the first that my publisher branded with their name, for which I’m quite proud.

From a purely baseball standpoint, the 2000’s were good to us. The Bellaire Little League team won the National Championship in 2000, Rice won the College World Series in 2003 and the Houston Astros got to the World Series in 2005.

And now, after more than a year of research and revision, McFarland & I have stuck together for the third edition. This one is 5,854 quotes long, has even more trivia and stats, and features easier-to-use chapters and indexes.

Hot off the presses.

I’m excited to join Seamheads.com as the 2011 baseball season gets rolling. I may write about some baseball history, fantasy analysis, Little League experiences, college baseball, and of course MLB.  But for now I thought you should know a little about who I am and where I’m coming from.

Like Yogi Berra said, “You can see a lot just by observing.” And I’ll share those observations with you.

Comments

2 Responses to “20 Years in Baseball”
  1. Cliff Blau says:

    Hey, I have the paperback of your first book, and I would definitely not sell it for a penny! It’s too much fun to read.

  2. David Nathan says:

    Cliff–Much appreciated. Spread the word about the new edition–it’s got almost 4,000 quotes not featured in the 1st one.

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