The events of September 11 changed America forever, but America must move on. That's what we've been told by President Bush and "America's Mayor," the newly knighted "Sir" Rudy Giuliani. We must resume doing the things that, before the attacks, made up our lives--work, family, entertainments. And for many Americans, their principal form of entertainment was--and always will be--sports: baseball, football, running, or watching the Winter Olympics at home with a mug of hot chocolate.
Sports publishing is an extension of that entertainment, a multimillion-dollar industry covering everything from biographies of athletic icons to reference books and coffee-table tomes about famous golf courses. It, too, must return to normal, and PW asked some in the industry just how they see that transition.
"Sports--and reading sports books--still form a major part of entertainment for many of us," says Rick Wolff, executive editor and v-p, Warner Books. "Sports books provide a vitally important psychological release for all of us who want to escape the difficulties and challenges of a demanding world. A sports book may provide inspiration, comic relief or just tell a good story about a famous game or event. But no matter what the topic is, sports books are still a major part of the book publishing industry."
"I think the events of September 11 have created a new mood in America," says Rolf Zettersten, v-p and publisher of Warner Faith. "I believe people are yearning for decency, values and spirituality. The ugliness and horror of the terrorist attacks and impending war will cause people to seek noble themes. I think athletes who are known for leading selfless and honorable lives will be appealing to readers."
Americans as Inspiration
America has been inspired and consoled by the bravery of the people at the World Trade Center who became heroes helping their fellow New Yorkers survive catastrophe--the FDNY, the NYPD, the medics and just regular citizens. And publishers and editors of sports books expect readers will turn to the many inspirational stories about sports icons that are already on the market, or soon will be.
"Orel Hershiser is a good example of an athlete," says Warner's Zettersten, "who displayed decency, toughness, discipline and all those virtues that we want to embrace. If sports books have anything to offer at all, then I think a book from someone who represents the best in professional sports may make a small contribution. Orel writes about living a principled life and playing by the rules. Some of these are spiritual values, but most are simply the qualities that have been part of the American ethic and tradition."
Hershiser's book, Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By written with Robert Wolgemuth and with a foreword by his one-time manager Tommy Lasorda, was the first book Zettersten acquired for the Warner Faith imprint. "My mandate from Warner," adds Zettersten, "is to publish books for the inspirational audience. This is a fast-growing segment in the ABA and was not specifically being covered by Warner." Between the Lines, published last month, had a first printing of 115,000 copies, and Hershiser will be doing a five-city tour, covering the cities he played in (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, New York) and Orlando, Fla., where he lives.
Every sport has its guru, and there wasn't a bigger running icon in the 1970s and '80s than Dr. George Sheehan. Every word from his mouth was gospel and the worshipers helped make him a bestselling author with such titles as Running and Being. Sheehan was also the head of a large Irish-Catholic family where he was not perceived as such an icon. That is the picture drawn by his son Andrew in Chasing the Hawk (Delacorte, Sept.). "Mine is really a father-son book that deals in part with the sport of running," Andrew Sheehan says. "It inspires, I think, because it holds out hope that parents and children, whose relationships with each other are strained or difficult, can break down those barriers. I think fathers and sons are really the same people, but for various reasons, they don't know how to talk to each other. My book, I think, is a testament to the healing power of forgiveness, honesty and love."
Chasing the Hawk is equal parts inspiration, sport and self-help, as it tells how the Sheehans came together to help each other. "When my first marriage was in trouble and my drinking was approaching new depths," the younger Sheehan recalls, "he threw me a lifeline. He let me know that despite my faults, I was still a good person. And when I quit drinking he was my greatest source of support. We developed a relationship of equals. The last third of the book is about what we learned as he faced his cancer and I faced my alcoholism. It's about what we learned together before his death."
"There's something about Andy's writing," says Beth Rashbaum, senior editor at Delacorte, "that seems to speak straight to the heart of a lot of people. We're hoping word-of-mouth will translate into similar enthusiasm on the part of book buyers." Delacorte is backing Chasing the Hawk with major media coverage.
Probably the inspirational sports book with the most longevity is It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins. The Putnam hardcover edition spent 24 weeks on PW's bestseller list, and immediately upon publication the Berkley trade paperback edition--which now stands at 295,000 copies after two printings--took its place. And the folks at both the Putnam and the Berkley imprints are looking toward the holiday season. "The hardcover makes a great gift," says Stacy Creamer, v-p, senior editor at Putnam, "and the paperback includes a new postscript chapter that covers Lance's second Tour de France win and the Sydney Olympics."
Creamer is also the editor for No Finish Line: My Life as I See It (Sept.). "Marla Runyan is the blind runner who competed for the United States in the 1,500 meters at the Sydney Olympics," says Creamer. "Marla was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease, a form of macular degeneration, when she was eight years old. After winning five gold medals in the Para-Olympics, a coach suggested that she take a stab at the Olympics. Marla qualified at the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials and subsequently competed in the Olympics, where she was the top American finisher in the field. What is particularly striking about Marla is the way she refuses to consider her blindness a handicap. Her positive attitude--steeled by what most would consider adversity--is quintessentially inspiring." Putnam started out with a 25,000 first printing, but Runyan's publicity tour was canceled after the attacks on September 11. However, she will still be making media appearances in New York, Chicago and Boston. "Putnam will be devoting our tour budget to an ad campaign," Creamer adds.
The athlete with the most intriguing sports name this side of Yogi Berra is probably the skier Picabo Street. Her story will be coming to bookstores in Picabo: Nothing to Hide (Contemporary, Nov.). "Picabo Street is an amazing person," raves her editor, Matthew Carnicelli, senior editor, Contemporary Books, a division of McGraw-Hill. "Before acquiring this book, I had seen her win at Nagano and then in all the Chapstick ads, and she seemed like this All-American girl. But she's so much more than that. She's fiercely competitive, comes from a very unconventional background and has endured some pretty traumatic events. Only a month after winning the gold medal in 1998 at Nagano, she careened off course in a race in Switzerland, snapping her left femur in two and leaving her future in doubt. Now, after two years of excruciating pain, grueling rehabilitation and stunning personal growth, she's actually going to ski again at the Salt Lake City Olympics--and she's even the odds-on favorite to win. Where does that type of perseverance come from? It's amazing. And very inspiring." Contemporary plans a 100,000 first printing and a $150,000 publicity/marketing campaign.
Ever wanted to chuck it all and get away? Perhaps a lot of Americans are thinking that right this moment. One who did was Austin Murphy, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated who got tired of the overinflated and overpaid athletes and the rat race of covering pro sports. "Austin's book is about smalltown life and college sports," says Megan Newman, editorial director, HarperResource, "but not of the Friday Night Lights variety. He writes about idyllic St. John's University in rural Minnesota, whose Division III football squad, coached by eccentric old-timer John Gagliardi, epitomizes the best of college sports. He also writes with self-deprecating wit about his own family life and the hospitality of the Benedictine community at St. John's. The Sweet Season: A Sportswriter Rediscovers Football, Family, and a Bit of Faith at Minnesota's St. John's University (Sept.) has 20,000 copies in print, and Murphy is doing radio and print publicity.
This summer, Thomas Nelson published A Thousand Goodbyes: A Son's Reflection on Living, Dying, and the Things That Matter Most by Jim Huber, the Emmy Award-winning essayist and commentator for Turner Sports. This book reminds many of Tuesdays with Morrie. Huber spent precious time with his dying father, recalling times, good and bad. Along the way, Huber offers inspirational and spiritual insights into the lives of noted sports figures who have triumphed and touched us, like Payne Stewart and Walter Payton.
Seabiscuit Starts a Trend
When PW last spoke with Random House v-p and editor Jonathan Karp in the spring, he had high hopes for a biography of a long-dead horse. Some may have laughed then, but no one is laughing now about Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand--except maybe Jonathan Karp.
PW asked Karp how he found the book that has enlivened equestrian publishing. "Tina Bennett, a literary agent at Janklow and Nesbit, told me about Seabiscuit over lunch," Karp recalls. "I told her I wasn't interested in it because I don't like horses and have never been to the track. But when Tina began to tell me more about the horse, specifically that in 1938 he received more newspaper column inches than Hitler, Mussolini, or FDR, I was suddenly interested. When the proposal arrived, everyone at Random House loved it, and we made an offer immediately."
Karp heaps praise on the author. "Laura Hillenbrand was inspired to write the book for all the right reasons: she had loved the story of Seabiscuit from her childhood. She has a passion for the sport and expertise in writing about it. And she became obsessed with bringing three men behind Seabiscuit [owner, trainer, jockey] to life. Passion, talent, expertise, obsession--those were the ingredients that made Seabiscuit such a wonderful book to read."
And Seabiscuit is a long-distance runner--it celebrates its 31st consecutive week on the New York Times bestseller list this week and is in its 12th printing, with 320,000 copies in print. Random plans to continue promotion through the holiday season, offering blowups and floor displays to stores and advertising monthly in the New York Times Book Review through Christmas. Hillenbrand will continue to do radio and online interviews, as well as TV interviews with any camera crews willing to come to her house in Washington, D.C. There is an audiotape available, and paperback rights have been sold to Fawcett Books.
Another fan of Seabiscuit is the Kentucky publisher Eclipse Press. "Seabiscuit definitely elevated public awareness of thoroughbred racing," says Jackie Duke, editor at Eclipse. "Sales representatives for our distributor, NBN, tell us that Seabiscuit has generated interest in all horse books. Sales of our titles, which primarily are thoroughbred-related, are up for the first quarter of our fiscal year compared with the same period last year.
"We have gotten tremendous response to a recent release, Women in Racing: In Their Own Words by John and Julia McEvoy, and have great hopes for a book on the greatest races called At the Wire by Edward L. Bowen." Eclipse is doing signings for Women in Racing, not only in bookstores but also at several race tracks, like Arlington in Chicago. Edward L. Bowen, author of At the Wire, will be doing local signings in Kentucky and at the Breeder's Cup, October 27, at Belmont Park.
But the staple for Eclipse is its Thoroughbred Legends series, which now has 13 books and more than 68,000 copies in print. "Our Thoroughbred Legends series has several appealing features," says Duke. "The books are attractively sized and very touchable. They are meant to be collected, and line up well on the shelf. Readers can identify with their favorite horses, whether that horse is Man o' War or the great filly Ruffian." The latest Legends editions are Personal Ensign, Sunday Silence and Ruffian. When asked if Seabiscuit was ever going to make the cut, Duke admits, "Seabiscuit was not in our initial lineup, but we are certainly considering adding him to the series." This holiday season, Eclipse will also offer its first two boxed sets of the Legends series. Each box will contain five books, and Eclipse will continue to box books as they reach increments of five.
Tony Lyons, publisher of Lyons Press and v-p of the Globe-Pequot Press, is eager to remind PW that "the American Horse Council and other trade organizations claim that some 14 million people in this country have at some point in their lives sat on a horse and that eight million people ride on a regular basis. That's a lot of potential customers in an underpublished field."
This November, Lyons will publish The Faraway Horses, the adventures of Buck Brannaman, a real-life "horse whisperer." "Brannaman is a legendary horseman, and this book is his magnum opus and has taken him more than two years to write. This is probably the biggest book that the Lyons Press has ever published. Our first printing will be between 50,000 and 100,000 copies. We got this book because Buck saw all of the other great horse books we've been publishing and wanted to work with a publisher that knows the field."
Lyons also specializes in equestrian how-to titles such as True Horsemanship Through Feel, Modern Horse Breeding, The Horse Owner's Survival Guide and Handling and Understanding the Horse for a simple reason: they sell. "How-to horse titles," according to Lyons, "are excellent backlist books. They usually sell better in the second year than they do in their first year."
You know equestrian publishing is moving along when a company like Public Affairs--the publishers of such heavyweight authors as Vernon Jordan, Ward Just and Jim Lehrer--decides to publish a book like Horse of a Different Color, in spring 2002. This is the story of James D. Squires, an editor at the Chicago Tribune, who oversaw a staff that won seven Pulitzer Prizes. After being laid off with a hefty severance, Squires headed for Kentucky bluegrass country to breed champion horses. Horse of a Different Color tells the tale of how this neophyte breeder, late of the newspaper business, brought together the stallion and mare who would produce the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby, Monarchos.
Another horse bio that has done well this year is Allen & Unwin's Phar Lap by Geoff Armstrong and Peter Thompson. Since its launch this past June, it has already sold over 5,000 copies. "We have to credit Seabiscuit," says Jaime Guthals, publicist for Independent Publishers Group, which distributes this title, "for raising the national interest in the horse-racing dramas of the early 20th century." Phar Lap is the story of Australia's most alluring horse-racing icon--on a parallel with America's Seabiscuit--and it finally resolves the mystery surrounding his unexplained death after winning his first American race.
Another horse biography out last spring from Derrydale Press is Secretariat by Raymond G. Woolfe Jr. This coffee-table book tells the story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner in photos, many of them in color.
Other equestrian titles include The Everything Horse Book by Cheryl Kimball (Adams, Dec.), Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies written and photographed by Ginger Kathrens (Bowtie, Oct.), which will have a tie-in PBS series in November, and Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls by Tom Maier (Storey Books, May).
Where's equestrian publishing going in the years ahead? "Opportunities abound," says Eclipse's Jackie Duke. "Ownership of horses continues to climb, and you can see tremendous membership gains in organizations such as the United State Dressage Federation and United States Eventing Association. Female baby boomers are largely responsible. They are the ones buying the horses, competing them and trying to educate themselves."
"The horse world is more fragmented than most sports," Tony Lyons says. "As a consequence, equestrian book publishers will prosper."
Remembering Dale Earnhardt
When Dale Earnhardt was killed in a racing accident on February 18, the mourning was deep and prolonged, and, ironically, made NASCAR more popular than it had ever been. "I think it was the suddenness of it," says Tom Bast, editorial director of Triumph, "that gave it the tremendous impact it had, and the fact that it came on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Earnhardt had an almost mystical bond with his fans, and the sports world witnessed an outpouring of grief and affection unlike any in recent memory. Certainly the publishing industry hadn't seen anything like it since the death of Princess Diana."
Rob McMahon, senior editor at Warner agrees. "I can't recall publishers ever being this obsessed with a deceased sports figure. I think the answer is twofold. One, Earnhardt's popularity is immense. His was the ultimate rags-to-riches story, a true American dream, if you will. Two, fans related to him because they saw a little bit of themselves in him."
And in death, Earnhardt became a publishing phenomenon, as books were rushed into print to celebrate his life. Triumph was most successful with Dale Earnhardt: Always a Champion, which turned into a New York Times bestseller and now has more than 330,000 copies in print. What was Triumph's secret? "Excellent distribution," says Bast succinctly, "timeliness--we were on newsstands within 10 days of the accident--and we delivered a very attractively designed tribute with good content and photos at a modest price, which made it very accessible."
Triumph was also the publisher of Remembering Dale Earnhardt: Wonderful Stories Celebrating the Life of Racing's Greatest Driver by Rich Wolfe and Dale Earnhardt: Always a Champion. This month they will publish Dale Earnhardt: An American Hero. Promotion will be the key to their continued success during the holiday season. "We've invested heavily in fall and holiday promotions with the major chains," says Bast, "especially for our biggest titles. Normally, this takes the form of in-store real estate and catalogues, and this holiday season is no exception."
Warner will have two Dale Earnhardt books this fall. "Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black by Ed Hinton is a history," says Rob McMahon. "Earnhardt plays a significant role in the book because of his tangled history with Daytona. He didn't win the 500 until his 20th try, and the manner in which he lost some of those earlier races is the stuff of legend in NASCAR circles."
Another Earnhardt book sure to catch the imagination of the NASCAR set is Driven to Win: Racing with Pride, Glory and the Earnhardt Legacy by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Jade Gurss. "We were approached," McMahon recalls, "by Junior and his agent with a book that would center around his rookie season, but would also discuss his relationship with his father and his father's death. It's the story of a rising young star coming to terms with his popularity and the pressures of carrying on a family legacy." Warner plans major promotion for both titles.
A book that has a chance to become a major bestseller this fall is At the Altar of Speed: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of Dale Earnhardt (Oct.). Doubleday is planning a 215,000 initial printing and major promotion including a national radio satellite media tour.
Peter Bannon, publisher of Sports Publishing, has already had success with Dale Earnhardt: Rear View Mirror, which has sold over 220,000 this year already. He is also the publisher of Dale Earnhardt: The Intimidator, a children's book, which had sales of over 30,000 in 2001. His new book, Dale Earnhardt: The Pass in the Grass and Other Incredible Moments from Racing's Greatest Legend by the Charlotte Observer and Mark Garrow, will contain a CD. (For more information on this title, see the sidebar on sports books containing CDs.)
Perhaps the most unusual product comes from Healing Voice Publishing: From the Heart of... Racing by Ron Camacho and Max Helton. This book contains a CD-ROM that Camacho (who is also publisher of Healing Voice) is immensely proud of. Camacho is the author of Chicken Soup for the Country Soul, but when the Chicken Soup Group shot down his idea for Chicken Soup for the Racing Soul, he was on his own to publish From the Heart of... Racing. Dale Earnhardt played an important, mentoring part in the book. "Dale Earnhardt," says Camacho, "had a little-talked-about learning problem. He had quit his education before high school. I thought if I could get him to share that story, we could show young students that it is not only OK to be scared about not being as sharp as other students, but education is cool as well." The first printing of 150,000 copies of From the Heart of...Racing was for a large wholesaler in the spring. This will be supplemented with another 250,000 for the holiday season as Camacho targets the secular and Christian markets. About his CD-ROM, Camacho says, "The time is right for the creation of a hybrid product that is interactive and retroactive, created simultaneously in all mediums and marketed globally. The first edition contains the most aggressive and compelling CD-ROM to be released inside the world of motor sports. With over 20 minutes of full motion video, featuring the 50-year tradition of NASCAR and the Petty Family Tradition, this enhanced CD contains video and photo galleries."
Tackling a Following
Whenever a publisher wants to proclaim just how special a college football book is, you're sure to be reminded, "It's in the tradition of The Junction Boys"--Jim Dent's book that set the standard for all others in the genre. Since its publication in 1999, The Junction Boys has sold 75,000 copies in hardcover and another 50,000 copies in trade paperback and has gone to publishing heaven, where it's now backlisting nicely.
"There's no question in my mind," says Peter Wolverton, associate publisher of Thomas Dunne Books at St. Martin's, "that Jim Dent has carved out a great place for himself in the sports book marketplace. His ability to pick out classic sports events and recreate not only the action but also the feeling of time and place is what makes his books so special. And while his books are definitely written for a core audience, his talent as a writer brings these events into a sharp and vital focus that appeals to all readers."
Dent's new book, The Undefeated: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in College Football, is debuted with very high expectations in September. "For three perfect seasons [1954-1956]," recalls Wolverton, "the Oklahoma Sooners won every football game they played--home or away. This awesome record was the product of a genius and masterful coach named Bud Wilkinson and the spirited young men he led. The Undefeated details all the thrilling action on the field during this record winning streak, but it also reveals all the behind-the-scenes tumult and pressure swirling around it." St. Martin's/Dunne is planning a strong combination of regional and national advertising, starting with a 75,000 first printing.
There is an increase in football books this fall, especially those specializing in college football. "Of the other major sports," says Steve Meyerhoff, editorial director of the book publishing division, the Sporting News, "college football comes closest to replicating those warm and intense feelings that are brought out in baseball fans. College football is a sport with historical context, with great, old stadia, great traditions."
"I think that with the rise of cable and the growth and establishment of networks entirely devoted to sports," adds Mauro DiPreta, executive editor of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, "the college game has gotten more coverage, and it has led to it becoming a more national game. As the game becomes more popular and watched by more viewers, we have more publishing opportunities. People want more information, whether it's about the head coach or the history of the program."
DiPreta has following The Junction Boys formula with A War in Dixie: Alabama v. Auburn by Ivan Maisel and Kelly Whiteside (Sept.). "A War in Dixie fascinated me because it presented an opportunity to fully explore the nature of an intense intrastate rivalry. We also had a terrific advantage with two writers--SI's Ivan Maisel and USA Today's Kelly Whiteside--who could each devote themselves to one school. To my knowledge, this has never been done before. Also, I think the South is an excellent market for college football books, and you'll be able to sell more copies there regionally than you might other books nationally. Finally, in the packaging of the book, we tried to play off the rivalry. We actually have two covers on the same jacket--one side features Alabama and the verso features Auburn. That way stores can show whichever side they like, and fans can proudly show their team colors on their shelves at home." A War in Dixie (see page 67 for review) has a first printing of 30,000 copies, and Morrow plans regional promotion that will include bookstore appearances as well as radio and print advertising.
The Sporting News is kicking in with Every Saturday in Autumn: College Football's Greatest Traditions (Oct.), which Meyerhoff says "is for every college football fan. Fans of the schools featured, of course, will want to see if their school is listed among our top 20, and I'm sure there will be argument and debate over where a particular school may be." Every Saturday in Autumn will have an initial printing of 35,000 copies and will be backed by major promotion.
Over the past few years, business books with a sports twist have become very prevalent as another niche in sports publishing. Bobby Bowden, head football coach at Florida State, follows the likes of Rick Pitino and Pat Riley with The Bowden Way: 50 Years of Leadership Wisdom written with his son Steve Bowden and published by Longstreet Press.
College football titles often outshine pro football, but this season there are several useful pro titles. It's Only a Game by Terry Bradshaw and David Fisher takes a look at the Hall of Fame quarterback's career not only with the Pittsburgh Steelers but also in the broadcasting booth. This August title spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and now has 115,000 copies in print. It's Only a Game is the first title in Bradshaw's three-book deal with Pocket Books.
Speaking of Steelers, the University of Pittsburgh Press has The Steelers Reader, edited by Randy Roberts and David Welky. This collection of 59 pieces features such writers as Red Smith, Roy Blount Jr. and Jim Murray. The Pitt Press plans local media, and both editors will be doing bookstore signings.
Sleeping Bear takes a look inside an NFL training camp in this summer's One Dream: The NFL by Woody Falgoux. We've all heard about the multimillionaire NFL first-round draft picks, but One Dream looks at the world of the free agent, those undrafted souls who fight the odds to make an NFL roster. "One of our editors loved the book," says Sleeping Bear publisher Brian Lewis, "because it was written from the view of a fan, untarnished and revealing. It is a very emotional book and opens up the cruel world of professional football." Sleeping Bear is promoting with author signings in Louisiana and St. Louis.
Do you remember the Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams back in the 1960s and '70s? Well, Deacon Jones was the star of the unit as he terrorized quarterbacks from his defensive end position. Jones is a man of opinions ("Show me a person with no scars; I'll show you somebody who never tried"), and he has collected them in The Book of Deacon: The Wit and Wisdom of Deacon Jones written with John Klawitter, just out from Seven Locks Press. For more Sunday morning preachings from the Deacon, tune in to the Sunday Morning Fox Pre-Game Show.
And finally, there's a novel about pro football called SuperFan by Lyn A. Sherwood from Acme (Sept.). If nothing else, SuperFan contains the best and the most honest blurb ever put on a book jacket: " 'Mr. Unitas will be happy to comment on your book provided you pay him to do so.'--Spokesperson for Johnny Unitas."
Baseball Nostalgia When We Need It Most
You can always count on baseball to pick up the nation's spirits. Three years ago, reeling from strikes that almost ruined the game, baseball was rescued by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's run for the home-run record. And Barry Bonds came through in like fashion this year, lifting the spirits of baseball fans everywhere when he broke the record with number 73 on the last weekend of the season.
Last spring, PW reported on many upcoming baseball titles, and two of them became New York Times bestsellers: Zim: A Baseball Life by Yankee coach Don Zimmer with Bill Madden (Total Sports), and When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It! by Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan (Hyperion).
Similar to these two this season is Triumph's Few and Chosen: Defining Yankee Greatness Across the Eras by Whitey Ford with Phil Pepe, foreword by Yogi Berra (Sept.), which Triumph is very enthusiastic about. In Few and Chosen, Ford picks the top five Yankees at each position. "The Whitey Ford book is the maybe the best meaty baseball book this fall," says Triumph's Tom Bast. "Whitey is one of the great names, not only from the storied past of the New York Yankees but from the golden age of baseball. When the opportunity presented itself to do a book with him, we naturally jumped all over it." Triumph plans a 60,000 first printing and major promotion.
Bill James has been called a baseball visionary--and he's been also called a lot of less complimentary things--but whatever you have to say about him, he is sure to get your attention. After an absence of four years, he's back with The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract from the Free Press (Oct.). What's different about this new tome? "Two things," replies the author. "First, I have a new statistical method called Win Shares, which essentially measures the games 'won' by each player each season. Second, I used the Win Shares method to make lists of the 100 top players at each position in baseball history, and there are comments about all of those players. That's why the book is so large--there are comments on 900 players."
As the undisputed king of statistics, James knows a thing or two about why Americans are so obsessed with the numbers game. "All human beings," James says, "from the moment we are born, are engaged in a relentless battle to make sense of the universe in which we find ourselves. This is why superstitions are so pervasive, why 'psychics' are able to make a fortune pretending they can foresee the future. The universe is so confusing that anything that makes a claim to explain it has an audience. Baseball statistics are hypnotic because they portray an ordered universe--thus, a universe that we can, if we work hard enough, figure out."
If you think James is too easy with statistics, then try Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game by Jim Albert and Jay Bennett from Copernicus Press this past summer. According to PW's own review, Curve Ball "has 273 scary-looking charts and tables" that the stat-obsessed fan will crave.
For absolute bang for your buck, look no further than DK's Baseball: A Celebration! by Jim Buckley and Jim Gigliotti, an absolutely beautiful 640-page book this month, with something for everyone--the Gashouse Gang, Willie making "The Catch" in the 1954 World Series and even a poignant, rare photo of Lou Gehrig laid out in death, surrounded by little kids mourning him. A bargain at $50.
And with our recent national tragedy, it may have been missed that this October was the 50th anniversary of Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World," his famous home run that beat the Dodgers in the 1951 playoffs. Sports Publishing has 1951: When Giants Played the Game by Kerry Keene. This book is not only a close look at the 1951 New York Giants, but also a history of the season in both leagues: Joe DiMaggio's final year, Bill Veeck's midget and the advent of Mays and Mantle. Simply a great read about yesteryear.
Well-known pasta maven and ex-Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda switches recipes with Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul. This title, from HCI, hits the ground running this month with a 500,000 first printing.
The Year of the Tiger
Just how important is Tiger Woods to golf publishing?
"I'm not sure I'd restrict a discussion of the impact of Tiger Woods to golf publishing," says Jeff Neuman, v-p, director of sports books, Simon & Schuster. "Tiger is the most compelling figure in the entire sports landscape, and books dealing with him have to be viewed more as sports celebrity publishing than golf publishing. So I'd say a book about Tiger Woods is no more a golf book than a book about Michael Jordan was a basketball book a decade ago."
"By last count," says Woods's editor at Warner, Rick Wolff, "there were more than 75 titles on Amazon that, in one way or another, were about Tiger Woods. To that end, we feel that his own fully authorized instructional book on how he plays golf will be the most anticipated golf book of the year." And that book, How I Play Golf, is the talk of the publishing industry because of its 1.5-million-copy first printing this month, which has raised a few eyebrows. Not a problem, says Wolff: "The book has been so well received by the accounts that they were fearful that they wouldn't be able to get enough reprint copies in time for Christmas." Warner is planning major publicity and promotion through the holidays. "It's really a gorgeous book," adds Wolff, "and, of course, all in Tiger's voice."
Simon & Schuster is also on the Tiger trail with October's The Chosen One: Tiger Woods and the Dilemma of Greatness by David Owen. "This book grew out of Owen's thoughtful essay on Tiger in last summer's New Yorker sports issue," says Neuman. "Owen is an uncommonly graceful writer, and the issues raised by Tiger's dominance of the game are intriguing ones--and Owen's the right writer to take a close look at them." S&S will also take a unique promotional stance on The Chosen One. "We're treating the book less as a golf book," says Neuman, "than as a literate and thoughtful essay on a great athlete's sociological impact, and are looking to review attention and some of the more long-form talk shows to carry it forward."
Perhaps one of the favorite gifts for the holiday season is the coffee-table-sized golf book. What's the secret to publishing successful coffee-table golf titles? "It has to be very original," says I. Martin Davis, editor and publisher of the American Golfer, who has published such hefty tomes as The Hogan Mystique, The World Golf Hall of Game and Byron Nelson: The Story of Golf's Finest Gentleman and the Greatest Winning Streak in History. "It just can't really rehash something that's been done already. It has to include really extensive photo research and extensive historical research to put it in historical context."
Brian Lewis, publisher of Sleeping Bear Press, says he's been very successful with coffee-table books about the various golf courses around the world. "The best ones have been on Augusta, St. Andrews and Pebble Beach, and three recent ones, The Life and Courses of Dr. Alister MacKenzie and Discovering Donald Ross, and a stunning book of art, The Art of Golf Design, which has very strong preorders for this fall."
Both Davis and Lewis agree on one thing for coffee-table books: quality. Davis stresses the necessity of using four- and five-color process even for black-and-white photos and using the highest quality paper--just as the very high-end art books do. "We're not showing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel," Green concedes, "but to me and my readers it might as well be. I want to create the 'Holy Mackerel Factor.' I want them to say, 'Holy Mackerel, I want to buy this.' I really want it to jump out, so what's important to us is that visual effect."
"You have to have a strong production department," says Lewis, "and we have worked to build that group. You also need an editor who knows the topic to work with them and gather the proper material. There is a small list of topics that merit this effort."
One of the most beautiful books for the holiday season is The Scrapbook of Old Tom Morris by David Joy from Sleeping Bear (Sept.). Tom Morris was golf's first superstar, dating back to the 1880s. The book has a padded cover and is shrink-wrapped. "Prince Andrew," says Lewis excitedly, "literally demanded to see a copy from the author when it was in manuscript form and loved it. He stayed up all night to read it, so how can you go wrong with royalty?"