There is a new sports season neatly tucked in between the Super Bowl and spring training. It should be called the Steroid Season, in which revelations about performance-enhancing drug use dominate the sports pages, and talk of HGH and Primobolan drowns out talk of RBIs and “potential.” In recent seasons, much of the steroid news has been driven by books, which, as in politics, have proven to be central to the national conversation. Jose Canseco's Juiced was the story in '05 and prompted a congressional inquiry; Game of Shadows, an exposé by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, was 2006's talk of the spring and prompted the George Mitchell investigation, coverage of which dominated 2007's steroid talk. Last spring, there was little book action, but events began to unfold—namely, Roger Clemens filing suit against a former trainer who claimed he had injected the Rocket with HGH—that promise to lead to this spring's fireworks, or so we think. Getting publishers to talk about what's in store is like trying to get the straight dope from a bulked-up player in suit and tie facing a forest of microphones.
Did I mention A-Rod? With Super Bowl XLIII only a week past, Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez was unmasked as a user by Selena Roberts in an article in Sports Illustrated. The New York tabloids went wild: A-Rod was now “A-Fraud” and “A-Roid.” Rodriguez offered himself up at a news conference in Tampa, which only added to his problems. His mea culpa turned into “mea cousin did it to me,” and he introduced scenarios whose veracity has been questioned.
Rodriguez remains a moving target in a developing story, which suggests that there is more to the story. And Selena Roberts just happens to be working on a Rodriguez book, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, due in April from HarperCollins. One can only imagine that she is still writing.
PW contacted Roberts's editor at HarperCollins, senior v-p/executive editor David Hirshey. Hirshey, who in the past has waxed poetic about his baseball books (he published Jane Leavy's much admired biography of Sandy Koufax), was more reticent about what might be in Roberts's book. “Alex Rodriguez is universally regarded as the best player in baseball and his life off the field is often as interesting as his day job,” says Hirshey. “Having followed Selena's work at the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, I pursued her to write the first definitive biography of a complicated superstar. Even though all the media focus has been on her extraordinary steroid reporting in SI, this is a book about the full nine innings of A-Rod's life, not just one major strike against him.” Okay, the book won't only be about steroids and Madonna and women on the road; nonetheless, HarperCollins has embargoed the book. And Hirshey might have let his guard down a little in a recent talk with John Koblin of the New York Observer. “Not everything that Selena has on A-Rod's steroid participation has come out yet.” HarperCollins will back A-Rod with a 200,000-copy first printing and a national tour.
Hirshey may have back-to-back home runs, publishingwise, as he also has on his list Jeff Pearlman's The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality, due in late March. Clemens is presently stuck between his former trainer, Brian McNamee, and a hard place, the Department of Justice, where he is being investigated for possible perjury. Although he has denied any steroid use in the past, Clemens, usually full of bring-it-on hubris, has been keeping a low profile of late. Hirshey says Rocket is not embargoed, but he was only willing to show PW one rather innocuous chapter. Originally scheduled for a mid-June pub date, Rocket has been pushed into March, according to Hirshey, “because of a competing book, if there really is one.” Hirshey has referred to this mysterious other “competing book” more than once, but as of this date, no book, author or publisher has surfaced, though two reporters at the New York Daily News have been extraordinarily active on the Clemens story. Pearlman's Rocket will have a 150,000-copy first printing and national publicity; time will tell if it has the Clemens story to itself.
The high priests of baseball—writers and scholars and teary-eyed sports magnates—often refer to baseball as something timeless and pure. “I need to think something lasts forever,” wrote former commissioner Bart Giamatti, “and it might as well be that state of being that is a game.” But the truth of the matter is that baseball has a long history of cheating that now, perhaps, will find more public acknowledgment, thanks to the encouragement of Messrs. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire et al. From spitballing hurlers and gambling to the allegedly stolen pitch that Bobby Thomson hit out to win the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants and the rampant use of “greenies”—amphetamines—that Jim Bouton detailed in his historic Ball Four, baseball has long been corrupted by men seeking an edge. And now, thanks to Crooked: A History of Cheating in Sports by Fran Zimniuch (Taylor, Apr.), you can look it up.
“Cheating is the rule, rather than the exception, in sports,” says Rick Rinehart, publisher of Taylor Trade Publishing. “To quote from the cycling movie, Breaking Away, 'everybody does it.' ” With chapters on BALCO and the Mitchell Report, baseball's sins are fully explored. Taylor plans a 10,000-copy first printing and national TV/radio exposure.
Another book that deals specifically with the sin du jour —steroid use—is Gladiator: A True Story of 'Roids, Rage, and Redemption by Dan Clark, aka Nitro of the American Gladiators TV show. Clark is a former professional football player (NFL Europe) who “fell into” steroid use. Says Brant Rumble, senior editor at Scribner, “We may never know the whole truth about the countless baseball players whose names have been connected to steroids. However, Clark's unique brand of notoriety—along with his courage and his desire to get a message out to young athletes—allows him to lay bare every detail of his addiction, and it's in those details where readers can hope to make some sense of the steroids scandals that have become all too common.” Scribner plans national publicity for Gladiator.
Yet another marquee ball player is ready to talk about drug use in the clubhouse (and in the nightclub), former Met, Yankee and Dodger Darryl Strawberry. According to Straw: Finding My Way (Ecco, May), about the only controlled substance that Strawberry didn't take was steroids: on Strawberry's self-described menu of mood enhancers were alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, crack and marijuana. “I know that probably nine out of 10 players were taking greenies when I was playing,” says Strawberry in “and I bet nine out of 10 have been taking steroids in recent years.”
“I know writing the book was a painful journey for Darryl,” says Dan Halpern, president/publisher of Ecco. “Straw is a book written by a man capable of writing from the heart—who lived the fool's gold of the American dream before finding the motherlode.” Ecco's first printing will be 125,000 copies, and it plans a media blitz centering on New York, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
The key source in the Mitchell Report, baseball's official investigation of its drug culture, was a former Mets clubhouse employee named Kirk Radomski. In Bases Loaded: The Inside Story of the Steroid Era in Baseball by the Central Figure in the Mitchell Report, out since January and in Amazon's top 40 in both memoirs and baseball, Radomski continues to tell what he knows about steroid use in major league clubhouses. “Kirk gives a lot of detail about how major league baseball, as an industry, looked the other way during the steroids era,” says Meghan Stevenson, associate editor at Hudson Street Press, “because more home runs and better performances were very good for business. In addition to sharing stories about the players Radomski dealt to, Bases Loaded provides a terrific overview of why the steroids era started and how it ended.” Hudson Street Press continues its coast-to-coast publicity efforts throughout spring training.
The Old Ball Game
Regardless of the steroid mess baseball finds itself in today, the idealism expressed by the late Giamatti has an enduring appeal for every true fan, for the game does have a glorious history, punctuated with personalities that have become part of an American pantheon, stretching from Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Publishers, as they do most every spring, bring forth, in biography and autobiography, stories that attempt to convey that excitement and glory of this quintessential American pastime.
Marty Appel has spent his life around baseball, first as PR man for the Yankees, then the head of his own public relations agency and as the author of 17 books. “Biography/autobiography works well for baseball,” says Appel, “because the lives of the subjects touch teammates, teams, eras, controversies—it's not a narrow focus.” This year Appel finds himself not flacking for the sport as much as for his own book, a biography of the late Thurman Munson, in Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, coming from Doubleday in July. Thirty years ago, Appel helped the Yankee captain write his autobiography shortly before Munson died in a plane crash. “I was closer than the sportswriters were,” Appel says of his relationship with the prickly Munson, “which is why he consented to work with me on the autobiography. It was a shame that he had such a contentious relationship with the press, but it played to my advantage in allowing me to be the one to do that first book.” Doubleday will support Munson with a 40,000-copy first printing and major publicity.
The last time Peter Golenbock was featured in PW's pages was when his salacious novel about Mickey Mantle, 7, was in the news. It was scheduled to be published by Judith Regan and, along with the O.J. Simpson book fiasco, ended up costing Regan her job. Now Golenbock is back with a biography of George Steinbrenner, the legendary owner of the Yankees. George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankee Empire, will be published by Wiley in May. “What makes it unique,” says Hana Lane, senior editor at Wiley, “is that since the early 1970s Golenbock has been interviewing those associated with Steinbrenner, including those who knew him as a child, in college, as a young businessman and team owner in Cleveland. The material from those interviews has never been published and provides insight into the evolution of Steinbrenner into the public figure we all know.” Expect massive national publicity to go along with the 40,000-copy first printing.
Ron Darling is well known in New York. He was a starting pitcher on the World Champion 1986 Mets and now serves as an analyst for Mets games on TV, winning an Emmy for his work. He is also a graduate of Yale, and it shines through in his book, The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound, which will be published by Knopf in April. Although the book is about the art of pitching, Darling also weaves in many autobiographical details from his own career. “One of the things I like best about the book is his voice,” says Andrew Miller, senior editor at Knopf. ”That was there from the beginning, and then it was just a question of asking him to develop things more and really bring them to life for people who haven't lived and breathed the game the way he has.” Knopf plans a 35,000-copy printing, and Darling will be making appearances as he travels around the country with the Mets.
One of the great injustices about baseball's long apartheid before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 is that Americans were denied seeing Satchel Paige in his prime. Paige was probably in his 40s when he finally made it out of the Negro Leagues and into the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians. Now there is a definitive biography, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye, which will be published by Random House in June. “I was drawn to the book because it's a great American story, largely forgotten, that encompasses not only the life of perhaps the greatest pitcher who ever pitched, but so much more,” says Will Murphy, executive editor at Random. Publicity will involve national media and tying in with the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As baseball's present remains mired in controversy, its past remains fascinating and, thus far, an endless source of good American story.
It's been 51 years since the New York Giants abandoned the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Dodgers shunned Ebbets Field for the promise of the left coast. The Mets have admirably filled the National League void in New York, but the ghosts of the Giants and Dodgers still lurk around New York, especially when it comes to New York publishing houses.
“Walter O'Malley is one of the most controversial and influential figures of professional sports in history,” says Geoffrey Kloske, v-p/publisher of Riverhead Books, referring to the much vilified Dodger owner who moved the Bums to L. A., “and yet there has never been a portrait of him.” Riverhead is publishing Pulitzer Prize—winner Michael D'Antonio's Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles (Mar.; ISBN 978-1-59448-856-6) with a 50,000-copy first printing. There will be national publicity out of New York and L.A., with help expected from the Dodgers and Peter O'Malley, Walter's son.
After Many a Summer: The Passing of the Giants and Dodgers and a Golden Age in New York Baseball by Robert E. Murphy (June; ISBN 978-1-4027-6068-6) also looks at the baseball exodus. “This book offers a fascinating revisionist history of that '57 season and the years preceding it,” says Iris Blasi, associate editor of Union Square Press, “and of the interactions between [Giants owner] Horace Stoneham, Walter O'Malley and [city planner] Robert Moses.” Union Square plans a 10,000-copy first printing.
Perhaps the most exciting moment in baseball history was the “shot heard 'round the world”—Bobby Thomson's home run in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds, which won the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants. There've been all kinds of speculation over the years about that game, including rumors that the Giants stole the Dodgers' signs, making it easier for Thomson to zone in on the pitch. But whatever happened to the ball that Thomson hit? We may finally learn after 58 years. Crown is publishing Miracle Ball: My Hunt for the Shot Heard 'Round the World by Brian Biegel and Pete Fornatale (May; ISBN 978-0-307-45268-9).
“The miracle is not in finding the ball,” says Brett Valley, editor at Crown, “but that the quest for finding the missing ball led Brian Biegel to his own self-discovery. Along the way, it's a fascinating look at the world of baseball and a page-turning mystery about the greatest unsolved mysteries in sports.” Crown will support with major publicity, including a 20-city radio satellite tour.
More baseball titles coming this spring.
It Was Never About the Babe: The Red Sox, Racism, Mismanagement, and theCurse of the Bambino by Jerry M. Gutlon (Skyhorse, Mar.; ISBN 978-1-60239-349-3)
The story of the franchise that had no room for Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
15,000-copy first printing; heavy spring training promo
Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself by Michael Shapiro (Times, May; ISBN 978-0-8050-8247-0)
How Bill Mazeroski's homerun, Casey Stengel genius, and Branch Rickey's Continental League all intertwined in 1960
50,000-copy first printing; major publicity
Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2009 (Baseball America, Feb.; ISBN 978-1-932391-24-4)
The best guide for the baseball fanatic who likes to keep an eye on his favorite team's farm system.
40,000-copy first printing
Yankee Colors: The Glory Years of the Mantle Era by Al Silverman, photos by Marvin E. Newman (Abrams, Mar.; ISBN 978-0-8109-9638-0)
A beautiful coffee-table book featuring vintage Yankee photos of the 1950s and '60s.
25,000-copy first printing
Splitters, Squeezes, and Steals: The Inside Story of Baseball's Greatest Techniques, Strategies, and Plays by Derek Gentile (Black Dog & Leventhal, Mar.; ISBN 978-1-57912-788-6)
“An original, inside look at all the plays, moves, and strategies that make baseball the great game it is today.”—Becky Koh, senior editor
15,000-first printing; author radio interviews
The Baseball Hall of Fame: The Definitive Guide to the Cooperstown Experience by Bert Randolph Sugar (Running Press, Apr.; ISBN 978-0-7624-3024-6)
“We took the opportunity to be the first publisher to market a book featuring photographs of the newly redesigned Hall of Fame.”—Greg Jones, editorial director
17,500-copy first printing; national media
High-Flying Birds: The 1942 St. Louis Cardinals by Jerome M. Mileur (Univ. of Missouri, Mar.; ISBN 978-0-8262-1834-6)
The Cardinals of the 1940s are the forgotten dynasty. They played in the World Series in 1942, '43, '44 and '46, winning three of four Series.
The Corporal Was a Pitcher: The Courage of Lou Brissie by Ira Berkow (Triumph, Feb.; ISBN 978-1-60078-104-9)
The inspiring story of Brissie, who was wounded during World War II.
20,000-copy first printing; author publicity
Red and Me: My Coach, My Life-Long Friend by Bill Russell with Alan Steinberg (Collins, May; ISBN 978-0-06-176614-5)
The Hall of Fame Celtic center remembers Red Auerbach.
250,000-copy first printing; 4-city national media tour
When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis (Times, Mar; ISBN 978-0-8050-8810-6)
The history behind March Madness.
75,000-copy first printing; author interviews; serial rights to Basketball Times and SI.com
A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts (HarperCollins, Apr.; ISBN 978-0-06-179164-2)
The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality by Jeff Pearlman (HarperCollins, Mar.; ISBN 978-0-06-172475-6)
Crooked: A History of Cheating in Sports by Fran Zimniuch (Taylor Trade, Apr.; ISBN 978-1-58979-385-9); see review, p. 36, this issue.
Gladiator: A True Story of 'Roids, Rage, and Redemption by Dan Clark (Scribner (Scribner, Feb.; ISBN 978-1-4165-9732-2)
Straw: Finding My Way by Darryl Strawberry (Ecco, May; ISBN 978-0-06-170420-8); see review, p. 36, this issue.
Bases Loaded: The Inside Story of the Steroid Era in Baseball by the Central Figure in the Mitchell Report by Kirk Radomski (Penguin/Hudson Street, Jan.; ISBN 978-1-59463-056-9)
Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain by Marty Appel (Doubleday, July; ISBN 978-0-385-52231-1)
George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankee Empire by Peter Golenbock (Wiley, May; ISBN 978-0-470-39219-5)
The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound by Ron Darling (Knopf, Apr.; ISBN 978-0-307-26984-3)
Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye (Random House, June; ISBN 978-1-4000-6651-3)