Slouching Toward Fargo: A Two-Year Saga of Sinners and St. Paul Saints at the Bottom of the Bush Leagues with Bill Murray, Darryl Strawberry,

Neal Karlen, Author Avon Books $23 (362p) ISBN 978-0-380-97484-9
Freelance writer Karlen tells the antic story of how, in order to get back in the good graces of his former boss, Rolling Stone founder Jan Wenner, he agreed to spend a season covering the minor league St. Paul Saints. ""Wenner made it clear to my beleaguered editor what he wanted done if I wanted back into Rolling Stone after a long stint as a prodigal: Bill Murray, a co-owner of the St. Paul Saints, and Darryl Strawberry, he of the notable rap sheet, had to be carved."" But though he set out with the intention to write a hatchet job, Karlen was won over by Murray (who was hiding from fame), Strawberry (who was on his way back to the majors after drug and tax problems) and the Saints. His book is about how baseball can redeem the human spirit. In fact, just about everyone associated with the team--from owner Mike Veeck (son of the legendary baseball owner and showman Bill Veeck) to the author himself--finds redemption. Karlen documents numerous team subplots (the travails of famous has-beens and anonymous hopefuls), comes across high-profile stories (e.g., those of former pro pitcher Jack Morris and Ila Borders, the first professional female pitcher) and re-creates a host of colorful characters, some charming (minor league fans), some despicable (TV and magazine people from the big cities). Readers not acquainted with the independent leagues will appreciate the portrayal of life on baseball's back roads. Unfortunately, Karlen reveals his own redemption within the first few pages, rendering later personal epiphanies anticlimactic. Plenty of rich anecdotes shine through the moralizing, but Karlen's entertaining book would have been even better had he trusted readers to draw their own conclusions about the beauty of baseball. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-380-79215-3
Paperback - 362 pages - 978-0-87351-951-9
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