Publishing likes to congratulate itself when it breaks news—most recently, Simon & Schuster and the Free Press were hailed for the publication of James Risen's revelations of the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping policy—and understandably. In today's media-immediate culture, it's tough to beat anyone to a scoop if you have to do it in a format and medium that takes many months to bring from author to reader. It's a rare feat. But in the world of American sports, it is the book publishing industry that has made the major play in the last year, with two explosive stories about professional athletes' use of steroids, stories that may have long-lasting effects on the entire world of competitive sport, but certainly so on America's grand pastime.
It was just last year when José Canseco's Juiced(Regan Books) launched with a 60 Minutesinterview and immediately created a firestorm of controversy about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Canseco named names and pointed fingers and swaggered guiltlessly about his own use. Congress stepped in and held circus-like hearings, featuring legendary ball players in various modes of denial, which ultimately led to Major League Baseball and the Players Union agreeing to a new drug-testing policy. Canseco, though originally vilified for tattling on other players, was gradually vindicated, and his book went on to sell more than 250,000 copies in hardcover (a paperback has just been released by Regan). Now, another book, this one by two San Francisco Chroniclejournalists, promises to have an equally incendiary effect on the sport. And thought it is first out of the gate this spring, it is not the only book dealing with the steroids issue, which is not going away.
At the moment, no edition of Sports Centergoes by without some reference to the revelations coming in Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports,written by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, and published byGotham Books. Excerpted in Sports Illustrated last week, the book claims that Bonds took a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs for at least five years, a regimen that has gotten him within six home runs of Babe Ruth and within striking distance of all-time home run champ Henry Aaron's 755. Like Bonds and his steroid use, the publication of Game of Shadowshas been cloaked in mystery. The book was embargoed—as was Canseco's Juiced—and Gotham has been extraordinarily tight-lipped. What gives this book such authority are its authors. Fainaru-Wada and Williams were the first to report on the secret BALCO grand jury testimony of both Bonds and Yankee first-baseman Jason Giambi. They also have intimate knowledge of Victor Conte—Bonds's and Giambi's steroid guru—and have covered his BALCO guilty plea, which led him to being incarcerated for federal drug offenses. The question now about Game of Shadows is what else it may reveal. The cover, showing Bonds and Giambi side-by-side in a 2002 interleague game, may offer a hint. Giambi, who, under threat of perjury, admitted to the BALCO jury that he had indeed used steroids (as revealed, again, by Fainaru-Wada and Williams), is sure to be part of the story. "Jason is an important character in the book," confirms Williams in the first leak of what might be to come from the book. "He'll be treated fairly and accurately in the book." The big question remains: What other major league stars make the Game of Shadows starting lineup? This is a book whose relevance, like Canseco's, will increase over time.
To maximize the publicity, Gotham has moved the pub date for Game of Shadowsup to March 23 (it was originally slated for May). On that morning, the authors will appear on The Today Show. The book is already in its second printing and has 197,000 copies in print. There will be an all-out, coast-to-coast publicity blitz. "We knew the cover of Sports Illustrated would be big, and it's going according to plan," says Lisa Johnson, v-p/executive director of publicity/marketing for Gotham/Dutton, in the understatement of the spring.
With this new Bonds bombshell there are several titles that suddenly find themselves intimately in the orbit of Game of Shadows.When Bonds announced early in spring training that 2006 might be his last year, HarperCollins pushed Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antiheroby Jeff Pearlman from later in the year to a May 9 pub. "Love him or hate him," says David Hirshey, senior v-p/executive editor at HarperCollins, "everybody holds their breath when he steps up to the plate, and the day he passes Ruth he will get a standing ovation. Needless to say, I think all the surrounding publicity will only fuel readers' curiosity about how he got to this historic moment." According to Hirshey, there are more revelations to come about Bonds: "To view Barry Bonds through the prism of steroids is to miss the whole picture. Obviously Love Me, Hate Me will explore the steroid question—and news will be broken in it—but this is not a steroid book, per se. It's a biography of a fascinating and polarizing man who transcends sports." And it appears that Hirshey is conceding nothing to Game of Shadows: "I'd like to think they're the leadoff hitter and we're batting cleanup." HarperCollins plans a first printing of 100,000 copies and a national publicity push.
Lyons Press just happens to have two books that deal with steroids, supplements and the athlete. In fact, the Bonds controversy has prompted the Lyons sales force to go back and resolicit both titles. "I bought Dunks, Doubles, and Doping: How Steroids Are Killing American Athletics," says Tom McCarthy, Lyons's executive editor, "because author Nathan Jendrick takes the unique approach that under the right circumstances and controls, steroids in and of themselves are not bad"—Canseco's position, incidentally. "It is steroid abuse," according to Jendrick, "that has and is destroying American athletics."
To many athletes, supplements are just as natural as eating their Wheaties in the morning. Muscles, Speed, and Lies: What the Sport Supplement Industry Does Not Want Athletes or Consumers to Knowby David Lightsey, according to McCarthy, has the authority of almost 20 years of research behind it, and an author who is willing to take on a multibillion-dollar nutritional supplements industry. "Lightsey has been debunking the supplement myth for years," says McCarthy. "Consumers and athletes alike have been led to believe that they need these various supplements when in fact if they had a balanced diet, they wouldn't."
To mix a metaphor, the ball is now in Bud Selig's court. The commission must now deal with Barry Bonds. What he'll do, no one knows. The reign of Selig—more blunders than achievements—is minutely examined in In the Best Interests of Baseball?: The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Seligby economist Andrew Zimbalist, just out from Wiley. "The decisions that most closely relates to Bonds," says Stephen S. Power, senior editor at Wiley, "are those pertaining to the slow development of baseball's anti-doping policies." Wiley plans a 25,000-copy first printing and major promotion.
The news is not all bad; some of it is old. If baseball, an organized American sport for well over a century, outflanks all other professional sports in anything, it's nostalgia. Former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent's The Only Game in Town: Baseball Stars of the 1930s and 1940s Talk About the Game They Loved, is a case in point."You asked why this kind of old-fashioned baseball book still attracts an audience?" says Bob Bender, senior editor at Simon & Schuster. "I think it's because the book reads like a conversation with some great old ballplayers reminiscing about the game." Vincent told PW that he was inspired by Laurence S. Ritter's The Glory of Their Times, which was published way back in 1966. "I thought it was magnificent," says Vincent of Ritter's book—a undisputed classic among baseball historians—"and I wondered if anyone was doing anything like that 30 or 40 years later. And they weren't, so I started about eight years ago and I did an oral history project for the Hall of Fame. Then Simon & Schuster suggested that Ritter's book had been very successful and maybe a sequel would be equally successful, so I did it." S&S plans a 35,000-copy first printing and Vincent will do national publicity. They also plan cross-promotion with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), which assists old timers in need.
Even a youngish editor like Geoff Shandler, editor-in-chief of Little Brown, knows the allure of baseball's past. "Fans miss what baseball once was, or what they imagine it once was. There's a romance to the earlier game, and to those earlier era, even if they were in reality fraught with problems." In April Shandler will be publishing Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys, and the 1966 World Series That Stunned Americaby Tom Adelman. It is a story of two teams going in opposite directions: the Baltimore Orioles of Frank and Brooks Robinson, a team about to dominate its league for the next half decade, and the Los Angeles Dodgers of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, a team about to be eclipsed as their old Brooklyn stars finally fade away. Little, Brown plans a 30,000-copy first printing and a national media push, plus local appearances in L.A. and Baltimore.
Since Michael Lewis's bestselling Moneyballthree years ago, the team philosophy/business side of baseball continues to be explored in depth. A book already making headlines is Built to Win: Inside Stories and Leadership Strategies from Baseball's Winningest GM by John Schuerholz with Larry Guest. Schuerholz, the Atlanta Braves' longtime general manager, reveals behind-the-scenes dealings he's had with the likes of Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds and John Rocker that will raise some eyebrows. He also takes on those who worship at the Moneyballaltar. "There's a full chapter about Moneyball," says Rick Wolff, v-p/executive editor at Warner, "in which Schuerholz takes issue with the modern-day trend of evaluating and signing ballplayers simply based on statistics." Warner plans a 60,000-copy first printing and major media with the author starting in spring training.
Moneyball. Built to Win. What's the right baseball philosophy? Well, leave it up to our statistical mavens to try and find an answer, as Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think) by Dayn Perry, tries to do. "This book is meant, in some ways," explains Wiley senior editor Eric Nelson, "to settle the argument between scouts and stat-heads." Wiley has a 20,000-copy initial printing and plans a major broadcast push.
The original stat-head—Bill James—gets his due in a biography of the man and his thinking by Scott Gray. Doubleday's The Mind of Bill James: How a Complete Outsider Changed Baseball, written with James's cooperation, tells how the one-time night watchman earned the moniker "the Sultan of Stats" and a front-office job with the Red Sox.
Embargo. There's that dreaded word again and this time it applies to Feeding the Monster: The True Story of the Making (and Unmaking) of the World Championship Boston Red Soxby Seth Mnookin. Everyone knows about Red Sox GM's Theo Epstein's soap opera off-season: Fired! Angst in Red Sox Nation. Rehired: Theo Redux! Well, S&S has the story, and they are keeping it close to their vests. "We decided to embargo the book," says editor Bob Bender, "because it contains some revelations about the Red Sox that we want to keep under wraps until books are in the stores." S&S will go out with a first printing of 100,000 copies and plans national publicity, including a radio satellite tour.