Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shoeless Joe on film -- as a spectator?


As a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, I am on a couple of researcher lists. A post today especially caught my interest, because of my research of Red Faber and other members of the Chicago White Sox before, during and after the Black Sox scandal.

Some folks are waging a campaign to get John Wesley Donaldson, an early 20th century pitcher barred from the big leagues because of the color of his skin, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A web site promoting Donaldson has some extremely rare film footage of the star in action, most likely in one of the hundreds of barnstorming contests in which he appeared.

The camera pans to show spectators. Wait! Look closely at the group appearing at 25 seconds on the timer. Who is that man whose straw hat is partially obscured by a foot in the foreground? Could it be Joe Jackson, the virtually shoo-in for the Hall of Fame who wound up banned from organized baseball because of the Black Sox scandal? Some researchers think it is a possibility.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Researching Red's teammate and friend

A few weeks and a few hundred newspaper articles later, I am confident that Ray Schalk will be a viable subject for a full biography. Schalk and Red Faber were long-time teammates and, subsequently, lifelong friends.

Though much of my free time the past four years has involved Faber, I can say with some confidence that Schalk was a better catcher than Faber was a pitcher. Both outstanding. Both Hall of Famers. But I found no newspaper articles from the first quarter of the 20th century, quoting baseball experts, that described Faber as the best player anywhere in his position. Many did say just that about Schalk.

My opinion about Schalk was reinforced by the acquisitions editor at McFarland & Co., which published my Faber biography. He thinks Schalk would be a "terrific" subject for a biography.

I hope that we're both right.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Second printing

My biography of the late baseball star Red Faber isn't hitting the Best Seller list, but it is going into a second printing.

I learned today from my publisher, McFarland & Co., that the book is temporarily "out of stock."
The folks at the publishing house in Jefferson, N.C., hope to have more copies printed yet this month.

While I am encouraged that book sales apparently exceeded the publisher's (low?) expectations, I hope folks who want books as Christmas gifts will be able to get them.

The Dubuque retail outlet for the biography, River Lights Book Store, ordered more books late last week. Hopefully, its order was shipped before the "out of stock" sign went up. The Tri-County Historical Society and I have served as "interim supplier" until River Lights' next shipment arrives.

Tonight, I dropped off another half-dozen books to River Lights. As I entered the store, a customer asked the clerk about the whereabouts of the Faber book. She was a little startled to have the author step forward, pull a copy from his grocery bag and offer to autograph it. Before I left, another customer asked me to sign two copies.

So far, we have been able to arrange supply to meet demand. But we're all crossing our fingers for UPS or FedEx to deliver River Lights' order on Thursday.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Great turnout at Carnegie-Stout

More than 50 people attended my presentation Thursday night on the late Dubuque County Baseball star Red Faber. The program was presented at Carnegie-Stout Public Library.

Thanks to all who turned out and added to the evening with some interesting and challenging questions!

I have no further public appearances in the tri-state area confirmed, but I have had some communication with possible hosts.

Meanwhile, I get calls about where the book may be purchased. In Dubuque County, your best bets are River Lights Bookstore, Wacker Plaza in Dubuque (immediately east of Kennedy Mall, and south of Shopko); and the Cascade Pioneer office (on behalf of the Tri-County Historical Society).

Thursday night, I was asked whether I had heard from Red's son about the book. Then, the answer was no (except for the phone call that the book had arrived). Urban II phoned on Friday and said he is in the chapter detailing his father's 1915 season. (His reading was delayed by some health problems.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Red and the Iron Horse

I have appearances at Carnegie-Stout Public Library the next two Thursdays.

At 7 p.m. Dec. 7, I will give a 30- to 40-minute slide presentation on Red Faber's life. Afterwards, for folks who are interested, there will be a sale (thanks, River Lights) and autograph session for my new Red Faber biography.

At 6 p.m. Dec. 14, I am the "host' for the Dubuque Film Society showing of the classic baseball movie, "Pride of the Yankees," the Lou Gehrig story. My duties are to introduce the award-winning movie and, after the showing, moderate a brief discussion among audience members. Popcorn and refreshments are free, courtesy of the library foundation. In preparation, I watched the movie over the weekend. Because the careers of Gehrig (1923-39) and Faber (1914-33) overlapped, I checked into how many home runs the Iron Horse hit against Red. The answer: Four. When? July 13, 1925; May 6, 1928; May 4, 1929 (one of three homers Gehrig hit that day); and July 14, 1930.

It's an interesting movie. Hope to see you the next two Thursdays.