The best part of being a baseball writer isn’t writing. It’s listening.
Any day I want, I can go to any ballpark, walk into the clubhouse, and talk with superstar and scrub alike about the games, the personalities, and the moments that all of us love to relive. Not just fans and writers. I’ve found that even though players are out there on the field performing, a part of themlike Tom Sawyeris up in the balcony watching, appreciating the small role they’re playing in the timeline of this wonderful sport. Listen carefully and you’ll hear that they’re fans, too.
This book is designed to let you pull up a chair with us and with every turn of the page listen in as some of baseball’s greatest names recall their most personal memories. You’ll hear Ernie Banks describe the first time he was moved to say, Let’s play two!” Roger Clemens remembers how he beat a traffic jam to strike out 20 Seattle Mariners one night in 1986. Gaylord Perry takes us back to the first game he won with a spitball, and Derek Jeter remembers the moment he realized he wanted to be a big-league ballplayer. How did Cal Ripken feel when he was just a struggling rookie? What was going through Bobby Thomson’s mind before he hit the Shot Heard ’Round the World? What was it like for Terry Francona to be Michael Jordan’s baseball manager?
Some of the best memories are from nonplayers Kevin Costner describes the making of Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, and Charles Schulz, the late Peanuts cartoonist, shares why poor ol’ Charlie Brown keeps losing games 400. George H.W. Bush takes us back to the day he shook hands with Babe Ruth. Every one of these vignettes comes from a personal interview with meexcept a few, from long-deceased players, which come straight from old, long-forgotten articles I unearthed. Babe Ruth on his first home run as a 6-year-old? Casey Stengel on his first day in the big leagues? Those are simply too much fun to leave out.
From Yogi Berra to Curt Schilling, Nolan Ryan to Pedro Martinez, you should feel as if you’re right there with me, listening to one great baseball storyteller after another. It’s one big Ozzie Smith backflip. Speaking of which, turn to page 132.
Alan Schwarz New York City, December 2006
Copyright © 2007 by Alan Schwarz. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.