A Baseball 100 Update!
It has been a little while since I’ve given you all an update on The Baseball 100 — today seems like a good day for that as we await Game 6 of the World Series.
First of all, the success of The Baseball 100 has been utterly beyond belief. I know I’ve said that sort of thing before, but it really is quite mind-blowing. I was interviewed for a story last year about the death of sports books*, and it was a pretty painful thing for a sports author to talk about.
*Not sportsbooks — which are doing better than ever — but books about sports.
But, I had to admit then and also admit now that it’s mostly true: Many of the big publishers have lost faith in the commercial appeal of sports books unless they’re authored by big stars or backed by a major media entity like ESPN. And it’s hard to say that they’re wrong. Best I can tell, the only sports books to make the New York Times bestseller list this year were:
— It’s Better to be Feared (No. 10), by my friend Seth Wickersham; an inside account of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady New England Patriots. The Patriots seem to be the one sports topic that defies publishing gravity; last year’s The Dynasty by Jeff Bennett also made an appearance on the list.
— Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised (No. 7), an autobiography by Carmelo Anthony.
— All In (two weeks on the list, debuted at No. 5), an autobiography by Billie Jean King.
— Giannis (No. 3), a biography of Giannis Antetokounmpo, coming off Milwaukee’s NBA title.
That’s all of them. Four. There have been more books about math on the bestseller list. Well, yes, of course, it’s actually five, because to those four you can add the absurd 870-page baseball book that I wrote, which spent two weeks on the list.
I think you can see how stacked the odds were against any of this happening.
I do get asked pretty often how this is happening … and I guess my best answer is, well, you. It’s not like this book has gotten a ton of media exposure. It hasn’t. Thus far, there has been no New York Times review, no Washington Post review, no Los Angeles Times review. I have barely done any national media, radio or television. I would say that compared to some of my other books, I haven’t even done that much talk radio. This has been, by far, my shortest and least comprehensive book tour.
But … it’s absolutely incredible how many of you seem to have made it your personal mission to not only buy The Baseball 100 but to tell everybody you know to buy it. It really has been that way from the start. I apologize if I’ve told this story here already, but George Will wrote the introduction to the book. I don’t know George Will. I have never met him. But while I was writing the basis for this book at The Athletic, he wrote to me SEVERAL TIMES demanding that I turn it into a book.
And, that has been the theme … so many of you pushed me to turn The Baseball 100 into a book, so many of you proselytized for it, so many of you hit social media to tell everybody you could about how much you loved it. When I tell you that it has been mind-blowing … well, it really has been. The reviews have been breathtaking — starred reviews by Publisher’s Weekly, Bookpage and Kirkus, among others*. There have been some people who, again, I don’t really know — like CBS’ Tony Dokoupil and NPR’s Scott Simon — who have taken it as their personal mission to get the word out.
And here we are with something of a publishing phenomenon. The Baseball 100 is in its FOURTH printing already. I’m told that while stock had briefly run out in some places, it should be available everywhere now (for your holiday needs!).
I am hoping to add some live events over the next few weeks … I don’t know how possible that will be with COVID, but we’re working on it. In the meantime, I can tell you that I will be in Kansas City* next week as part of Buck O’Neil’s 110th birthday bash. I’ll be doing a couple of events there as I understand it, but this one will be particularly fun — Bob Kendrick and I are going to be at the museum on Buck’s actual birthday, Saturday, Nov. 13 at 11 a.m., to tell a few Buck stories and go wherever the mood takes us.
*I am also planning on being in St. Louis next week to work on a story about, yes, you guessed it, chess. I’m not sure if I can pull off a Baseball 100 event but I’ll certainly try.
Let me finish up this way: I got an email the other day from someone who said that she had been a big baseball fan as a young woman but had not even watched a World Series game in years. This year, someone gave her a copy of The Baseball 100, and she devoured it (her verb) in just a couple of days. And she said it utterly rekindled her love of the game.
I’ve heard that sort of thing from so many people … and I can’t begin to describe how good that makes me feel.
But my favorite part of her note was that it came AFTER she had watched all four hours and six minutes of World Series Game 1, which, I think most of us can agree, wasn’t exactly stellar baseball.
“I’m still excited about baseball,” she wrote. “But by the end of this Series, I might need The Baseball 200.”