A new project? What?
The Baseball 100 is done.
The unsinkable Kaci Borowski, who edited the Baseball 100, came up with some numbers, For starters, it was 285,000 or so words. You might remember that my thought at the beginning was that when it was finished, this thing might be as long as Moby Dick. It ended up being about 80,000 words longer than Moby Dick.
It was basically Moby Dick plus Frankenstein.
Which actually speaks to the plot of the Baseball 100 as well as the length.
She also points out that there were more than 35,000 comments and millions upon millions of readers, and we did it all in 117 days and … I’m not going to lie to you, it was a blur. I look back at some of the player’s essays now and think, “Who wrote that? Johnny Mize? I wrote about Johnny Mize?”
It was as exhausting a writing project as I’ve ever been involved in, and those of you who have been with the blog for a long time will know I’ve taken on some doozies before.
But here’s the point: I’m so proud. Sure, I’m proud of the work. But more than that, I’m proud that it means something to people. I can’t even tell you how many people I have heard from over the last few weeks, people who wanted to tell me how they shared the Baseball 100 with their parents, children, friends they have lost touch with, loved ones who are overseas, and so on.
Even more, I hear from those who tell me how the Baseball 100 was something that brightened their day in these trying times. I can’t even begin to tell you how humbled that makes me feel. They thank me when, honestly, all I want to do is thank them. Nothing as a writer is more fulfilling and wonderful than hearing that the stuff you do means something to people.
So, anyway, it’s done now. And, sure, this is the time when I should be, well, sleeping, relaxing, maybe taking a little time off — the good folks at The Athletic have asked me (ordered me?) to do that.
But, again, those of you who have been around for a while know that I’m just not capable of that.
So … yeah, I’m in the process of developing a whole new writing project.
I go back and forth about how much I should say about it, not because I want to keep it a secret but because I’m still not entirely sure what it’s going to be. If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said one thing. Today’s it’s something very different. I don’t think it will change again tomorrow but … who really knows?
Here’s what I can tell you. It will be another baseball series. I did think very hard about jumping to a different sport — tennis was on my mind, football too, basketball, I even thought about going all in and trying a hockey series. But I’ll save all that for later. With Opening Day still a foggy dream, I want to keep writing baseball until we HAVE baseball.
And I think it will be a countdown, this time from 50 down. But the main point is that it’s going to be a little bit weird and goofy and quirky — more than the Baseball 100. I’m thinking it might spark some arguments, sure, but more I’m hoping it will be a daily surprise. I’ll tell you all about it next week after I’ve worked out all the details.
As for the Baseball 100 book — I believe it’s going to happen. I don’t know how exactly. As is, it’s so long that it would be hard to put into one volume, especially with photos and such. Plus, if I write it as a book I would want to give you stuff you haven’t read before. But now that it’s done, I’ll definitely figure it out. Thank you for asking. If every person who asked me about turning it into a book buys one, it should be a bestseller. And that’s just such an awesome thing. Thank you.
OK, this would normally be where I would tell you a little bit about what our family did last week. But instead, if you don’t mind, I’d like to make two requests with the promise that next week I’ll definitely catch you up on family — especially because it looks like this weekend, Elizabeth might cut my hair.
The first request is definitely a tough one. There are so many people in need today. We all know that. It’s overwhelming. We are, like everyone we know, trying to do all we can. But it feels like you can never quite do enough. For example, Margo is making masks for hospitals and organizations. She’s quite good at it (even if it’s getting harder to find the necessary materials, particularly elastic). She has been basically using all the fabric she has lying around — I had no idea how much fabric she had lying around. The masks are quite amazing.
In any case, I don’t know how many masks she has made so far, I only know that she works on it all day pretty much every day and we’ve dropped off a bunch for a hospital and another two bunches for a pediatric clinic and so on. But even that can feel a bit demoralizing because for every organization she helps, five more need masks, ten more need masks, you just can’t keep up.
And you have to remind yourself that it’s not about keeping up. The idea is to just keep doing what you can, right?
Which leads to this: My favorite bookstore in the world, Rainy Day Books is in trouble. This is true of millions of businesses around the country, including many around the corner from you. I realize that. There is no way to keep up. But I do want to tell you about Rainy Day Books because it is such a special place to me.
When I moved to Kansas City back in the mid-1990s, I knew nothing at all about the city. I did two things to learn about Kansas City. Well, actually, three things because I read Calvin Trillin’s books, and Kansas City lives deep in all of them.
But the two main things were: I went to the Kansas City Star library — the morgue, newspaper people call it — and I read old newspapers until the whir of microfilm made me nauseous.
And two, I went to Rainy Day Books.
I love bookstores. So many people do. Rainy Day is the perfect little bookstore. It doesn’t look like much. It’s just a brick building with big glass windows. It’s a small and warm place tucked on the corner of a little strip mall. And it’s this sort of place: When you walk in, someone will always approach you and ask to help. But here’s the thing, they’re not trying to help you find a good book to read.
No, they’re trying to help you find the PERFECT book to read, the one that will change your life.
Everything in Rainy Day Books is geared toward that goal. The books are shelved for browsing, not for order. You walk about looking around and you find, to your constant amazement, that the books have been lovingly ordered so that one leads to another leads to another. There are recommendation cards everywhere, but if you start reading one the person who wrote it will almost certainly rush over and say, “Oh my gosh, you will LOVE this book.”
In fact, once you’ve been to Rainy Day Books a couple of times, they know your name, and the instant you walk in someone will shout out, “Oh my gosh, it’s so great that you’re here because we just got this new book that immediately made me think of you!”
And then there are the author events. Rainy Day brings 250 or more authors to Kansas City every year. Big authors. Small authors. New authors. Celebrities. I don’t know how they get them all — well I do know. Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren, who own Rainy Day, are relentless. They put on amazing events. If you are an author, you will insist on stopping at Rainy Day Books because Vivien and Roger are that special.
Margo and I probably saw 100 different author events while we were in town, and they are some of our favorite memories.
So I’m someone who loves Rainy Day as a reader AND as an author. I have done a dozen events with them probably, as an author or an interviewer. Vivien and Roger have been two of the most important people in the world for me personally and my for my career as an author. They stood by every book I’ve written, helped me every step along the way, encouraged me at all times. I love them very much.
And, even more, I believe they are part of what makes Kansas City special, part of what makes independent bookstores special, part of what makes being an author special.
And now, they need help. You can click that link to see the details.
I know that we are all stretched thin. I know that there are so many life-altering causes in need and we can’t get to everybody. But I did want you to know about Rainy Day. If they have touched your life in some way or if you just believe in the power of a little bookstore, I know they would appreciate anything you can do.
Thanks for listening.
This next one is easier. No money at all.
It has been a while since I’ve mentioned our project, Passions in America. This is because we have spent a lot of time working with different people, different companies, trying some things — some which have worked and others which have not. We are still in love with the project. The idea is simple: We want to tell the stories of people and their passions, hobbies, collections, obsessions and so on.
Why? Well, we think it’s a big and untold story. As Americans — and this was true before the pandemic — we largely embraced Life and Liberty but had some trouble getting to the pursuit of happiness, which is supposed to be at the heart of things. We have heard the same thing over and over when asking people about their passions. Who has the time? Who has the money? Who has the energy?
And obviously we get that. But we also know — from talking to so many people, so many doctors, so many psychologists, so many social scientists — that spending time doing something you love even for a few minutes is so important for health, your mental well-being, your life balance and so on.
And we’ve talked to so many people with these wonderful hobbies from doing puzzles to gardening to singing karaoke to tinkering with old cars to woodworking to building with Legos to writing song lyrics to … well it’s an infinite list. And when you hear the way they talk about what these things mean to them, well, it’s so inspiring. That’s why we started this project. It’s so inspiring. And it give you an insight into people like nothing else.
Well, obviously, the world is in a different place now. The pandemic has changed the way we all live. It’s hard to think about engaging in your passions when you are deeply worried, deeply stressed, feeling frightened about everything from health to jobs to family.
But then we hear from people who are still finding a way to engage in their passions. Maybe you’re one of those people. Maybe you’re friends with one of those people. And this is the favor I ask: Will you tell us your story? How are you getting through all this? For me, I think I mentioned, I got a ping pong table for my birthday and it has been sanity-saving. Every day, at least once but usually two or three times, I’ll play some ping pong with my youngest daughter. I’ll probably play a game as soon as this is done.
And you? How are you coping? How are your friends coping? Learning to cook Indian food? Trying to read all the Stephen King books? Replaying the entire 1964 season on Strat-o-Matic? Cleaning out your garage? Trying different coffees? Here’s my email. I’d love to hear from you.