First, as always, come the apologies: Life has been kicking my butt lately. I don’t need to burden you with my troubles, you have your own. And we’ll pull through. But it’s fair to say that it has been difficult to find the time and mind space over the last few weeks to do much extra writing. I hope you’ve been following along at The Athletic, I have been doing my Cleveland Browns diary there, and I wrote a couple of pieces about The Masters, and yesterday I wrote something about Theo Epstein and how I think he’s the right guy to take baseball into the future.
As always, you should be able to find my Athletic stuff here.
I’ve got a really cool Athletic project coming up that I think you’ll like. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.
First, I wanted to pass along some pretty exciting news: The Baseball 100 is about to become a book. So many of you have asked about that for years, and now it’s going to happen. The great folks at my publishing house, Avid Reader, are going to publish the book in October to coincide with the World Series (and, sure, hopefully in time for you to buy many many copies as Christmas gifts for friends and family). I’m very excited about it, obviously, but particularly for two reasons:
The Baseball 100 will NOT be a coffee table book. No offense to coffee table books, I love them, but the Baseball 100 was meant to READ. I feel like it has some of the best writing that I’ve ever done, and while that might not mean a whole lot in the grand picture, it does mean quite a bit to me, and I would like for the book to be the sort you could take to the beach, take on a train or a plane, read in bed at night. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it will be big — 300,000 words is a lot of words — but my editor and friend Jofie Ferrari-Adler and the folks at Avid are dedicated to designing the book for readers. I love that.
One of America’s greatest journalists and baseball fans has agreed to write the introduction. No, more than agreed — he ASKED to write the introduction. It’s an incredible honor, and I can’t wait to tell you who it is.
So I’m thrilled to tell you that your 2021 holiday shopping is already done.
Second, I want you to be the first to know about the project that I’m about to start at The Athletic: I’m going to count down (aw, come on, not another countdown) the 100 greatest players (so unoriginal) who are NOT in the Hall of Fame. It’s not going to be exactly like the Baseball 100 in that I’m not going to do an individual essay on all 100 players. I’ll do very short essays, 10 at a time, on the first 70. The final 30 players will each get his own essay.
Here’s the fun part: I’m going to do it in the order that I would vote them into the Hall of Fame. So it won’t necessarily be in the order of the players’ greatness on the field. In fact, I can tell you that it definitely will not be in the order of the players’ greatness. It’s a much more holistic kind of list. That project will begin on December 1 and end on the day the Hall of Fame announces its new inductees. I hope you come along for the ride.
Finally, I want to point again to two projects I was involved with this year that fill my heart with so much joy. I look back at the last nine months or so, and it feels so overwhelming — the sadness, the anger, the boredom, the fear. Zoom funerals. Friends and family getting sick … and fighting about what American means … and showing up only on a computer screen where you can’t hug them.
But I was lucky enough to find inspiration being part of two incredible campaigns. I’ve mentioned them before but I’d like to mention them once more.
The first was called Tip Your Cap. In it, we celebrated and commemorated the 100th anniversary of the forming of the Negro Leagues. It was overwhelming. Four U.S. Presidents tipped their caps. Many of the greatest baseball players who ever lived tipped their caps. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Billie Jean King, Tony Bennett, Nick Offerman, The Temptations, Gen. Colin Powell, Stephen Colbert, Rob Lowe, Conan O’Brien … the list goes on and on. NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy tipped his cap.
I mean, this guy tipped his cap:
It was absolutely incredible. Working with my Passions in America partner and friend Dan McGinn, we were able to help the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (and my brother and dear friend Bob Kendrick) tell this important, haunting and inspiring story in an entirely new way. I know that Buck O’Neil was smiling.
Then, right after that — actually. we started on this before Tip Your Cap was even over — Dan and I were approached to help celebrate another even bigger centennial: The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which finally granted women the right to vote. We called this campaign First Woman Voter, and we asked women to pay tribute to the first woman voter in their families. The response was, if possible, even bigger and more extraordinary than the first. Four First Ladies*. Four First Daughters. Every female Secretary of State. Senators. Congresswomen. Governors.
*And a First Lady Elect!
And journalists. Of all the amazing parts of the project, the response of women journalists was perhaps the most amazing. Almost every prominent woman television journalist in America — dozens and dozens — told the story of the first woman voter in their family. And the stories are beautiful. I mean, watch this story from CNN’s Kate Bolduan and wait for the big finish.
Or get inspired by watching Rev. Bernice A. King talk about her mother Coretta Scott King:
I mean, I could put up any of the videos we received, and it would move your heart.
And here’s the thing about these two projects: We did them for free. Well, more than that, they actually cost us a few bucks for the websites and some light video editing equipment. I don’t know that we can keep doing these projects pro bono forever, but the idea we had when we started Passions in America was to inject more joy in the world. I think we did some of that in 2020. I’m so proud of that.
Things everywhere are so hectic, so frantic, so messy, so divisive, it can be difficult to remember what it is that bonds us, what it is that lifts us up, what it is that makes everything worthwhile. I think now of the words, not of a politician or author or athlete or even non-fictional character. I think of the words of a superhero, uttered by the incomparable Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa: “More connects us than separates us.” I hold onto that. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.