Treasures from the Vault


I know exactly when I obtained this. Sunday, April 15, 1973. The year 1973 was celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the opening of Yankee Stadium (1923). As a promotion the Yankees were giving away a souvenir replica of the program that had been solid back in 1923. The original 1923 version is a true collector’s item going for $3,000 on up. This 1973 replica doesn’t do so badly either – I’ve seen ads going over $100.

The program is as close to the real thing as you could make it. Same advertisements.  Back cover is Bull Durham “roll your own” cigarettes, fifty for ten cents. Other ads are for BlackJack chewing gum, J.W. Fiske Iron Works (who made the turnstiles being used at the Stadium), and Muriel Cigars (“A hit whenever lit”). In the center spread is the scorecard with the anticipated lineups pre-printed.  The umpires are also listed: Just two – Wm. G. Evans, H.E. Holmes. Most of the players in the visiting Red Sox lineup have long since been forgotten but the Yankee lineup is very recognizable to the students of the period: Witt cf, Dugan 3b, Ruth rf, Pipp 1b, Meusel lf, Schang/Hoffman c, Ward 2b, Scott ss, Bush/Shawkey/Jones p.

1973 may have been the 50th anniversary of Yankee Stadium but it was also the beginning of the end for the ballpark that I grew up with. For several years the Stadium had been decaying, just like the team that inhabited it. At the end of the season the park was shut down. For the next two seasons the Yankees were tenants at Shea Stadium while a massive renovation of the Stadium took place. Finally in 1976 the “new” Yankee Stadium (as we liked to call it) was opened. A genuine attempt was made to capture the grandeur of the original but it just wasn’t the same. Still it hosted the great Yankee teams of the late 1970s as well as the late 1990s and 2000s. In 2009 it was replaced by the latest version of Yankee Stadium. Haven’t been there yet, but I suppose sometime I’ll make the effort.

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A Traveling Man


Mark and I headed up to the Yards today to see the Orioles take on the Los Angeles Angels, one of the horde of teams in the mix for the second Wild Card spot. Control was an issue as the Birds pitchers (mostly starter Tillman) issued lots of walks. Sometimes a timely double play would get them out of the jam but eventually the Angels put together enough runs for the win. A key play occurred when O’s catcher Caleb Joseph couldn’t handle a throw from right field which allowed the eventual winning run to score. Baltimore got people on base; they just couldn’t get enough of them across.

LA’s catcher today was someone named Juan Graterol. I knew nothing about him. Neither did Mark. So he immediately did some research. It goes something like this.

  1. After a number of years in the minor leagues, Graterol made his major league debut last September (2016) for the Angels.
  2. On November 28, 2016, he was sold on waivers from the Angels to the Cincinnati Reds.
  3. On December 23, 2016 he was sold on waivers from the Reds to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  4. On January 19, 2017 he was sold on waivers from the Diamondbacks back to the Los Angeles Angels.
  5. On January 23, 2017 he was sold on waivers from the Angels to the Toronto Blue Jays.

At this point things seemed to stabilize. Presumably he went to Spring Training with Toronto.

  1. Then on April 18, 2017 he was traded from the Blue Jays back to the Angels “for a player to be named later or cash.”

So in a matter of five months he was traded five times which included stints with the Reds, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, and three different times with the Angels. I’m not sure if this is a record but I do suspect the man gets nervous every time the phone rings.

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Gearing up for August 29

Yesterday we had our Rover pre-election meeting in preparation for the August 29 Special Election to fill a position on the Fairfax County School Board. In person absentee voting continues to be available at the Government Center where the turnout has been somewhat higher than anticipated. The biggest challenge in conducting the election is that August 29 is also the second day that school will be in session. So our chiefs will need to work closely with the schools to come up with a suitable location within the school for the voting, and then put up adequate signage to direct the voters. All while the normal business of the school continues. There are four candidates in the race. Two have been endorsed by political parties but party affiliation is not listed on the ballot so voters will have to do their homework if party affiliation is something that matters to them.


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Treasures from the Vault


My mother always referred to the All Star game as “just an exhibition game”. To me however it was something special. I recall following the vote totals in the newspaper leading up to the player selection and took great pride whenever someone from the Red Sox were chosen to play. In 1959, to help pay for the players’ pension fund, a second All Star Game was instituted.  This was greatly criticized in parts of the baseball press and I agreed. A second All Star Game was the watering down of a great institution. Baseball had sold out to the forces of greed.

My view of things abruptly changed in 1960 when it was announced that the second All Star Game would be played in Yankee Stadium.  This was the summer after my junior year in high school. I had summer school classes in the morning but they would be over in plenty of time to go to the game. My father was able to purchase a ticket for me a few weeks in advance – I think the Yankees might have had a ticket window in Penn Station. A reserved seat behind home plate for $6.30 – I still have the ticket stub. It was a beautiful summer day. Just watching batting practice was special – all the different uniforms of the various teams.

Strange as it may seem today, the game was not especially well attended as only 38,362 were in the stands, well below capacity. Looking back, the only explanation I can recall was that feeling among many, especially in the press, that this second All Star game was just a cheap stunt and not worthy of support.

The game itself was a rather straight forward win for the National League.  There were homeruns by Eddie Mathews, Ken Boyer, Willie Mays and a pinch hit homerun by Stan Musial. On the American League side the highlight was a pinch hit single by Ted Williams. Williams immediately gave way to Brooks Robinson who was used as a pinch runner probably for the only time in his career.

One source of pride for me was that thru keeping score I was able to pick up on an instance where the National League hit out of turn. It was the top of the ninth and pitcher Bill Henry was due up. Manager Alston had used up all his position players and had no one available to pinch hit. So he quietly sent up Ed Bailey who was one spot below Henry in the batting order. Bailey was the third catcher the National League had used in the game and had not yet had a turn at bat. Alston probably figured that no one would notice and indeed no one did.  There was however a brief note in the following week’s copy of the Sporting News confirming my observation that Bailey had indeed batted out of turn.

The National League won 6-0 but the thrill of seeing all these greats at one time cannot be minimized. As the game came to a close, I overheard one fan declare,

“That was one $6.30 that I enjoyed.”

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Nats come up short


Went to Nats Park today to check out the Los Angeles Angels, one of the multitude of teams the Orioles need to pass if they want to make the playoffs. The Angels don’t appear to be anything special. Unfortunately nether are the Orioles.

Anyway things started out quite nicely for the Nats as Ryan Zimmerman hit a first inning homerun with one on base off the well-traveled Ricky Nolasco. Once this was accomplished it settled into a pitcher’s duel between Nolasco and Tanner Roark.

I’m not all that familiar with the Angels lineup (Once you get past Mike Trout) but someone named Vilabueno who was sporting a .187 batting average hit a homerun off Roark in the fifth inning. No one in the crowd seemed especially concerned. It was only the second Angels hit of the afternoon. Flukes happen. Right?

Next inning Trout beats out an infield hit and someone named Calhoun who is a decent player having an off year, hits one into the stands. The Angels now have three runs on just four hits. Still no one seemed especially concerned. We’ll get it back. Right?

Well wrong. The Nats did have some opportunities but simply could not capitalize. Wilmer Difo (who had two base hits and played a nice defensive game at short) struck out with two out and the bases loaded to end one opportunity. In another inning, Ryan Zimmerman decided to try for an extra base but was thrown out, effectively killing the rally. Even in the ninth, Michael Taylor (who made an outstanding catch earlier in center field) managed a leadoff walk but no one could get him home. Particularly disappointing was Howie Kendrick who had been hot but today went 0 for 4. Cam Brodrosian (son of 1987 Cy Young winner Steve) closed out the game and the Angels had their win (on still only four hits).

I’ll get to see the Angels again on Sunday. Mark is coming up from Charlottesville and we are going to Camden Yards.

Just a thought: Wilmer Difo has settled in nicely, both offensively and defensively, at shortstop. When Trea Turner finally comes off the DL, might it make sense to keep Difo at short and let Turner join the bucket of spare parts that currently inhabits the Nats outfield? Then the two of them can battle it out next spring. Just a thought.

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The Challenge of Marketing a Self-Published Book


It’s getting close to that time. The manuscript for November Third has been uploaded to the publisher. In a week or two I’ll have my proof copy. Then it’s scrubbing the manuscript for any lingering typos. Last minute tweaks to the plot. It better be now or it’s going to cost later. Then I’ll give the OK and upload the cover. One final proof copy. Then hit the “publish” button and it’s done.

Then what…?

That’s when the marketing kicks in.  Actually the marketing should have been going on long before now. Spread the word as far as possible. And hope for the best.

This will be the fourth time I’ve done this. And you would think I’ve learned a thing or two. It’s an exciting time for an author. It’s also a time of vulnerability. But here are some of my “lessons learned.”

  1. Know what your definition of success is. Most self-published authors are not going to have best sellers. That is certainly my case. The combined sales for my three books (Six Decades of Baseball: A Personal Narrative, A Voter’s Journey, The Gatekeepers of Democracy) is probably less than 500. Hopefully November Third will get us over that mark but if my success is defined purely by sales numbers, then my writing career has been a disappointment. Fortunately it doesn’t end with raw sales numbers. To craft a manuscript about something you really care about, be it fiction or non-fiction, is a real joy. Added to that is the feeling of satisfaction you receive when people reach out to you and say how much they enjoyed your book. That’s one of the best feelings an author can have. At least this author.
  2. Family and friends are a great place to start and will get you a few sales right off the bat, so long as you don’t abuse this. If every conversation becomes “Buy my book; buy my book,” you’ll find yourself having few sales and even fewer friends. Just because a friend may be sincerely happy for your achievement, doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean they are ready to fork over $20 for your treatise on fly fishing, unless, of course, they are really in to fly fishing. Ultimately the commercial success of your book will depend on how many complete strangers are motivated to buy it, not how many friends you can guilt trip into making a purchase.
  3. Develop your “elevator speech,” a ten to fifteen second description of your book that will hopefully pique the interest of the person who just inquired about your work. You don’t want to mumble something like “Uh…it’s about elections,” which is exactly what I did the first time someone asked me about A Voter’s Journey. You can bet there was no sale there.
  4. Check out local bazaars and fairs and get table space if it’s not too expensive. If nothing else, it will give you the opportunity to talk about your book to a whole new group of people who are not in your normal social sphere. Bazaars at Christmas time can be the best. Over the years I’ve sold quite a few copies of Six Decades of Baseball to people who were not baseball fans but were desperate to get Uncle Charlie checked off their shopping list.
  5. Get reviews. There are websites that review self-published books. They usually charge a fee. I try to get a few of these right after publication, not because potential customers go to these sites, but it gives me a few snippets to put on my Amazon page. But mainly, try to find blogs that specialize in your niche. There are several blogs that review baseball books (even self-published ones) and I tried to take full advantage of that. It was more difficult with my political books because the market it so saturated with political books written by politicians and celebrities on one hand or serious political science treatises written by academics on the other.
  6. Speaking engagements are great if you can get them. This is not an area where I do well. To approach an organization and suggest that what I have to present might be of interest to its members can be an awkward and vulnerable experience. The few times I have done this, however, have been very rewarding, not so much in sales (although I’ve picked up a few), but in just being able to engage your audience in something you feel deeply about.
  7. Generally the marketing packages offered by subsidy companies are expensive and not worth it.
  8. Define your niche. Unless you’re John Grisham, your niche is not “the world.” It took me a while to figure this one out. While I knew Six Decades of Baseball would appeal only to baseball fans, I naively thought that A Voter’s Journey would appeal to everyone or at least everyone who votes. Wrong. Many, probably most, people who vote have no interest in reading anything political. But even though your niche is not the world, it certainly does exist. You just need to figure out what it is and direct your attention accordingly.
  9. Once you have defined your niche, you need to find ways of reaching it. Part of my niche for The Gatekeepers of Democracy was people involved in election administration, so I literally sent a promotional e-mail to every county registrar in the country (or at least those who had e-mail addresses). It was time consuming (It took over a month to send out well in excess of a thousand e-mails) but cost effective (as in zero dollars spent) and it gave me my best month ever in terms of sales.
  10. Social media. This is an area I have not exploited and, no doubt, I’ve missed a lot because of it. I’m trying to catch up with a blog (Lewersblog) and I tweet occasionally but I’m a long way from getting off the ground here.
  11. Local Press. A reporter with the Sun Gazette regularly does feature articles on local authors which was great. I’ve had a difficult time however getting noticed by the other newspapers.
  12. Contests. I’m not sure about this one. I’ve entered a few contests over the years and did manage to receive “Honorable Mention” in one of them. It made me feel good for a couple of days but I can’t say it generated any sales.
  13. And last but not least: Every article on the subject that I’ve read says, in some way or another, “…the best thing you can do for the sales of your book is to write another one.” Well November Third will be out in September so I guess I’ll find out how true that is.
  14. Actually that’s not the last thing. The last word is to simply “have fun” Whether you sell many books or just a few, it’s still something to feel good about and take satisfaction in.
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Treasures from the Vault


“The Bible of Baseball.” I discovered The Sporting News around 1956. It was a weekly publication and each issue had a least one article on every team. Even during the winter! It also had the week’s box scores, not only for the major leagues, but also for the AAA leagues as well. All during my high school days I had a copy reserved for me at a local stationary store. Eventually I started writing letters to their “Voice of the Fan” column, as exemplified by this less-than-empathetic commentary on Mickey Mantle.


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