Workin’ for the Weekend #9: The Baseball Rabbit Hole
Plus, some startling (to some) immutable-characteristics numbers from the publishing industry
We often get emails from anxious young strivers on the cusp of making fateful decisions about their career path and/or academic track and/or willingness to navigate the peer-pressure B.S. in their chosen, dominated-by-left-of-center-types field. Occasionally, I even remember to not read their correspondence out loud when they specifically request that at the bottom of the email! (Hint: Put it at the top in ALL CAPS for ol’ Uncle Dumbass.)
The Fifth Column podcast includes a weekly subscribers-only version where we read subscriber emails and dispense questionable advice. See what you’re missing!
Anyhoo, unlike Moynihan, I don’t know much about the publishing biz, but apparently there’s been a month-long kerf(l)uffle about the plight of the white man there, so naturally our friend (but not yet guest!) Kat Rosenfield had a typically smart piece about it this week over at UnHerd. This factlet in particular leaped out at me:
[O]f the 100 most recent debut book deals listed on Publisher’s Marketplace, 83 went to women. Of the remaining 17, 12 went to white men — ten of whom appear to be under the age of 40, and thus young by literary standards. It’s not a total shutout, of course, but it’s also not parity. And the same trend can be observed in terms of not just who’s published, but who’s celebrated; for instance, of the 13 books on the Booker longlist, released this week, three are by white men, none of whom are under 45 (one is the oldest ever recipient of a Booker nomination).
As for specific advice to anyone daunted by those numbers? Don’t be. Do your best work confidently and diligently. That’s what…Buck O’Neil would do! (Deep breath….)
So as alert listeners of Members Only #127 will recall, Moynihan had one of his semi-sporadic brilliant ideas about launching a new TV show or some such called Rabbit Hole, in which the interlocking secret warrens underneath random single-topic silos are exhilaratingly explored. (Ed note: never apologizing for my differently abled approach toward metaphor.)
And as certain listeners who were made less alert by that episode could also tell you, there was…a bit of talk, spearheaded by a certain Angels fan, about baseball. Again I apologize for nothing, and will point out that I tried to focus on aspects that were relevant to our non-baseball-fanatic listeners—about race relations, Cuba, Moynihan’s shady Kansas City past, stuff like that.
So in the interests of both the fans and the haters of such discussion, and in the partial spirit of Rabbit Holing, I will in this post tunnel out from some of those baseball sinkholes, but in doing so keep the spelunking from spreading into the rest of the podcast. Deal? Deal. Also, don’t forget Special Dispatch #86, my interview with official Major League Baseball Historian John Thorn….
We talked on the epi about Jackie Robinson’s underappreciated, angry, and intellectually curious 1964 oral history Baseball Has Done It. I wrote about that book in two overlapping Reason pieces: “The Inglory of Jackie Robinson’s Times,” and “When Jackie Robinson Fought Back,” the latter of which emphasizes the point that basically the moment after Jackie—a super competitive, take-no-guff type of guy—no longer had to operate under the famous turn-the-other-cheek rules initially imposed upon him by Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, he immediately became the best player in baseball. He competed better as Malcolm X than Martin Luther King, yet the culture prefers to remember him as the latter.
Also as mentioned, I wrote, first for ESPN.com’s Page Two and then updated more recently at Paloma Media, “The Cuban Senators and the Twinkie Hall of Famers.” Became enchanted with the subject of Cuban baseball back during my stay there in 1998, leading to a Reason piece on how the very best Cuban baseball historian had been silenced for a half-century, first by the commies, then by the U.S. embargo. For a short-lived but pretty great website called Sportsjones I eviscerated one book about Cuban ball as ideologically driven apologia/nostalgia, and praised another for its no-nonsense detailing of the sport’s late-‘90s crisis.
Also referenced was the great sportswriter Joe Posnanski’s post-HoF-ceremony piece about his dear friend and 2022 inductee Buck O’Neil. Nancy Rommelmann and I attempted Wednesday to do a video-podcast (warning: bandana) explaining why the Hall of Fame induction ceremony would be of interest to non-baseball lunatics. And speaking of Paloma (where I had a piece Thursday about the Angels’ squander of Mike Trout), if any of you whippersnappers are interested in making like $250 a month doing clever social media hype for a plucky lil’ media outfit, email me.
Have you suffered enough? Certainly not: Please be forewarned that I have spent part of my ear-convalescence collating for the first time about 90 percent of my published baseball-related writing into one groaning file. But I’ll spare you at least until the next Field of Dreams game, and otherwise keep the podcast channel clean of such filth, so as best to leave room for, uh, PNC!