Saturday, December 27, 2008

10 Commandments of Baseball Publishes


After publishing hundreds of books while working for a large corporation, publishing my first title as publisher of my own corporation was unique. I am thankful to have had as my first project, The 10 Commandments of Baseball by J. D. Thorne. It was especially lucky to have several of my old publishing contacts lend a hand as freelancers on the project.

No one expected a book cover that rivals the best sports books covers from the largest publishers, but Don Torres delivered one that has received nothing but "ahhs" from everyone who has seen the book. Online images that you see on my website at sportingchancepress.com do not do it justice. Laila G. provided a superb, yet simple book design. My good friend, Lynn Brown, who is one of the few people I know who has worked in publishing as long as I have, gave the work one last quality control check right at the wire. David Bernacchi's images along with those from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Associated Press really helped to create the right balance between text and illustrations. My thanks to Joe Gornick for sending J. D. my way when the project was in its earliest stages. Our printer, LifeTouch, gave the project special attention that produced a first class book. Sandi Robison, my LifeTouch customer service representative, stood out on the dock with the shipping staff on very cold day in Loves Park and made sure that we got the books securely stowed away in our van on pick up. I'd also like to thank my first customer, Mrs. B. from Wisconsin, who bought a copy of the book for her husband who played baseball in his younger days and though he never made it to the big leagues, continued to love the game with passion all his life. If the USPS did their job, Mr. B. should have gotten his book on Christmas eve while visiting his daughter in Arizona.

And thanks all of you readers who have been patient with me while I digressed from sports information to discussions about my business. I promise this will be the last self-serving post for a long time!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sporting Chance Press Web Site is UP

The web site (sportingchancepress.com) for my sports publishing business is up and running today. Our first book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball is due in from the printer towards the end of the month. Sporting Chance Press is a small publishing company with an important mission. We will produce sports books that entertain, inform and inspire our readers. Sometimes in the postings to this blog, I will give you a glimpse into those publications. Sporting Chance Press is a little different from other sports publishers in that we will provide positive sports stories from good communicators who are not necessarily sports celebrities or journalists. Our authors are speakers who want to share their message with other sports enthusiasts. Check out sportingchancepress.com for the details.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth


Yesterday, I wrote about Jackie Mitchell the young woman who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in a single exhibition game in 1931. Sheis one of the players stories included in The 10 Commandments of Baseball by J.D. Thorne published by Sporting Chance Press. Sadly, Jackie Mitchell was unable to continue her career in professional baseball. Today, I talked to Jean Patrick, the author of the children's book entitled The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth (depicted above). Jean has written several children's books and travels to schools making presentation on her books and writing. Information on her presentations can be found at Jean's web site.

Jean did a lot of research on Jackie, but Jackie married late in life and did not have children. There is not a lot of information on Jackie. Most of it comes from newspaper stories. As far as Jean knows, Jackie died in relative obscurity. While her childhood was happy and inspiring, we know little of her adult life. Most of the newspaper articles that appeared on Jackie in later years were rehashes of older stories.

On a positive note, at least Jackie's early story continues to inspire kids through Jean's presentations to young school children.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball can be purchased at Sporting Chance Press.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jackie Mitchell: The Girl Who Struck Out Babe Ruth

Jackie Mitchell was a sports celebrity in the 1930s. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and according to Jean Patrick, who wrote a children's book about her, Mitchell learned to play baseball from her father at a very early age. She was also tutored by Dazzy Vance, a young minor league player at the time who would go on to become a Hall of Fame pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Vance taught her his "drop pitch." At the age of 17, she impressed Joe Engel, the owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts Minor League team. Engel signed her and she became one of the first women to play professional baseball in the United States. There were three women who played in the professional negro leagues.

It was 1931 and major league teams would sometimes play minor league teams in exhibitions. The Lookouts played the Yankees after spring training and before the start of the major league season. Jackie was put in to pitch just as Babe Ruth stepped up to bat.

In front of a crowd of 4000, she struck Ruth out and then Yankee slugger, Lou Gehrig. No one knows for sure whether the sluggers struck out as part of a stunt, but Mitchell's performance made news across the country.

My favorite baseball picture of all time is one of her just completing a pitch with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth looking on. Gehrig has a modest smile on his face, while Ruth is looking on like someone has just torn up his contract. But, it's Mitchell's face that is priceless. She has this Ellen Degeneres kind of mischievous look on her face--a sort of "looky there boys ain't that a humdinger" kind of sweetness about her. The photo probably appears in many places, but if you search hard enough you can see it on the AP photo site. It is beautifully reproduced as a two page spread in the large baseball photo book, called Baseball A Celebration -- a book I have and love. I will check with AP and see if I can obtain a license for it and perhaps put it on my site.

Unfortunately, baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis didn't like the idea of women playing professional baseball and saw that Mitchell was removed from the Lookouts.

She moved on and played with the House of David, a odd, but long lasting team of long-haired men from a Michigan religious community who barnstormed across the county. While the look of the House of David players was a curiosity with the baseball public, they played fairly good quality ball.

Jackie quit baseball at 23 years old and could not be persuaded to play when the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed in the 1940s.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fighting a Slump

One of my favorite parts of The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a very brief section on "running 'em out" in which fighting off a slump is discussed. There is nothing more frustrating for an athlete than a slump. Suddenly, a good hitter just can't "buy a hit" or a good pitcher seems to have "lost his or her stuff." It seems the harder the player tries, the worse it gets. A slump can make the news and be a sore subject with a coach who is asked daily about when so and so is going to "come out of it."

How do you get out of a slump and regain your confidence? You don't put a lot of pressure on yourself to somehow get more hits or pitch better. You work on the basics. Are you practicing good mechanics? How's your footwork? Are you swinging level? You go back and practice the basics, over and over again until you are sure you have them right. Once you have confidence that your fundamentals are in order, your game comes back.

I think it's one of those sports lessons that can also help us in other pursuits as well. If things aren't working well, maybe its time to look at the basics rather than focus on improving at what we are doing. We can break things down and work on the fundamentals and go from there. It's not rocket science, but it's one of those good sense ideas that can help us be more successful.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) is available from Sporting Chance Press.
Library of Congress Bain Collection, image of Walter Allen Blair of the NY Highlanders in 1909 working on his fundamentals.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Babe Ruth's Called Shot

In The 10 Commandments of Baseball: Am Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life), our author, J.D. Thorne writes about Babe Ruth's famous "Called shot" during the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. J.D. contends in the book that Ruth did call the shot and that it had, in fact, been witnessed by the author's dad who was a young man at the time. If we look back at the scene, we know that the Cubs' dugout was badgering Ruth during the at bat and accounts suggest that Ruth was giving it right back to them. When Ruth had two strikes, he apparently held up two fingers to the Cubs dugout to suggest that two strikes was not three and that he had at least another swing. According to many sources,after flashing the two strikes sign to the Cubs, Ruth pointed toward center field as if to say and now boys the ball is going there. Then, bam! Ruth followed with a home run ...and the rest is history. Or is it?

Some baseball writers suggest that the newspapers made up the "called shot" and that Ruth was just waving his bat as countless other hitters have done on countless at bats. They suggest in fact that after the story of the "called shot" was published in the papers, Ruth said it was true just because it was too good a story to deny. Some suggest that the Babe was not adverse to exaggeration if it would increase the public sense of his importance. But what did Ruth himself actually say? Well there are probably many newspaper stories that quote Ruth on the legend, which can be found if one digs hard enough. There is also a book edited by John Carmichael of the old Chicago Daily News that discusses the "shot."

The book is called My Greatest Day in Baseball and it includes stories from 44 ball players as told to various writers. There are at least three editions of the book, the latest was published by the University of Nebraska which has a wonderful line of sports books.


In this book, Ruth states that he did call the shot, but not exactly the way the press reported it. According to Ruth, he took two strikes and he did hold up his fingers after each called strike. According to Ruth, after he held up his second finger on strike two: "Then's when I waved to the fence. No I didn't point to any spot, but as long as I called the first two strikes on myself, I hadda go through with it."

So according to the Babe, the legend is true. Babe goes on to suggest that it wasn't the smartest thing he had done in his life, but he was lucky that day as he had been many times throughout his career.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball is available from Sporting Chance Press.

Image is Babe Ruth from Library of Congress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Joe McCarthy and the Chicago Cubs


McCarthy's .614 winning percentage as manager is the best of all. McCarthy led the Cubs from last place in 1925 to the Pennant in 1929. He was one of the best minor league managers before coming to the Cubs and the Cubs were happy to get him at the time. William Wrigley was working hard to establish one of the best baseball franchises and he wanted to see that the Cubs had the talent to take them to the top. The Cubs had Hack Wilson when they won the pennant in 1929. They played Connie Mack's formidable Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. When behind 2 games to 1, the Cubs suffered one of the most painful losses in the franchise history. Playing in Philadelphia, the Athletics scored 10 runs in the seventh inning to stage one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

The sun was exceptionally tough on the fielders that day and among many Cub misfortunes, Hack Wilson dropped two pop flies that he just couldn't see in that dreadful inning. Both were scored hits. After taking it on the chin that day, the Cubs lost 3 to 2 in game four although Cub pitcher, Pat Malone, had a shutout going into the ninth inning.

The Series loss was a bitter blow for Wrigley who was dedicated to seeing the team rise to the top. In one the most costly deals of the day, Wrigley had brought Rogers Hornsby to the club in 1929, but unfortunately, Hornsby was injured in 1930 and the Cubs did not repeat as pennant winners. In an ironic twist, it was Hornsby who got the call to manage the club after Wrigley released McCarthy. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Hornsby's management did not work out, but McCarthy went on to the Yankees where he established a historic winning tradition.

McCarthy and his baseball maxims are the subject of The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles of Success for Baseball (and Life) available from Sporting Chance Press.

1927 Cubs uniform shown above from Sports Collectors Daily.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe McCarthy's Rules

Most sports fans may never have heard of baseball's Joe McCarthy. Yet, McCarthy is one of the most influential managers in baseball history. He spent 20 years in the minor leagues as a player and manager. He never made it to the big leagues as a player, but managed the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in what some would describe as the Golden Era of baseball.

Joe McCarthy still holds the record for the winningest percentage of all MLB managers. He managed Hall of Famers such as Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams. He deserves much credit as one the chief architects of the Yankee dynasty. He managed against most of the greats in baseball history such as John McGraw and Connie Mack.

While managing in the minor leagues, McCarthy created a document called the 10 Commandments of baseball. It's a simple list of principles that may seem self-evident to those who were coached well as kids playing Little League. But it's a great list of rules that make sense in baseball and life.

Sporting Chance Press is a new publishing company and we have been working with an author who is a published attorney and lifelong baseball fan, J.D. Thorne. Our first book at Sporting Chance Press is The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.

Top image is cover of The 10 Commandments of Baseball depicting Joe McCarthy. Lower photo depicts Babe Ruth with another legendary manager, John McGraw who was winding down his career as McCarthy was making a name for himself. Photo from Bain Collection, Library of Congress. Go here to order The 10 Commandments of Baseball.