The Bookshelf Conversation: Kostya Kennedy

March 25, 2014

Kostya KennedyAnother book about Pete Rose? Seems more books have been published about (and by) the dishonored all-time hit leader than anyone except Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson.

But as Kostya Kennedy explained in our recent conversation, the job of the writer is to find something new to say or say in differently — and presumably better — than previous attempts. He did that in his 2011 book, 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, which earned Spitball Magazine‘s Casey Award that year. (Not to mention it’s one of my 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die. Here’s my “Conversation” with Kennedy about the DiMaggio bio.)

Kennedy, a writer for Sports Illustrated does a fair-and-balanced job of portraying Rose as a flawed human being  who constantly cheated on his wives, lied about his gambling issues (he still indulges), and  wound up in prison. Be that as it may, Kennedy also points out the flaws in the system for Major League Baseball and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, both of which did their darnedest to shout out Rose from a return to the organized game or Cooperstown consideration. As someone who’s been to that fair town on numerous occasions, I found Kennedy’s description of Rose and his latest family working around the peripheries during while other events are going on just down the block at the famed museum touching and sad (the image of Richard Nixon walking along the beaches of Malibu post-abdication may come to mind).

The author said he was careful not to come down on one side or the other; as reported in a recent entry here, these excision of a single word from the uncorrected galleys drastically changed my perception of his support for Rose. I hope I didn’t butcher that section of the recording in trying to do justice to Kennedy’s finished narrative.

Kennedy will be appeared at several events in the coming days and weeks. Among them Gelf Magazine‘s Varsity Letters program on Thursday, April 10, where he’ll share the dais with Jonah Keri, author of a new history about the Montreal Expos.

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