A few weeks ago, I believe I was among the first in baseball circles to mention the passing of Jim Brosnan. In fact, I take at least some credit for his obit in The New York Times since Bruce Weber, who wrote the piece, had not heard of Brosnan’s death prior to my e-mail to him inquiring whether the late ballplayer/author was worthy of a fuller tribute in his publication. Weber may have learned of this eventually, but I’m still taking credit.
Bobby Plapinger, owner of R. Plapinger Baseball Books out of Ashland, Oregon, send out the following as an e-mail blast yesterday. Reproduced with permission.
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For some reason I’ve never kept a copy of Jim Brosnan’s Pennant Race for my personal library. I’ve bought and sold lots of 1st editions, even a few signed ones, but never kept one for myself. I think it’s because of the white dust jacket. Because it shows stains, or “rubbing” (those annoying gray marks) or any kind of dirt, excuse me “soil” (bookseller’s term—sounds so much more impressive than dirt, don’t you think?), the dust jacket is seldom found in “fine” condition. I figured eventually a fine one would turn up & that would be the copy I’d keep.
But I never found one…and…I really never thought about it all that much. Until three weeks ago. That’s when I saw Ron Kaplan’s “Lest We Forget” post about Jim Brosnan & learned that Brosnan had died on June 28.
I was going to write my own remembrance, but Ron—and the few others he mentioned who actually covered Brosnan’s passing—did a really good job of covering Brosnan’s playing—and writing—career. They had already talked about how important Brosnan’s diaries, The Long Season and Pennant Race, were in the history of baseball bibliography. About how they were the first of their kind, the first to be written by a real player without the help of ghostwriters. About how books like Ball Four & every other confessional, and/or behind-the-scenes, and/or story-of-a-season book that came after owe an incredible debt to Brosnan. (I don’t know if Jim Bouton read Season and Race, but I’m sure Leonard Shecter and Dick Schaap did!) About how, unlike a lot of “important” or “foundational” books in other fields, Brosnan’s are wonderful, informative, insightful, and eye-opening—even to today’s readers. About how, having written two of the best baseball books for adults ever, he stopped writing them, and published only a few books for younger readers and some stories in “Boys Life.” Though no one else mentioned that one of his kids’ books—his biography of Ron Santo for Putnam—is one of the hardest books to find in “collectible condition.” I think that has more to do with demand (still sort of high) and supply (as always, low) than with Brosnan’s prose, admirable as it is.
So… I was going to write about how even though I loved his books & his writerly attitude, we had never met, or even corresponded. Over the years, I have come into contact with a fair number of people who have written baseball books. But Brosnan was never one of them.
I did, somehow, get his address, and for a while, would send him catalogs. This was when the only way I knew if someone received the catalog in the mail was if you called (or wrote) me. But Brosnan never did.
And yet—HE KNEW WHO I WAS. As I typed those words just now I felt the same shiver that ran down my back the first time someone called me saying that Jim Brosnan had suggested I might have the book they were looking for. I can’t remember if the shiver returned the next time it happened, but I DO know that there were, over time, more than a few people who came to me because Jim Brosnan sent them in my direction.
And I can’t tell you how—is honored the right word?—that made me feel. That this writer whose work I respected so much but who I’d never had any sort of actual contact with, would not only be aware of the existence of my little baseball book business, but would recommend it to others.
That’s what I was going to write. On or around July 2, when I saw Ron’s post. Then, as happens, life & “other stuff” intervened between then and now, and it seemed to me that post would be a little “stale”, and I wondered a bit if I really wanted to write again about people who died & how I really DON’T want to go there…And then, last week, arriving in a small group of books I purchased by mail, was a 1st edition of Pennant Race. And damn if the dust jacket isn’t nearly as white & pristine as the day it was published. The nicest example I’ve seen in years. I didn’t believe it when I opened the package. I almost don’t at this moment.
Sorry—I’m keeping this copy.