Thanks to social media and email, there are probably people you’ve known for years but have never actually met. For me, Mike Shannon is one of those people.
I would venture to say I’ve been corresponding with Shannon for 20 or so years but I only recently had a chance to actually hear his voice for our recent Bookshelf Conversation.
Shannon is the founder and editor-in-chief of Spitball, the literary baseball magazine. Since Elysian Fields Quarterly bit the dust several years ago, Spitball is pretty much all there is when it comes to outlets for baseball fiction and poetry.
In addition to offering original material, Spitball hosts an annual award for the best baseball book of the year, regardless of genre. Back in 1983, Eric Rolphe Greenberg was the first recipient for his novel The Celebrant; Charles Leerhsen won last year for Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. Others who have won the honor includes Roger Kahn, Bill James, Michael Lewis, Marty Appel, Peter Golenbock, Jonathan Eig, and Kostya Kennedy and Howard Bryant, who are both two-time recipients. (Here’s the list of finalists for the 2016 award.)
Shannon — shown on the left with Paul Dickson, winner of the 2012 award for Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick — is understandably proud of the work Spitball has done over the years, but he’s also an accomplished writer in his own right. In fact, three of his books — Willie Mays: Art in the Outfield, Baseball Books: A Collector’s Guide, and Diamond Classics: Essays on 100 of the Best Baseball Books Ever Published — are included in 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die.