Prior to the start of the 2012 season, baseball writers Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin announced an e-book project via Kickstarter that would celebrate the careers of baseball players.
Around the Diamond - The Hall of Nearly Great Book
Sunday July 22nd, 2012
What makes this project unique from other publications celebrating baseball players are the names listed in The Hall of Nearly Great. Sure, we've all read stories and articles about current Hall of Fame members, but what about the players who were terrific and missed their shot at Cooperstown.
The project isn't a debate about players who should or shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, but rather it's a publication about terrific careers and the stories that made these players Nearly Great. The e-book itself has 43 chapters written by 42 authors. Authors include several big-name baseball writers such as Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer. The others authors in the book have published terrific work among various baseball publications on the internet.
Some basic info on the e-book:
- The e-book is $12. Click here to buy the book. It works with e-readers (Kindle, etc). Basically any device that can open a .PDF document. Yes, we are an affiliate program, so if you buy the book, use the above link.
- As mentioned earlier, there are 43 different players covered in the book. The full list can be found on the website, but players such as Will Clark, Don Mattingly, Kenny Lofton, John Olerud, David Cone, and Albert Belle are included.
- In addition to terrific writing, your purchase also includes this fantastic cover from artist Justin Bopp.
Below are a few excerpts from the book:
Will Clark by Grant Brisbee
"When I played for my middle-school baseball team, I was two years younger than my peers. Which meant I was about six inches shorter than the next-shortest kid on the team. My path to success: crouching. I'd tighten my fluorescent-yellow Mizuno batting gloves and I'd shrink my strike zone to the size of a cold cut. My line that season: .000/.929/.000. That's 0-for-2, two strikeouts, and 26 walks. Henderson gave a gift. That gift was the power to annoy the absolute crap out of the other team.
But that gift was fleeting. I was just following the lead of a neighborhood kid I idolized and followed around
like a puppy. It was his fault. It was his fault that I missed out on Will Clark. Oh, god, how I missed out on Will Clark."
Fernando Valenzuela by Eric Nusbaum
"For five seasons, Fernando gave no reason to believe Lasorda was wrong. Between 1981 and 1986, he was the best starting pitcher in baseball. He threw more innings and struck out more batters than Nolan Ryan-and hedid it as Ryan's aesthetic opposite: a pudgy lefty who confounded not only opposing hitters, but fans' expectations. In addition to having style like no one had ever seen, he was a Mexican sports hero when Los Angeles badly needed one, and a welcome cultural curiosity in a country that doesn't always welcome them. He was utterly unaffected by the insanity that surrounded him. It's easy to see how Fernando Valenzuela gave way to Fernandomania.
But in order to do him any sort of justice, you have to separate the man from the movement. Fernando was not a folk hero invented by God or Tommy Lasorda or the O'Malley family, and his screwball was not magic. He may have come from an unknown desert town called Etchohuaquila, but he did not ride into Los Angeles on a white horse. His success on the mound was not a run of extended good luck or a joyous fever dream come true. All these interpretations leave out something crucial: Fernando Valenzuela was highly intelligent, highly skilled, and highly poised. He was a great pitcher on purpose. A lot of people even saw it coming. Fernandomania had more to do with the media, the fans, and the spirit of a city than it did with Fernando himself."
Fred McGriff by Tommy Bennett
"He finished his career with 2,490 hits. That's almost 2,500! He won a World Series, but on the 1995 Atlanta
Braves he was a supporting player obscured by the incandescence of Chipper Jones, David Justice, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. McGriff's is a story of remarkable consistency and success, not one of excellence.
In 1991, a youth baseball coach by the name of Tom Emanski began advertising a nine-part series of instruc-
tional videotapes on ESPN, which had begun showing Major League Baseball games the year before. The videos memorably boasted that Emanski's techniques had produced "back-to-back-to-back AAU national championship teams." The spot for one of those videos, "Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills Video,"featured a lanky and mostly unenthusiastic McGriff in a generic aquamarine baseball cap and T-shirt. The chyron identified him as "Major League Super Star Fred McGriff." He wore a bright pink wristband."
When the project was announced, I immediately knew that I wanted to read the finished product. Not only because of the players listed, but because of the stories behind the players. While the writers in the book use statistics, they don't beat the reader over the head with data to prove their point. They use their personal accounts and memories from watching the player during their career.
I suppose that's why I enjoyed the book so much. I remember watching, hearing, and rooting for the players mentioned and having a lot of the same feelings as the stories in the book. Watching guys like Bernie Williams and Rusty Greer play, I always felt they were "good" but nevery truly understood why they were good. After reading chapters about players backed up with statistical evidence, it now makes sense.
With the book being only $12 and a one-of-a-kind project, this should be a must own for any baseball fan, especially for those fans curious about the forgotten players from their early childhood.
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