Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Books (Page 1 of 3)

Halfway to the beginning

It was August 11, 2018, according to my journal, that I made the decision to put aside the non-fiction book I started working on and dive into trying to write my first novel.

On Sunday — 51 weeks later — I reached the halfway point of the rough draft. 

Just to put that in perspective, my first book on the Dodgers, from conception to completion, took about six months. My second Dodger book, took about nine, mostly accomodating the interviews I wanted to do. 

Those books came with deadlines, and deadlines haunt you like shadows. You can hide, but you can’t outrun them. So there was no choice but to stay up late, wake up early and give over massive amounts of free time to getting those books done. 

But still – a year in, I’m only halfway through a draft that will need heavy rewrites. Why am I doing this to myself?

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Brothers in Arms now available as an audiobook!

Exciting news, everyone! Today is Clayton Kershaw’s birthday … which is the perfect release date for the audiobook version of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. The talented James Patrick Cronin reads my words out loud.

Order the audiobook today at Audible.com using the link tinyurl.com/dodgerpitchers-audible! Or order through Amazon, where you can continue to purchase print or digital copies as well!

For more information on the audiobook, go to Blackstone Library — and also visit the Brothers in Arms category here at Dodger Thoughts.

If you enjoy or enjoyed Brothers in Arms in any format, please leave a review at Amazon. Thank you.

Bookin’

Warning: Personal, non-Dodger content ahead.

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Don Newcombe, 1926-2019

Don Newcombe has passed away today at the age of 92. In honor of the inspiration for my book, Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Traditionhere is the entire chapter devoted to Newcombe. 

Don Newcombe

The agony. The terror. The hopelessness. The tears. The pain.

At the climax of his incredible career, these were the feelings that consumed Don Newcombe.

It’s all hard to imagine, hard to reconcile with the image that remains of the burly 6-foot-4 right-hander pitching like the side of a mountain coming at you from 60 feet, 6 inches away, or with his regal presence at Dodger Stadium in the 21st century, floating into the stands during batting practice in a suit and hat past his 90th birthday, with present-day members of the team lining up to spend time.

But Newcombe’s sublime legacy has masked the heartache that came along the way.

Surely it should have been enough, more than enough, just to endure, just to survive, as an African-American pitcher in the opening decade of Major League Baseball’s integration. The attacks and the indignities, big and small, on and off the field, could have broken Newcombe, who wasn’t the first player to sever the color line like Jackie Robinson, nor the first pitcher like Don Bankhead, but who was years younger than either — a mere 23 — when he took the stage for Brooklyn in 1949.

But on top of it all, like a fusillade of fastballs to the gut, Newcombe was repeatedly drilled during his big-league career, by fans, by the media, even by managers and teammates. Some of the damage was self-inflicted, brought on by his own behavior. Much, however, was superfluous, misguided and even cruel, judging Newcombe by his shortcomings – real or imagined – no matter how numerous his successes.

The pressure and expectations crescendoed into a collapse, a breakdown of a vulnerable soul that few understood. That he eventually recovered to give the rest of his life back to the game and its players is as important as the story that preceded.

His journey, as much as that of any pitcher in Dodger history, is profound.

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A writer’s happy journey sideways in 2018

My favorite piece that I wrote this year was “Baseball has its day in the son,” the story of how my 10-year-old developed a new interest in following baseball in unlikely circumstances.

“A modest thing, but thine own,” as Vin Scully liked to say. I felt I adapted a uniquely personal moment into a story that could be meaningful to total strangers, while keeping the true feeling intact.

Aside from the happy memories of the moment itself, it was a story that energized me, making me believe that a non-fiction, non-baseball book I had been sketching, one that I alluded to 10 months ago, could actually work, not in the sense of being any kind of bestseller, but simply in the hopes of being something to someone.

As much as the Dodgers are part of my soul, they have never been the only part. Amid all the pleasure I enjoyed from the publication of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, I have been wanting to stretch myself as a writer. The piece about my son, along with several others like it in my history at Dodger Thoughts that revolved around life more than baseball, convinced me that I wasn’t crazy to write a sustained narrative devoted to what was right in front of me.

Less than a month later, those plans were on the shelf.

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Interview: The true no-spin zone with knuckleballer Charlie Hough

Hey, guess what — the third installment of the Word to the Weisman podcast is already up! Following in the footsteps of Carl Erskine and Burt Hooton is my interview of Charlie Hough, the knuckleballing great who pitched professionally from 1966 to 1994.

Because there was only a couple of pages worth of space for Hough in Brothers in Arms, there are memories galore in this conversation that didn’t make it into the book, including his journey from position player to knuckleballer, comparing and contrasting Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda, and his thoughts on several Dodger pitchers from across the decades. Hough’s career in baseball as a player, coach and instructor covers roughly 50 years, so trust me, it’s great to hear from him.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes. You can also listen on SpotifyI also recommend you subscribe to the podcast, so you know the moment a new episode is available — especially helpful now, since I don’t have a set schedule.

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter. Thanks!

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Interview: A happy chat with Burt Hooton

Slowly and unsurely, I am sharing some of the conversations I had while writing and researching Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, on what I have christened the Word to the Weisman podcastHaving already posted my chat with Carl Erskine, we now move exorably but enthusiastically to Burt Hooton, whom I consider to be one of the two or three most underrated pitchers in Dodger history.

Whether or not you have already read about Hooton in Brothers in Arms, I think you’ll enjoy hearing him talk about his life in baseball in his own drawl. I recommend this both for older fans like myself who saw him pitch and younger fans who might not be aware of his talent, given that the way he was overshadowed in the public eye by the likes of Don Sutton and Fernando Valenzuela.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes. 

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter. Thanks!

Listen on Google Play Music

Flashback: Dodgers-Astros 1980 NL West tiebreaker

The Dodgers are playing a Game 163 tiebreaker for the first time in 38 years. In this excerpt from 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, relive the story of the last time …

In the 1980 season, from April 26 on, the Dodgers never lagged nor led by more than three games in a taut NL West. Tied for first place with Houston on September 24 with 10 games remaining, they suffered back-to-back 3–2 defeats to San Francisco and San Diego to fall two back. A week later, yet another 3–2 loss to the Giants put the Dodgers three back with three to play. The saving grace was that the Dodgers would be hosting Houston for the final three games of the regular season. But facing starting pitchers Ken Forsch (3.20 ERA), Nolan Ryan (3.35), and Vern Ruhle (2.37), the Dodgers faced a tall task.

What followed was one of the most memorable series in franchise history.

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Interview: Carl Erskine speaks about the Dodgers and his life in baseball


In November 2016, Carl Erskine, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1948-59, spent an hour with me on the phone for my first interview after I signed the deal to write Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. The conversation was wonderful — something for all baseball fans to enjoy — and offered so much more than I could present in the book. Carl offers incredible detail about what it was like to come up with the Dodgers at the dawn of the Boys of Summer era.

Here is an opportunity for you to hear the conversation in full. It is, technically, the first episode of a podcast that I planned to start about four years ago (but obviously, never got around to) called Word to the Weisman. You can listen to it below, or you can click here to find it on iTunes.

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter.

Enjoy!

Entering the home stretch
for my moment in the sun

Me and four cool guys — Brent Knapp, Phil Gurnee, Craig Minami and Joe Bernardello — June 3 at Common Space Brewery!

Hopefully, folks will be purchasing copies of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition until the end of time. But as far as its birth in the marketplace as a new release, we are close to finishing a spring full of promotion.

In fact, the last guaranteed event — perfectly timed for your Father’s Day needs — arrives at 2 p.m. June 9, with a signing and Q&A at Barnes and Noble in Burbank. I would love to see you come by and get your signed copy while getting a chance to chat about the book.

A day ago, several people came by to the Common Space Brewery signing, which was great fun. Brent Knapp (friend of Dodger Thoughts and True Blue L.A.) and his crew were terrific hosts — in fact, I really recommend you stop by Common Space any old time for beer and hanging out.

A final signing event is scheduled for June 18 at downtown’s The Last Bookstore, but that gathering is predicated on achieving a certain number of pre-sales. If you do want to come, let me know.

Heading into this big final stretch, I did a whirlwind of interviews last week, the most visible perhaps being my national TV appearance on MLB Network’s High Heat with Christopher Russo — and let me tell you, man, it was a hoot.

I also did radio hits on KPCC 89.3 FM’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle, and on AM 570’s Dodger pregame show with David Vassegh — I think both give you a nice taste for what’s in the book.

Finally last week, I stopped by the home office of the legendary Pantone 294, where I did a lengthy podcast in which I spoke with Álex Soto, Desiree García and Matt Barrero about my entire career leading up to Brothers in Arms. You can find the audio here, and I’ll add the video when it’s up.

This entire process, dating back to the first announcement of the book, has obviously felt more than a little self-indulgent, but I’m not above admitting I’ve gotten a kick out of it. (Ideally, it’s a good thing that I really enjoy talking about the book.) In any case, I truly thank everyone for indulging me through it all, and for your support.

Interviews and a request: Leave an Amazon review
for Brothers in Arms

Hi everyone — I have two more Brothers in Arms interviews to share with you, each with old friends.

Remember that there are three upcoming booksigning events:

I’ll end this quick post with one request: If you have the book (and especially if you enjoyed it), it would really mean a lot if you could rate the book and leave a review at Amazon. It doesn’t have to be a long review —  even one sentence can make an important impact. I know it can be like doing homework, but I would truly appreciate it.

Thanks, and my goodness, let’s get the Dodgers winning again.

The Last Bookstore sets up June 18 Brothers in Arms event

Update: This event has been canceled

UPDATE: This event has been canceled

The Last Bookstore has offered to host what could be the last booksigning event for Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition — scheduled for 7 p.m. June 18.

I’m planning to do a Q&A on the main stage of the humongous store, located at 453 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, and sign books thereafter. Information about directions, parking and public transportation can be found here.

One caveat: The Last Bookstore asks for a certain number of people to commit to buying the book in advance, otherwise the event is subject to cancellation. So if you’re planning to come and buy a copy (for yourself or as a gift), please indicate as much by going to the Last Bookstore website and pre-purchasing the book. (Note: There’s an option to reserve a seat for an additional charge, but I don’t believe that will be necessary. Unless I hear otherwise, buying the book should be sufficient.)

The Dodgers will be out of town that night, so here’s a chance to catch up with some fellow fans at a great setting.

The Last Bookstore event is one of three remaining on the Brothers in Arms calendar, following June 3 at Common Space Brewery and June 9 at Barnes & Noble (Burbank).

Hope to see you!

Still more chatter on the Dodgers and Brothers in Arms

Here are a couple of fun items. First, Dustin Nosler and Jared Massey were kind enough to have me as a guest on the Dugout Blues podcast, and we had a fun conversation, first about the Dodgers in general, then about Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition.

Similarly inspired, in case you missed it, was my chat Monday on Reddit, where I spent an hour answering all kinds of questions about the book and the team.

I think you’ll enjoy both, so go pay each a visit …

New interviews about the Dodgers and Brothers in Arms

As I noted on Tuesday’s official launch day, there’s been some nice coverage for the release of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, including opportunities for me to chat about the book, as well as the Dodgers in general.  In the past 24 hours, two more went live:

Enjoy checking out both, and hope to see you at the first signing Saturday!

**Spread the word!**
Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition official release date arrives

Today’s the day — the official launch day for my book, Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition.

Today’s the day, if you are willing and able, to …

*buy the book if you haven’t already — for yourself or as a gift (birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.)  in bookstores as well as online at the following links. Do it today if at all possible. Links to order …

*leave a review — a few words and a positive rating can make a big difference!

*spread the word about the book — on social media or via old-fashioned word of mouth.

*follow @dodgers_tradition on Instagram — the official account for both Brothers in Arms and Dodger Thoughts. 

*plan to attend a signing — get your new or previously purchased copy of the book autographed, hear me say a few words about it and make Brothers in Arms come to life.

*check out the coverage if you want to learn even more about the book.

From my perspective, it feels like I’ve been promoting the book with somewhat nauseasting relentlessness, but every day, I encounter friends and/or Dodger fans who haven’t heard of it. So I would love your help in getting the word out!

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