Honestly, I don’t remember much of the night. This only happened to me once before and that was when I was in radio. Talking to a microphone to thousands of people by yourself is one thing, but live in front of a crowd, that's another. The first time I went blank before a crowd was when I was working for country legend Mel Tillis at his station WMML. To introduce his new station to the city he held a free concert for the public with stars like Reba McEntire performing. Between acts each one of the DJ's had to come out and say something to the audience. I can’t remember a word I said. I blanked out but my wife said it was funny and the crowd laughed.
It was the same at the “Hank”. I was star struck as we met baseball stars like Dave Stapleton and Luis Gonzalez. WE were actually signing autographs for THEM! A bizarro world. Then I had to make a speech and if it wasn’t for the video I wouldn’t have remembered it.
But it is a great little book I’m very proud of. I am currently working through the process of developing a documentary of it for Alabama Public Television.
like I was putting together a stodgy, boring 7th grade history paper. I needed a little flair and immediately approached my friend Tamra Carraway Cowan (formerly Hinkle). Having read some of her short stories and knowing that she had a love of baseball I knew she could bring to the book the romance that is connected with the game. Reluctantly she agreed, the contract was signed, and off we went.
The research for the book was one of the best experiences ever. The interviews we conducted with baseball notables like Chris Kitsos and the Bolling Brothers (Milt and Frank) were precious. Only days before we interviewed the Bolling Brothers, Frank received a package from his son. It was a video tape
that he anxiously plugged in to show us. It was a film of him playing with the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s. It showed him hitting the last home run in Milwaukee County Stadium before the team moved to Atlanta.
Frank left the room in tears and as he did his wife told us that the video was the first time he had ever seen himself play before and it made him very emotional. Both brothers knew that I was a big Yankee fan and gave me a wonderful photo of Frank tagging out Mickey Mantle.
Our research uncovered a lot of surprising history like that the first balls and bats were brought to Cuba by a Cuban native that went to college at Mobile's Springhill College in the 1860s. When he went home to the island he organized the first ball teams and leagues on the island
Edition: 1st Edition
Release Date: January 7, 2004
Pages: 128 Pages
What made the experience even more incredible, though, was meeting the people of Mobile. The book was to be packed with photos from the game’s glorious Port City past and we knew the best stories would be from the people who lived here during baseball’s heyday. We went on radio and television and asked the town to help by providing photos and stories about baseball in Mobile. And they all came through for us, in droves, and I still can’t thank them all enough for their help.
The biggest moment came when the current Southern League’s Mobile Bay Bears opened their new convention center at Hank Aaron Stadium, better known as the "Hank". The team asked if we could do the official book release at the stadium that night with all proceeds benefiting their charity that helps inner city youth.
Once again I was just wrapping up work on another edition ofHiking Alabama when I received an email from Arcadia. They knew about my outdoor recreation books and knew that Mobile, Alabama, was a hot bed for baseball talent (heck, five Hall of Famers are from Mobile). They asked that all important question, “would you be interested in writing a book on the history of baseball in Mobile?” I couldn’t have said “yes” any faster.
As I put the proposal together for final approval, it looked more and more
Baseball in Mobile: The Backstory
Interview on Mobile's Sports Radio WNSP about the release of "Baseball in Mobile"
Local news coverage of the release of "Baseball in Mobile" at Hank Aaron Stadium (courtesy WPMI-TV)