Good baseball book
by Neal Karlen
detailing two seasons
with the St. Paul Saints
, a legendary team partly owned by Bill Murray
of Saturday Night Live
The Saints are part of the Northern League, which has no major league affiliations. As a result, the book provides a nice glimpse into the lives of the dreamers and has-beens who come to Minnesota and North Dakota hoping to kindle a career in the bigs -- or just play professionally for a little while.
The Saints themselves are famous for just being wacky -- their principal owner is Mike Veeck, former owner of the Chicago White Sox, who was famous for promo stunts like Disco Demolition Night (a spectacular failure). Murray makes frequent appearances at the stadium to hang with tailgate parties and watch the games. A good part of the book is about the publicity that surrounded the Saints, who were the subject of a Fox TV series at the same time Karlen was there.
Karlen spent years writing for Rolling Stone, and in fact the book started when he was commissioned to do a hit piece on Murray. Karlen's conscience apparently got the better of him; as a result, the book offers a dark, cynical look at the inner workings of Rolling Stone and how Jann Wenner decides which celebrities to puff and which to hit. The title comes from Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and frequently quotes her observations about the dark side of journalism.
Characters in the book include ex-major-leaguers Darryl Strawberry, Jack Morris and Glenn Davis, as well as Murray himself. The second half is less compelling, since the novelty of Northern League life is played out for the reader, but it's in there because Karlen got to witness Ila Borders' first season ... Ila being the first female pitcher in any professional baseball league.
Published in 1999. Complaints: It feels rushed, and the first edition is rife with typos. The entire second season is included because of Ila Borders but isn't that interesting otherwise. Good book overall, though, especially for baseball fans who are curious about the obscurity of the independent leagues.