Tuesday, July 9, 2019

New Releases: Bud Selig's "For the Good of the Game"

One of the legends of Milwaukee regards baseball - we somehow were able to get the Boston Braves to come to Milwaukee, attendance was phenomenal for a few years, the team won the World Series, and then, after several years of decline, left for Atlanta. Having read Home of the Braves: The Battle for Baseball in Milwaukee last year, I am well aware that the story is more complicated than legend generally dictates. But the happy ending remains the same - Bud Selig and friends brought baseball back to Milwaukee, by securing the Seattle Pilots. And don't feel badly for Seattle - just about every city that loses baseball eventually gets it back. Here's looking at you, Montreal.

But Bud Selig wasn't just a Brewers owner - he was eventually tapped to be the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, at first in an acting capacity, and then in full capacity. In a way, it reminded me of our experience at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, with Avin Domnitz moving from co-owner to Executive Director of the American Booksellers Association. Not only can that transition be complicated, but so can negotiations, particularly when you are dealing with the Players Union.

Selig's new book, For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball, is not a full memoir. One caller asked me, "Is there much about Washington High School in the book?" And I had to answer that there was not, to his dismay. Most of the focus of the book is on his years as Commissioner, dealing with three main issues - player negotiations, the imbalance between large and small-market teams, and the steroid issue. All were related, as was the stadium-building  boom, which as we know from the recently opened Fiserv Forum, pretty much never ends. Along the way, Selig warmly recalls his friends, such as Hank Aaron, who he's known for sixty years, and Herb Kohl, his college roommate at UW-Madison. Other folks don't get such fond reminiscences. And others get left out of the narrative altogether.

I've heard that not everyone likes the book - I don't really have to listen to talk stations or follow social media to find out - customers have been letting us know what they've heard - but as a person on the outside, just wondering when that extra sales tax will ever end (I'm guessing never), it's an fascinating story, thanks in part to writer Phil Rogers. The only time I zone out is when Selig actually starts describing games in detail - it's a long way from when I used to sit with David Schwartz at County Field and score games - I thought of the complicating coding as the equivalent of giving a child one of those activity books for long road trips. I'm guessing at least sometimes the tickets came from David's Cousin Sue. I'm well aware that I am more interested in the business of baseball (or any sport), rather than the sport itself. I'm the same wimp I was at 12.

Boswellian Tim McCarthy wrote a nice rec for the book so I'm not even going to try. Here it is. "Bud Selig loves the game of baseball. That's very clear throughout the book, and nobody seems more qualified to tell an insider's story about how the game has changed over the last 50 years. From his childhood ballpark excursions across the country with his mother to his time after leaving the Commissioner's job and entering the Hall of Fame, Selig has seen it all. He's effusive in praising the people he loves, both inside and outside the game, but the most compelling aspect of this memoir is how honest he's willing to be about his frustrations and the people who caused them. One perfect example of this is Selig's expression of deep friendship with Henry Aaron and the irritation he felt with representing baseball as Commissioner to witness Aaron's iconic home run record being broken by Barry Bonds, a man he obviously does not like. This book is genuine and fast moving, and I was fascinated by it. I admit to a bias. I was lucky to have lived across the street from the first field manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Dave Bristol, for the three summers his family stayed in Milwaukee. I went to lots of games with his kids and played in the County Stadium clubhouse and bullpen. They even let us kids shag batting practice in those days. That all happened because of Bud Selig! He brought us baseball again after the Braves left. With a warm forward by baseball fan and master historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, this book is a one of a kind look at America's Pastime from a proud man who has always called Milwaukee his home."

Registration is still open for Bud Selig's talk with Tom Haudricourt on Thursday, July 11, 7 pm, at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. It's free, but you must upgrade to a book to get in the signing line. Tax and fees included. Visit seligmke.bpt.me. This program sponsored by Boswell, Books & Company, and the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center. You can also get a book signed through Boswell Order the book with your request (personalizations must be prepaid), email us, or call (414) 332-1181.

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