Until the End of the Ninth

Beth Mary Bollinger


It’s quite something, to be at the SABR convention (which is the Society of American Baseball Researchers).  It’s my second year to be a vendor here.  These guys are diehard baseball fans.  They know their stuff.  They are, as a group, nice to me.  Go figure.

A highlight: I talk to George Michael!  (from Sports Machine, people, not Wham.)  George Michael hosted the half hour sports news program on Sunday nights, starting  from back before ESPN was ESPN.   I first saw the show when living in Washington, D.C., the show’s home base.  It just finished its run this past March.  I am in awe at meeting him.  I tell him how much I have always loved the show, and then somehow drum up the courage to ask him to take a copy of my novel. He agrees to take a copy (!), and tells me to be sure and leave my contact information.  I do. 

Other highlights: Well, certainly one highlight is being able to talk to all the SABR guys.  I hate to disappoint them, though.  They uniformly look wounded when I don’t know some esoteric piece of baseball knowledge that they figure I must know because I’m a member of SABR – or because I’ve written a historical baseball story – or because, well, how could I not know that bit of information.  But then they tell the stories they know, which makes them happy again and gives me a better sense of the history of the game. 

One man tells me of his trip to the Field of Dreams in Iowa (my next stop) – how a father and son talked him into hitting the ball with them, and running the bases, and getting all mucked up with dirt, and how perfect that was.  I talk to Mickey the Lip, who talks about having me create a theatrical piece from the book for next year’s convention.  The chapter head of the Seattle/Portland SABR invites me to give a talk at the November meeting.  One man who I met the year before tells me how his manuscript is being reviewed by potential publishers.  I talk to other authors, including an author who visits with me about his new book on baseball radio announcers.  I tell him about what Rick Barber said about baseball and radio when I was on his show, and how Rick is a relative of Red Barber (the Brooklyn Dodgers’ announcer).  

And then I get to have dinner with my cousins –

On Saturday I decide to go to the St. Louis afternoon game, and see their new stadium.   A scalper offers to sell a ticket for way too much money.  I tell him it’s too much.  He tells me he’ll give it to me for free if I marry him.  I say I’ll go ahead and pay for the ticket after all.  Then it turns out he has sold me a ticket from April!  Ohmigosh – is there no honor left in this world?  Then it turns out that it is a ticket for a game that rained out in April, so it’s legitimate after all.  Then I get bounced around from seat to seat anyway, as there are two sets of tickets for my seat.  Still, it is a beautiful day, and a beautiful park.  I overhear the conversation of the couple sitting next to me – He:  Are you hungry?  She:  No, I had lunch with my boyfriend.  Pause.  He: Your boyfriend?  When were you going to mention that?  I had already liked him more than her, even before overhearing the conversation.  This clinches it.  Get out of this now, bud, I think.  Before it’s too late. 

I leave in the eighth inning, which I can’t stand, but the vendor room re-opens at 3 p.m. and I need to be back when it opens.  St. Louis ends up winning it in the ninth.  Man.  I can’t believe I miss the best moments of the game!  And yet, I should have known what would happen.  That’s the way it is with this 1946 team – they inspire last-minute wins at the end of the ninth.  It happened at the Greensboro Grasshoppers game, when I was in North Carolina back in June.  The Grasshoppers won in the last of the ninth, and at least two guys who bought the book came up to me as they left the stadium saying, “It’s your book!”  Turns out, Greensboro was 0 and 24 when behind in the ninth.  Until that game.  I give the 1946 guys inspirational credit for the win.  The Grasshoppers get actual credit. 

Still, I’m glad to get back to the vendors room, in spite of missing the dramatic St. Louis win.  There’s an umpire getting ready to give a talk who immediately adopts me as part of his clan, which is just fun.  And then the mlb.com reporter comes in and films me talking to a customer.  I had given him a copy of the book earlier.  That was good timing.

The day comes to an end.  I would love to stay and relax a little, hang out now that the bulk of the conference is over.  But I have a book signing in Iowa the next day.  So on the road I go, listening to the radio to keep myself awake.  (Dreaming about providence, and whether mice or men have second tries…)