I was very excited this week to finish and submit the manuscript for a new book, We Got to Play Baseball, co-authored with former Major League All-Star Gregg Olson. Gregg and I have been friends for a long time but this project, two years in the making, brought us even closer. Gregg was the 1989 American League Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star team in 1990. Before he hurt his arm, he was a lights-out closer with the Baltimore Orioles and recently was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame.
WGTPB is a true collaboration. Gregg spoke with about 100 guys over the past couple years and recorded their stories. I wrote them up, did the back story research to share insight about the contributor and story subjects, and compiled them all into a nice, tight collection. We are quite proud of the result.
In the two summers since we started, Gregg and I have worked diligently to collect and craft 128 favorite stories of men who played, managed, or umpired in the Major Leagues. Sixty are in this book, volume one. Picking those sixty was a back and forth comedy in itself. The power and depth of the collection is illustrated by how hard it was for us to agree which to include and which to save to muscle up volume two. He has his favorites and I have mine. We only agreed on about twenty. The rest were selected by good old fashioned horse-trading.
We owe a deep bow and tip of the cap to all the great baseball men who helped make this project possible. Forty Hall of Famers, All-Stars, former players, writers, and umpires contributed. The variety of what the men shared is phenomenal. Some of what happened is game related but much of it is behind the scenes. It was up to each man to give us what he wanted and the spectrum of the sum total is remarkable.
In alphabetical order the ballplayers who helped us include: Jim Abbott, Larry Andersen, Bruce Benedict, Bob Boone, Chris Bosio, Jeff Brantley, George Brett, Mike Cameron, Gary Carter, Tony Clark, Will Clark, Doug DeCinces, Rob Dibble, Doug Flynn, George Frazier, Jim Fregosi, Brian Giles, Goose Gossage, Mark Grace, Mark Gubicza, Jack Howell, Rex Hudler, Tim Hudson, Ferguson Jenkins, Eric Karros, Mike Krukow, Mark Lemke, Gary Matthews, Ed Montague, Jim Palmer, Jamie Quirk, Tracy Ringolsby, Brooks Robinson, Cookie Rojas, Mike Scott, Joe Simpson, Don Sutton, Ralph Terry, and Robin Ventura.
Dozens more legends wait in the wings, since we are already hard at work on volume two. We will properly thank those additional contributing stars next season. In addition, we have about a dozen superstars waiting in the queue, household names who have agreed to share their favorite memories.
Best of all, virtually none of these stories have ever been shared before. Many made me laugh out loud simply transcribing them.
We also owe and extra special doff of the cap to Gina Hardin, daughter of former Oriole pitcher Jim Hardin, who died in a tragic plane crash in Key West on March 11, 1991. The day before Jim had hosted me for a private round of golf at Mayacoo Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, where he was the reigning club champion. He was a tremendous player.
Jim spent much of that round talking about life after baseball, his loving wife Susan, and his three children: Gina, JJ (James Junior), and infant son Michael. Baseball was something he played as a young man but when he could no longer play for a living, he moved on and became a great professional salesman with Xerox. I was with the company at the time too, and through Xerox Jim and I became good friends.
It had been several years since we’d seen each other and when we did we caught up on life and family — the stuff that really matters — and finished the day with a hug goodbye. His death was devastating to all of us who loved the guy for the man he was.
Jim pitched for the Orioles, Yankees, and Braves during his six seasons in the Majors (1967-1972) but too many hard sliders shredded his shoulder and arm trouble abruptly ended his career. His cumulative record was 43-32, including 18 wins by September 1 for Earl Weaver and the 1968 Orioles. His ERA that season was 2.51, just a nudge above his career best 2.21, which Jim posted during his 8-3 rookie season.
Jim loved his time in the Majors. When asked about it he used to say, “We got to play baseball!”
When Gregg and I were searching for the perfect name for the book, Gina volunteered what her dad often said. We loved it, with her permission borrowed Jim’s phrase, and titled the book accordingly.
It will take about a month or so for the manuscript to make it through editing and probably another month after that to advance through page layout and hardback production. We will release the book in a limited first edition hardback run, which Gregg will sign for those who ask. We Got to Play Baseball will also be released electronically, in eBook form. Since that’s become a rather expedient process now, the eBook version will be available prior to the printed book.
Gregg and I think all baseball fans will love this collection and look forward to sharing it with you soon.
Until then, root for the home team. The louder you yell, the better they play. That much I know for sure. The men who played the game told me so.
Kathy Kaufman saysDecember 21, 2011 at 11:44 am
where can I purchase the book?
Ocean Palmer saysDecember 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm
Since it’s just been released, the quickest way to get a copy of We Got to Play Baseball is online via BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.com.
A title search will jump you right to it.
Thank you for asking! Gregg and I worked very hard on it for two years to turn out a polished project that will be fun for baseball fans everywhere.
Best regards for the holidays,
Ted Simendinger (as co-author Ocean Palmer)
Bruce Orcutt saysFebruary 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm
An awesome book. Well done. I cannot wait for the next set of stories…
Ocean Palmer saysFebruary 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm
Thank you, Bruce. Gregg worked very hard on the collaboration and appreciate you investing the time and money in the end product. We are proud of it and hope baseball fans get a chance to learn more about life on and off the field from the players’ points of view.