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Sunday
Apr022017

New Baseball Book Coming Soon

I can’t think of a better time than Opening Day to announce that I’ll have a new book on the shelves later this year. It’s been more than four years in the making, and the subject is baseball. The book’s title is “The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken and Baseball’s Most Historic Record.” It’s an in-depth examination of the Iron Man record, which Gehrig and Ripken made famous.

The stories of those two legendary ballplayers dominate the pages, but the central character in the book is the consecutive-game record itself. Few sports achievements have generated more acclaim. Anyone who remembers the events of September 6, 1995, when Ripken broke Gehrig's record in Baltimore, can attest to that. My book opens with a fresh rendering of that night, including perspectives from new sources. Yet for decades, quiet doubts have persisted about the importance of playing in so many games in a row. Why would anyone want to do that? Babe Ruth certainly asked that question.

My idea was to hold the record up to the light, explore its history and underlying philosophy, and ask questions. Where did the idea of playing every day for so long come from? Who thought it was a good idea? Is it, in fact, a good idea? How did Gehrig and Ripken do it? Was one streak somehow more genuine than the other? Aside from their exploits, how has the record evolved? How do today’s players feel about feats of endurance? (Spoiler alert: They don’t care.) Ripken, whom I interviewed, has plenty to say on those subjects and many more.

Ripken was interested in the project, and I also interviewed dozens of others, incouding retired baseball stars Steve Garvey and Billy Williams, who experienced their own moments of Iron Man glory and helped explain what could motivate a man to go for years without taking a day off.

The pub date for the book is July 4, 2017, about as all-American as you can get. I'm biased, but I think baseball fans will enjoy it.

It can be pre-ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/Streak-Gehrig-Ripken-Baseballs-Historic/dp/0544107675/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Monday
Mar212016

Nice Recognition on a List of All-Time Best Pro Football Books

Pro Football Journal has published its list of the 100 greatest books ever written about pro football. I was pleased to see two of my books among those selected.

Coming in at No. 24 on the Top 100 was COTTON BOWL DAYS, my 1997 memoir about growing up in the 1960s as a Dallas Cowboy fan.

"Written with charm and passion, COTTON BOWL DAYS takes readers through a time capsule that true fans can relate to. Although I don't root for the Cowboys, I found myself captivated reading the stories of Eisenberg's football journey,” wrote Chris Willis of NFL Films, who compiled the list for Pro Football Journal.

Last summer the Lone Star Literary Life website gave COTTON BOWL DAYS a No. 5 ranking on its list of all-time best Texas football books.

My second book on the Pro Football Journal's Top 100 was TEN-GALLON WAR, a study of the battle for Dallas’s football future that took place between the National Football League’s Cowboys and American Football League’s Texans from 1960 through 1962. Published in 2012, it was ranked No. 53 on the list.

“One of the best books on pro football to come out in the past couple of years,” Willis wrote, citing its “research and well-crafted prose.”

Here is a link to the Pro Football Journal blog, where the list was published:

http://nflfootballjournal.blogspot.com

Tuesday
Aug182015

"Cotton Bowl Days" Cracks List of Greatest Texas Football Books

To commemorate the approach of another football season, the "Lone Star Literary Life" website has published its rankings of the best all-time Texas football books. It's a spectacular top-ten list that includes seminal works such as "Friday Night Lights," "The Last Picture Show," and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."

I was beyond honored to find "Cotton Bowl Days," my 1997 book about growing up as a Dallas Cowboys fan, ranked No. 5 on the list. It's a book I'm proud of, and even though it is nearly two decades old, I still hear regularly from football fans just reading it for the first time. Love seeing it get recognized this way!

Here's a link to the full list: http://www.lonestarliterary.com/texas-football-books-2015_080911.html

(The book can also be found as an eBook titled "Chronicles of a Dallas Cowboy Fan.")

Tuesday
Mar172015

A comeback story

“That First Season,” my book on Vince Lombardi’s inaugural year as the coach of the Green Bay Packers, was published in the fall of 2009 — more than five years ago. But if its Amazon page is any indication, it is attracting new readers as if it just hit the market.

Every book sold by Amazon has its own page, an online home base of sorts featuring sales figures, updated hourly, and reader reviews. It is wise not to put too much stock in what you see there, but most authors check their pages and their “numbers” anywhere from occasionally to compulsively, as it does provide a general picture of the interest level in their books.

“That First Season,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, had a nice run when it first came out in the fall of 2009. Sales were healthy and 40 readers posted reviews on Amazon within the first few months. That rush inevitably slowed, as happens with most books, or for that matter, most products after several years on the market. In 2012, five readers posted reviews on Amazon. In 2013, 11 did.

But interest has picked up. The book is experiencing a significant rebirth, at least according to its Amazon metrics.

Thirty-eight readers posted reviews in 2014, and 27 have already posted reviews this year – 17 in March alone and we’re barely halfway through the month. Those are healthy figures for a brand-new book, let alone one that came out in 2009. Fortunately, most are four-star or five-star reviews. People seem to like it.

You can now find the book on several of Amazon’s bestseller lists, ranking No. 23 in books on American football as of Tuesday morning.

When I see a spike like that, I wonder what happened. Did an influential publication post a review? Did someone in Green Bay mention it? Or is this just a function of the power of the Lombardi legend?

I don’t know the answer. But I’m not complaining.

Friday
Sep282012

Steve Sabol's infectious enthusiasm

I considered it praise of the highest order when Steve Sabol of NFL Films called me out of the blue one day in 1997 to say how much he enjoyed “Cotton Bowl Days,” my then-new book about growing up in Dallas as a fan of the Cowboys. No one loved pro football more than Sabol. He loved everything about it – the games, the drama, the winners, the losers, the sights, the sounds, the smells … and most of all, the stories. Sabol’s genius lay in the fact that he understood the importance of storytelling, and it meant a lot, a whole lot, if he thought I had told a good one.

We weren’t in contact much after that. I called him now and then as a source on a book project or newspaper feature. (He always gave you terrific material, the best of anyone, no matter how many people you spoke to.) He would let me know whenever NFL Films referenced my book in one of its many projects.

“We love ‘Cotton Bowl Days’ up here,” he told me once from NFL Films’ suburban Philadelphia offices. This was years after the book had disappeared from most shelves, and needless to say, the author appreciated that anyone remembered, much less someone who was so esteemed and valued a good story.

In 2009, when the people at NFL Films were pulling together their documentary on the history of the American Football League for Showtime (Full Color Football”), they asked to interview me on the subject of the early years of pro football in Dallas, when both the AFL and NFL had teams there and those teams, the NFL’s Cowboys and AFL’s Texans, fought to gain the favor of the city’s fans. I had devoted a chapter to the subject in “Cotton Bowl Days,” so they figured I could comment.

The interview took place at NFL Films’ headquarters, and the producer decided to tape my segment right in Sabol’s office. (Steve was out of town.) As we headed in, I noticed there were two team helmets positioned on a table in the waiting room outside his office. Of all the helmets the NFL had seen through the years, Sabol, the ultimate pro football connoisseur, had picked out two to greet his visitors. And one was the helmet the Dallas Texans wore for three years in the early 1960s.

It was a classic, to say the least, bright red with a map of the state of Texas outlined on the side. The Texans had to give it up when they moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs, but Sabol understood what a beautiful football artifact it was. So it was lost but not forgotten.

I happened to be searching for a new book subject at the time, and soon after that interview at NFL Films, the light bulb came on in my head. Even though I had written a chapter about the war between the Texans and Cowboys in “Cotton Bowl Days,” the subject was so rich in character and narrative that it deserved an entire volume. Seeing that helmet didn’t hurt my enthusiasm. Within months, I had a signed book contract.

That book is coming out next week, officially published on Oct. 2. The title is “Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future.” I’m excited about it, and pleased to report that the book’s black-and-white photo insert includes a close-up of the Texans’ helmet. How could I not include it after seeing it in Sabol’s office?

It saddens me terribly that Sabol won’t be able to read the book and tell me what I got right or what I should have emphasized more. He passed away from brain cancer earlier this month at the age of 69.

 “Ten-Gallon War” is rightfully dedicated to someone far closer to me, Mary Wynne Eisenberg, the love of my life, who married me 28 years ago and continues to put up with me disappearing into the computer room to write for hours. But the book’s existence and spirit trace at least in part to Sabol, a man of great generosity and infectious enthusiasm who loved nothing more than a rollicking football tale and, alas, had many more to tell.