More from the 50's...
Very few ballplayers become writers. Even fewer writers turn into ballplayers. Jim Brosnan was the latter, though he didn't know he was a writer when he stepped on his first Appalachian League rubber in 1947. He was already half-way there, sporting a pair of specs that could write their own novel.
After a few lackluster years with the Cubs, Jim was traded to the Cardinals where he aced the second part of the 1958 season, going 8-4 with 7 saves in 33 games. It was enough to convince new manager Solly Hemus keep him around for at least the first part of '59- but his 1-3 record led to his swift removal to Cincinnatti where, once again, he excelled. The length of that season, the drama, the move- everything went down into his notebook.
From there, into a book unlike any baseball book that came before it- one that would shed light on the everyday, behind the scenes baseball life that many thought should remain part of the mystique of the Major League Baseballist.
Though published in 1960, The Long Season was a chronicle of baseball life in the tail end of the fifties, by a bespectacled bookworm commonly referred to as "The Professor"- a stereotype not often found in 50's baseball but almost always in the four-eyed scene. Not as controversial as the book it inspired, Ball Four, it did have it's critics. But there was no breaking down of the Mantle Myth, so no threats from Elston Howard.
They could have seen it coming- but one can guess that, because of Jim's four eyes, the presence of a pencil and paper seemed normal. Add to that the events of the previous year: his skill had already been recognized by several in the sports writing world- enough to get him several offers to cover the Cards while he was touring Japan with them in October and November of 1958 (see A Noboru Aota Fan's Notes for more on the tour and his articles).
His best season was with the '61 Reds, who hung onto him long enough to get a 10-4-16 season and his assistance to the World Series against the M & M boys (fresh from their 115 home run season), where he tanked in his only relief appearance. It wasn't all bad- that winning season proved to be excellent fodder for yet another book- Pennant Race.