Ken Boyer Book Project 01.24.13

This week was a sad one for research and writing with the passing of Stan Musial last Saturday at the age of 92.

Working on this project gives me a greater appreciation not only for the athleticism and decency of Ken Boyer, but that of his teammates like Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, and others from the Fifties and Sixties eras of Cardinal baseball. It also brings the realization that these gentlemen are growing older and may not be with us 10 years from now. Boyer himself would’ve been 82 years old on May 20 had lung cancer not stricken him in his prime.

Last Saturday afternoon, I had the chance to talk for about 30 minutes with Solly Hemus, former Cardinals infielder from 1949 to 1956 and team manager in 1959 and 1960. He was very giving of his time and shared lots of memories not only of Boyer, but Musial as well. Like other teammates, Mr. Hemus spoke fondly of Stan the Man. (I haven’t had the chance to transcribe what he said, but I’ll share some of his remarks at a later time.) About two hours later, I learned that Stan had passed away at his suburban St. Louis home.

Visitation for Mr. Musial was held today at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. I thought this photo from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a touching one: two generations of Cardinals fans honoring his memory; a father bringing his son to look upon the man who truly was the Greatest Cardinal of Them All.



Baseball’s Perfect Warrior, Baseball’s Perfect Knight

Stan Musial_Greatest Cardinal EverStanley F. Musial–Swingin’ Stan the Man (as the song goes)–passed away at his suburban St. Louis home on Saturday, January 19. He was 92 years old.

As St. Louis Cardinals fans, we knew this day was coming. Mr. Musial had been in failing health for the past few years and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about a year ago. We knew the day would come, but it doesn’t make any less sad.

I never met Mr. Musial or had the opportunity to meet him or talk with him. I knew when I began my book project on Ken Boyer two years ago that interviewing him would be very unlikely for the above mentioned reasons. I would’ve been honored to have met The Man whom many fans refer to as the Greatest Cardinals of Them All.

That Saturday afternoon, I was talking with his teammate and manager, Solly Hemus, on the telephone. Along with questions about Ken Boyer, I asked for his memories of Stan Musial as a teammate, which he graciously shared. It was an hour or two later that I learned of Mr. Musial’s passing.

I’m too young to have seen him play, aside from watching grainy black-and-white highlights of his 22-year career on VHS tapes. But I appreciate history, and Stan Musial was a big part of the Cardinals’ history. He played on three World championship teams, batted .331 in 3,026 games, and had 3,630 base hits–half at home and half on the road. That last statistic is absolutely incredible with one thinks about it!

I have numerous framed 8 x 10 photos of Cardinals players hanging on my office walls. I have Ken Boyer (of course), Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter. I have favorites from my childhood and teenage years like Ted Simmons, Jack Clark, and Tom Brunansky. I even have Bob Horner! The one I don’t have–yet–is Stan Musial.

The reason is: I had never found the perfect photo of him to hang there. The greatest of the great Cardinals.

I’ve decided the one above is one I want to have, posing in the on-deck circle leaning against his bat. Now, with his death, I’ll start searching for it.

This week, I expect to begin writing about Ken Boyer’s rookie season in St. Louis in 1955. I’ll be reading quite a bit about Stan Musial this year and his friendship with Mr. Boyer. And I’ll look forward to returning to St. Louis this spring or summer, not only to watch today’s Cardinals on the field, but to visit the Musial statues outside Busch Stadium. I know they will mean a little more to me now.

God bless you and your family, Mr. Musial. Thank you for the memories, and for being such a gentleman on and off the field.

A Great-Looking Baseball Film

I can’t help but watch this trailer over and over again.

Granted, Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball is an incredible story of courage and fortitude in the face of racism and bigotry. And I would go see this film simply because of that and his place in the game’s history.

But the cinematography and visual effects of 42 are absolutely amazing! There’s Ebbets Field, looking like a brick and mortar ballpark and not a computer generated picture. There’s baseball players playing the game in flannel uniforms and no jewelry around their necks or in their ears. I was skeptical when I first heard that Harrison Ford–Han Solo and Indiana Jones of my childhood–was going to play Branch Rickey. But he pulls it off and actually resembles the man himself!

I’m really looking forward to seeing 42 this spring.

Ken Boyer Book Update 01.11.13

ken_boyer_1961_cardsSo far, so good.

I’ve committed to blogging about my progress on what has become known in my household as “The Boyer Book,” so I’ll do my best to give a report at least once a week throughout the year.

I’ve done quite a bit of writing this week on Ken Boyer’s teenage seasons in the Cardinal Junior League (See last week’s post for details) almost to the point that he is signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949. I’m looking forward to writing about his first minor league season with the Lebanon Chix of the Class D PONY League. I had the opportunity to interview Robert Moscrey, who played second base and batted leadoff for the Chix, about his memories of the team, his manager Hal Contini, and Boyer himself.  He couldn’t remember very much about Boyer (after all, it was almost 64 years ago!) as they were teammates for only a month or so toward the end of the ’49 season. Mr. Moscrey did make a very interesting comment that should be useful later in Ken’s story. I’m hoping to get in touch with one more former Chix teammate, too.

One hurdle that I have is acquiring microfilm from the cities where Ken played in the minor leagues–Hamilton, Ontario; Omaha, Nebraska; and Houston–that I need to tell about that part of his career. Another is microfilm for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. If any baseball researchers or Ken Boyer fans live in or near these cities and might be able to do some legwork at the library and find some articles for me, please contact me.

Next week, I’m looking forward to a few more interviews with former teammates!

You can also follow my progress on my Facebook page.

Ken Boyer Book Update 01.05.13

ken_boyer_1965_cardsAt least once a week, I’m try to update everyone on my progress with the proposed biography of Ken Boyer.

After two years (on and off) gathering materials–books, interviews, newspaper articles–I’ve begun actually writing the book. I’m starting at the beginning with his childhood in Jasper County, Missouri and playing baseball for the Alba Aces. The Aces were similar to an American Legion team. They played in the Cardinal Junior League, a 10-15 year old boys league started in 1940 (later expanded to include 17-year-old as well). It began with teams from small communities in northwest Jasper County–Alba, Cossville, Neck City–and over the decade, teams were added from nearby Joplin and other communities in the tri-state region of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The Baxter Springs Whiz Kids from neighboring Kansas joined the league in 1946; two years later, Mickey Mantle was playing shortstop for the Whiz Kids as Kenton Boyer manned the same position for Alba. I’ve been lucky enough to gather enough information about the Alba Aces and the Cardinal Junior League that I’m able to write quite a bit about it for the first chapter.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted several of Ken’s former teammates with the Cardinals and am arranging interviews with them this month. I even managed to find one of his teammates on his first professional team, the Lebanon Chix of the Class D PONY League. It’ll be interesting to hear his prospective, having known Ken when he was just starting his career–and was a pitcher no less who knew very little about it except that he threw hard!

I’ve also been able to acquire a few photographs of him when he played in the Cardinals’ minor leagues, and I’m working on acquiring a few others too.

My goal is to complete writing later this year and publish the book in 2014, which will be the 50th anniversary of Ken’s 1964 MVP season and the Cardinals’ World championship over the New York Yankees.

You can also follow my progress on my Facebook page.

A Lengthy Hiatus

It’s been a long year to be sure, and I for one am ready for 2012 to be in the books and lost in the “discard” stacks.

Many apologies for the lack of blog posts over the past several months. When things go wrong in one’s personal life, many interests tend to fall by the wayside, and this blog was no exception. (In fact, I had started a modest blog on baseball card collecting on Jan. 31–another one of my passions–that was also a casualty in the wayside department.)  It’s been a trying year both personally and professionally. The company which I worked for folded early on, leaving me among the millions of other Americans seeking employment. Job opportunities in my fields of experience and interest have been few.

In the meantime, I started a small publishing business called BrayBree Publishing. In addition to reprinting my previous titles, I also published a well-researched book of local interest on the robbery of the Union Bank of Tennessee in Jackson and the murder of its clerk in 1859. It’s very much a niche company specializing in books on Tennessee history, so sales have been meager thus far.

Once I added some new material to a previously published biography of Adam Huntsman and republished it this fall, I found myself looking for a new writing project. I have a few different subjects in mind, but I haven’t fully committed to one yet.

I intend to write more posts about my writing projects, interests, and random musings as 2012 closes. There will be a few speaking engagements this winter and spring which I’ll announce in the coming weeks.  Thank you to everyone who has supported my books over the past year!

The Kitty League Book

I’m pleased to announce that my latest book (co-authored with Joshua R. Maxwell) entitled The Kitty League is now available! I’ll post upcoming book signings and events soon.

I have a limited stock of books available for anyone who would like a signed copy. To order, please click the Buy Now button below:

If you prefer ordering by mail, please send $21.99 + $5.00 shipping to:
Kevin D. McCann
P.O. Box 1587
Dickson, TN 37056

Copies are also available to order below:

The Jackson Generals store
Arcadia Publishing
Barnes and Noble

Wanted: Fresh Biographies of Early Republic Tennesseans

Originally posted on March 16, 2011

Bloggers Mark Cheatham and Michael Lynch (whose history blogs I would definitely recommend) point out the lack of scholarly biographies for several essential figures of the Early Republic, many of whom happen to be Tennesseans. While men such as John Sevier, William Blount, and John Bell have had biographies written about them, none has recent a modern treatment in almost sixty years. Others such as Hugh Lawson White and William Carroll–both significant figures in Tennessee political history–have been neglected altogether. (The lack of a biography for Carroll, the state’s longest serving governor, really surprises me. Aside from Andrew Jackson, he was Tennessee’s most influential politician of the 1820s and 1830s. ) Hopefully these men’s lives will interest historians in the near future and help fill the biographical void.

Stand Up for the Archives!

Originally posted on March 29, 2011

One of Tennessee’s underappreciated treasures is the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. I’ve enjoyed spending many Saturdays looking at microfilm or pouring through books for various projects over the years. When I was a college student living in Jackson, it was a big deal for me to make a trip to the Archives. One of the reasons I love living in Middle Tennessee is being only an hour’s drive from it. (My wife kids me about spending so much time there on Saturdays!) Over the past 20 years, this repository has held the secrets of my family history and subjects of books I’ve written. I couldn’t have written them without it.

I love having access to so much of our state’s history, but if proposed 2011-2012 state budget cuts are as deep as they appear to be, public access would be greatly limited. This past weekend, Mark Cheatham raised the alarm that TSLA’s public access could be reduced from 60 hours to 37.5, eliminating seven full-time positions. Gordon Belt at The Posterity Project confirmed the building would be closed on Mondays and hours would be reduced Tuesday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. effective July 1, 2011. (The Archives is normally open until 6 p.m.)

Times are tough and money is short in state government, and I applaud Gov. Haslam’s efforts to trim excess from the budget. But as a longtime patron of TSLA, I cannot condone limiting public access to state records in order to save money. I would argue that more would be lost if historians, genealogical researchers, and graduate students were denied the time needed to investigate their particular areas of historical research.

I would urge everyone impacted by this measure to contact their legislators, Gov. Haslam, and Secretary of State Tre Hargett, and politely express your disapproval. Mark Cheatham has provided ways to make contact and make your voices heard.