(Photo by Fergus Hammond)
MR. OCTOBER: Tom Adelman and his two-year-old daughter Camilla wear souvenirs representing the teams that Adelman chronicles in his just-published book,"Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys and the 1966 World Series That Stunned America." Adelman previously wrote The Long Ball: The Summer of '75-Spaceman, Catfish, Charlie Hustle, and the Greatest World Series Game Ever Played," a well-received look at the 1975 season.
The Major League Baseball playoffs are beginning this week and Tom Adelman is pumped.
“You watch the game for six months but October always brings out surprises,” said Adelman. “Those surprises are the nature of the post-season and they produce the teams that make the game great.”
Adelman, however, isn’t your run-of-the-mill baseball addict, having written books about two famous championship seasons. In 2003, Adelman released The Long Ball: The Summer of ‘75-Spaceman, Catfish, Charlie Hustle, and the Greatest World Series Game Ever Played, a well-received look at the 1975 season.
Earlier this year, Adelman came out with Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys and the 1966 World Series That Stunned America, which delves into the 1966 season, chronicling the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers as they headed on a collision course which ended with the Orioles’ stunning four-game sweep of the favored Dodgers in the World Series.
On the evening of October 4, Adelman will take a break from watching this year’s baseball playoffs to speak at the Princeton Public Library, where he will do some readings from Black and Blue and reminisce about both the 1966 and 1975 pennant races.
For Adelman, the decision to write about the 1966 season came on in a roundabout way. “I stumbled into the fact that Baltimore and that year hadn’t really been talked about,” said Adelman, whose book has alternating chapters on the Orioles and Dodgers until his treatment of the World Series.
“They were good from that year until the 1980s. There are certain American cities that really take their baseball teams seriously, working class towns where baseball means a lot. There are a lot of cities like that in the east and Baltimore is one of them.”
Adelman, as is his custom, weaves social and cultural history into the baseball mix.
“Baltimore was a flashpoint; it was a northern town that was integrating at a slow pace,” said Adelman, 42, who lives in Pennington with his wife Hannah Ross, a Princeton University attorney, and their two-year-old daughter, Camilla.
“The more I learned about the mayor, Theodore McKeldin, the more interesting a figure I found him to be. He was a classic old-style Republican who was running into resistance as he tried to move integration along.”
As for the L.A. piece of the story, Adelman’s California roots helped turned his interest in that direction. “I grew up outside Los Angeles; I had never been turned on by sportswriters but I loved Vin Scully [the longtime Dodgers’ broadcaster],” said Adelman, who eventually came east to go to Columbia University. “It was fascinating to listen to him improvise every night for six months to create narrative dramas. I tried to learn from that.”
In writing Black and Blue, Adelman handled the drama in a different manner than the way he put together Long Ball.
“When I wrote Long Ball, I was trying to write a sports book that read more like a novel with a narrative flow,” added Adelman, who said he spent two years researching Black and Blue and another year and a half writing the book. “This book is more consistently structured.”
It was a love of music, not baseball, that got Adelman into writing.”I always loved writing and music,” said Adelman. “I had rock bands where I played guitar, sang, and wrote songs. After spending hours in sweaty, beer-soaked halls I decided to redirect my creative energy.”
Adelman certainly devoted plenty of energy to his music writing as he wrote six novels and created a music critic character “Camden Joy,” whose name he adopted as a pseudonym.
“I was trying to do totally different things,” said Adelman. “I was trying to create narrative mystery and uncertainty with the Camden Joy character.”
As Adelman ponders future books, he admits his rock days are likely behind him. “Sports is a lot easier to follow when you’re taking care of a two-year-old,” said a laughing Adelman, who isn’t currently working on a specific project but is contemplating other pennant races to chronicle. “The rock lifestyle is not conducive to that.”
Heartened by how Black and Blue has been received, Adelman is happy to have penned another hit baseball book.
“I looked at it as a labor of love,” said Adelman. “I didn’t think that there would be as strong an interest in the 1966 Orioles team; the 1969-1971 teams have gotten more attention. It’s sold surprisingly well and it’s gotten a nice response.”
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