Baseball book a best bet
In 1897, the Boston Beaneaters were one of the best teams in professional baseball, a group of colorful characters, tough, scarred, rough ballplayers who played because they loved the game. Then something went terribly wrong ó murder in the clubhouse.
But along came Will Beaman, a 23-year-old ne'er-do-well who had his chance of making it in life by getting hired by the miserly Beaneaters' owners as a marketing promoter.
After the clubhouse attacks, the owners told Beaman to investigate the case himself. They didn't want the police involved because people being murdered in the clubhouse would have likely brought bad publicity.
Any references to the Beaneaters and present-day baseball quirks is purely a coincidence.
Best Bet in Beantown is the name of the book by Greeley author and old-time baseball expert Gail Rowe. It's Rowe's first novel, but he based it on his deep interest in old-time baseball.
Rowe is a recognized authority in baseball history and has taught classes at the University of Northern Colorado based on the relationship between baseball and history. The course Baseball and American Society taught the history of labor, business structure, monopolies, trusts, communications, race relations and population changes all tied together with baseball.
Rowe taught the class one summer as an experiment, and it became so popular, UNC offered it for the next eight years until Rowe retired. But now, Rowe is into murder.
His hero isn't exactly the classic murder mystery sleuth. He's no Sam Spade or Sherlock Holmes. He's Will Beaman.
"Stretch out the name," said Rowe. "Will Be-A-Man. That shows he's trying to grow up and escape his past. He's got a Harvard degree, grew up in a good family, but he screwed up time and time again."
One of Will Beaman's problems was that he was too successful with women. "I guess that's just an old college prof's way of trying to live another life," Rowe said with a grin.
But Beaman muddled through his investigation and slowly worked his way to solve the crimes. It led him through unscrupulous, greedy players, unprincipled owners, gamblers and other characters that could be the basis of a mystery in present-day baseball.
Rowe studied the language and styles of the period, reading old Boston papers to discover how people spoke, thought and wrote about "base ball," which is how the word was spelled when the game first began.
Writing the book was an adventure in itself for Rowe. The idea began germinating as he wrote nonfiction about baseball in 19th-century Boston.
"The more I learned," he said, "the more the story evolved."
Most of the characters in the book were real people, connected with the Beaneaters team. The Beaneaters themselves became the Boston Braves, then the Milwaukee Braves, and, today, the Atlanta Braves.
Rowe knows this isn't a Harry Potter book that will sell millions of copies and make him a fortune. The full price of the book is $17.95, and Rowe gets $3 of that. If the books are discounted, which they usually are for bookstores and on Amazon.com, the discount comes from Rowe's share.
"Itís not a serious literary effort," Rowe said, sounding much like a professor. "I did it because I enjoyed writing the story."
It's an easy read and carries the reader along as if experiencing the life of baseball players when times were much less pampered, less affluent than the ballplayers of today enjoy.
And, for those who read it, Rowe has already written a sequel, which he hopes will be published soon.
But meanwhile, Rowe has no idea how well his book is selling. He's received some good reviews, and he gets a few requests for autographed copies.
"But I'll never get rich from this," Rowe said. "Then again, I never expected to get rich.".