Slouching toward Fargo: A Two-Year Saga of Sinners and St. Paul Saints at the Bottom of the Bush Leagues with Bill Murray, Daryl Strawberry, Dakota Sadie and Me

Overview

In this era of spoiled millionaire athletes and Big Business baseball, the pure, honest spirit of the Game is alive and well in America's heartland—if also a bit deranged.

In Slouching Toward Fargo, Neal Karlen describes his two-year journey with the St. Paul Saints—the most audacious bush-league ballclub ever to plumb the bottom of the pro sports barrel. A motley collection of has-beens, hopefuls, rejects and mutts who've all been ignored or banished by the majors, "Da Saints" ...

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Overview

In this era of spoiled millionaire athletes and Big Business baseball, the pure, honest spirit of the Game is alive and well in America's heartland—if also a bit deranged.

In Slouching Toward Fargo, Neal Karlen describes his two-year journey with the St. Paul Saints—the most audacious bush-league ballclub ever to plumb the bottom of the pro sports barrel. A motley collection of has-beens, hopefuls, rejects and mutts who've all been ignored or banished by the majors, "Da Saints" have become a national phenomenon for playing with as much gust off the field as on, while proudly adhering to the timeless sports credo that it takes heart, skill and cheap theatrics to plant devoted butts in stadium seats.

Where else but in St. Paul could you find a 300-pound pig playing the role of a ball boy? Where else can otherwise normal fans do battle during the 7th-Inning Stretch while wearing giant sumo suits? Where else but in the Saints' ever-sold-out Midway Stadium can 6,329 die-hard fans get a back rub from a nun for $5 a pop? No gimmick is too weird for the Saints as long as it's fun—just what you'd expect from a club co-owned by comedian and team Czar Bill Murray and run by Mike Veeck, son of legendary promoter Bill Veeck and organizer of the biggest promotional disaster in the history of organized ball, Disco Demolition Night. With a small team in a small town, they've shown America that all the Bud Seligs in baseball aren't worth one pre-game Bar Mitzvah on the field.

And where but in St. Paul, just down the road from the rehab clinics of Hazelden, would you find so many second chances and even more last or only chances? Neal takes you into the dugout with the infamous Darryl Strawberry as he starts his comeback to the majors and World Series glory, and into the locker room with Jack Morris, baseball's biggest bastard and winningest pitcher in the '80s, who would one day vanish from the team without a trace. In this era of spoiled millionaire athletes and Big Business baseball, the pure, honest spirit of the Game is alive and well in America's heartland—if also a bit deranged.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Karlen is a hip freelance writer whose book began as an assignment from Rolling Stone to get the dirt on comedian and independent baseball league team owner Bill Murray. Karlen, a Minnesota native, soon tired of that assignment and fell in love with Murray's team, the St. Paul Saints, whose hilarious exploits and hijinks make up this book. During this time, the Saints gained national attention when they signed the drug-plagued slugger Darryl Strawberry and a budding new star, J.D. Drew. What made the Saints so special, however, was also their president and chief promoter, Mike Veeck, son of legendary Hall of Fame showman Bill Veeck. Young Veeck's hilarious promotional antics have included hiring the team's 300-pound pig mascot. Karlen's main theme is that it is here in the Northern League where real baseball can still be found. This book updates Stefan Fatsis's Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland LJ 2/1/95, which chronicled the birth of the Northern League. Baseball connoisseurs will thoroughly enjoy this book. Recommended for larger libraries.--Paul M. Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Ron Fimrite
Karlen came to his assigment [from Rolling Stone] with the preconceived notion that Bill Murray was a misanthrope and Daryl Strawberry is a jerk. He discovered, much to his professional dismay, that he liked both men immensely. In fact he liked almost everything about the lowly Saints, whose motto was 'Fun is Good.' With that in mind, Karlen abandoned the magazine assignment and wrote instead this fun-is-good book. Good for him.
Sports Illustrated
Kirkus Reviews
Bull Durham meets Meatballs in this raucous yet meaningful tale of a minor-league club with major-league characters. The book is set at Midway Stadium, home of the independent Northern League's St. Paul Saints, an outcast team stocked with outcasts like co-owners Mike Veeck (fired from the Show when his promo turned riot) , anti-Hollywood movie star Bill Murray, and Darryl Strawberry, the deadbeat dad and former cocaine abuser who was blackballed from pro ball. All these outsiders, including the author (who hates the poison-pen role he plays for Rolling Stone), are seeking redemption on the wrong side of the Twin Cities. Among the many minor characters who enliven this two-year saga are Bill Veeck (father of Mike and idol of Murray), the legendary and vilified baseball owner who hired a midget and brought in aged Minnie Minoso for comic relief; a ball boy who is a 300-pound pig; a blind announcer; a nun who massages Saints fans behind the third base line; pro ball's best female pitcher, "Dakota Sadie," who entertains Fargo fans at the scoreboard with a dance; a teamful of hopeful kids and disgruntled veterans; and Charysse Strawberry, the big-league wife whom all the groupies aspire to be. The team reaches success and then hits bottom, like the many engaging losers who gamble on some beer and a lover at the nearby tavern. Corporate ball be damned, says this classic in the mold of irreverent baseball books; having fun while playing the game counts more than winning. The author's own character is overplayed—only the thorniest of the Bush Leagues can justify all those quotes from Yeats, Joan Didion, and Murray's movies—but at least this assignment to the boonies saves his souljust as the Saints successfully launch the Straw to pinstripes. An anti-establishment book that captures the essence of America's true pastime.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380974849
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/6/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 1.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Neal Karlen was speaking Yiddish at home well before he was a staff writer at Newsweek and Rolling Stone. A regular contributor to the New York Times, he has studied Yiddish at Brown University, New York's Inlingua Institute, and the University of Minnesota's Graduate School of Journalism, where he teaches nonfiction writing.

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