Potomac Books (formerly Brassey’s, Inc.) seems like an odd publisher for baseball titles.
According to Kevin Cuddihy, an editor at the company, Potomac “has its roots in military history and has had a fair number of hits with political books.”
The line of sports books began in 2000 and was the first “mainstream publisher of Baseball Prospectus,” he wrote in an e-mail. “While it was slightly before my time, my understanding is that our parent company distributed the book, and based on the success approached the authors — and specifically Chris Kahrl — about not only publishing the book with Brassey’s, but coming on board and starting a sports line. Chris … did just that, starting with baseball titles but adding football, basketball, and other sports as well.”
Cuddihy joined Potomac in 2002 as an assistant editor in sports, and moved up in 2005 upon Kahrl’s departure.
He revealed how the house carefully chooses its handful of sports titles:
We receive probably between a couple and a few hundred baseball proposals a year. As for “good” proposals … that number is much, much smaller.
We try to spread our books across the genre — some biography, some statistical, some analytical, and some current events. The current events are probably the toughest because (1) things change so quickly and (2) you have to get them out quicker, which usually correlates to a lower quality book in terms of copyediting and proofreading.
As an example [of the first consideration], our recent book The Rocket: Baseball Legend Roger Clemens is sort of a current-events bio, in that he’s a more current player. The book talks about how he did things “the right way” … and came out right before he was named in the Mitchell Report. Given Roger’s insistence that he’s clean, though, it might still pan out as well as we hoped.
Another title that may have a boost because of the Mitchell Report is Dale Tafoya’s Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed, which takes a look at Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire during their years with the Oakland A’s. In an December e-mail , Tafoya, an award-winning sports reporter, said:
Growing up in the Bay Area during the peak of the Bash Brothers’ popularity in the late 1980s, I always sensed something unique about the muscle-bound duo. Both were heavily into weightlifting and it reflected in their brawny frames. They represented a new breed of sluggers trickling into baseball during that time. For decades, lifting weights and swelling your physique was discouraged in baseball; the Bash Brothers pioneered the body-building movement in baseball. They also proved you could beef up your physique, clobber tape-measure home runs, garner multi-million dollar contracts and revive a struggling franchise to a world championship. After both retired in 2001, I sensed their legacy would live on. I also felt steroid rumors and an ensuing scandal would hover over their careers. Keep in mind: I started the book in 2004, before Canseco’s book, Juiced, or anyone, had had a hint of what was to come. That fascination compelled me to compile a biographical book-length narrative about the Bash Brothers.
I asked if Game of Shadows, Fainaru-Wada and Williams on Barry Bonds and steroids had any influence on his work?
I started my book before the publishing of Game of Shadows. So, no, it had no influence on my idea to write the narrative. In fact, I think my book spurred Canseco to quickly finish his. In 2005, I contacted Canseco’s agent, Doug Ames, for an interview for the book and he declined. They wanted money. They also figured I had some key information and wanted to get Juiced out as quickly as possible. A month later, Juiced was released. Eight months ago, we contacted Canseco’s agent again, but they wanted proceeds of the book in exchange for an interview. In a way, it’s appropriate, since many fans want an objective perspective on how events unfolded. And I’m providing it. So when I pitched my book to publishers in 2004, most editors didn’t realize the steroid controversy would rock baseball, so they passed. But after the congressional hearings in 2005, Potomac Book snatched Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed.
Potomac scheduled Tafoya’s book for a July release. Considering the renewed interest in steroidal athletes generated by the Mitchell Report, was he concerned that it would be “old news” by the time it hits the bookstores?
Though I realize the importance of timing in the publishing world, for me, since I know Bash Brothers is the first book to fully chronicle Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco’s legacy, I feel, that alone, will generate interest. As long as Bonds is battling the perjury indictment, this issue will linger. Plus, the exclusive information I acquired through my 150 interviews will also grab headlines, I think. But this book is more than just about steroids; it centers around hypocrisy, their relationship, Reggie Jackson’s influence on both, what was going in the A’s farm system in the mid-1980s, and the Bash Brothers’ gut-wrenching conflict before Congress in 2005. Canseco and McGwire are a timeless topic. To some, the Bash Brothers foreshadowed baseball’s fate. What Canseco and McGwire provided for the Oakland A’s in the late 1980s, is what performance-enhancing drugs provided for baseball after the 1994 strike; it artificially revived a once dilapidated institution, only to be exposed shortly thereafter.
Cuddihy said Potomac didn’t anticipate rushing Bash Brothers to press “by more than a month at most, if even that. We’ve just started the production process on it, and want to have the best book out rather than the quickest. Our hope is that the Baseball Hall of Fame weekend will result in a debate over the qualifications of McGwire and others, lending another angle of interest to the book.
Other baseball titles for Potomac’s Spring/Summer 2008 catalog include:
- Sock It To ‘Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, edited by Mark Pattison and David Raglin (anniversary books always seem to be a major theme of sports books)
- The Ultimate Cubs Companion and The Ultimate Tigers Companion, both by Gary Gillette and Peter Palmer
- Home Run, by David Vincent