By In Stuff

Shameless Plug for The Secret of Golf




The Secret of Golf comes out on June 9. As you can see above, I got my first copies of the book this week … and I must say they look really good.

If you preorder now anywhere — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your favorite indie bookstore (or mine) — you can get a free bookplate for your collection or Father’s Day or, well, who am I to tell you what do with your bookplate?

Anyway, for your free bookplate, just fill out this form.

* * *

I started writing this blog eight years ago, which — like most things — sometimes seems like long ago and other times seems like yesterday. I had no idea that this blog would become such a big part of my life. I had no idea that it would lead to numerous opportunities and challenges, that it would be so rewarding and so pointless, that it would lead me to write about Pixifoods and Snuggies and iPads and what body part we dry first after showering and Roy Hobbs and Harry Potter World and so, so, so much baseball.

I had only two vague notions about blogging then:

1. I would use this so-called blog to write whatever stupid thing struck me.

2. I would use it to promote the heck out of my book The Soul of Baseball.

Eight years ago. The Secret of Golf is my fourth book — fifth, if you count my collection of columns “The Good Stuff,” which I generally do not because those were columns I had already written. I suspect it won’t surprise you to know that each of my books have been deeply personal; writing books tends to be like that. You give up a little piece of yourself to write a book. Sometimes, the piece isn’t that small.

When I was writing The Soul of Baseball, my homage to Buck O’Neil, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was driven daily by my love and admiration for Buck. I have written many times that I don’t believe in writer’s block because my father worked in a factory most of his life and he never woke up with factory block. But there were many times in the process of writing Soul where I did not know where the book went next. And then I would think of the Red Dress story, my favorite story in the book (and one of the inspirations behind the Royals and Negro League Museum’s awesome “Dressed to the Nines” day).

We were in New York at the end of a long and painful day. Buck and I walked together from the car to the hotel. When I stepped inside and turned around, though, he was gone. I looked back out through the sliding glass doors, and saw that he was talking to a woman in a stunning red dress.

They talked and laughed for a good while. And then Buck came back into the hotel, refreshed and alive and ready for the night.

“Did you see that woman in the red dress?” he asked me. I nodded. He shook his head as a rebuke.

“Son,” he told me, “in this life, you don’t ever walk by a red dress.”

That story sustained me, inspired me, motivated me to finish the book. See, every book begins with an idea and an ideal, and every step of writing takes you a little bit away from both. I don’t know an author who hasn’t, at numerous times in the book writing process, thought: “This is terrible. This is nothing at all like what I had in my mind. I need to start all over. I need to try a different idea. I need to get a real job. This is dreadful.” I think this is why so many people start books they never finish. It takes some of your soul. And you need something to keep you going.

My something was Buck O’Neil, the man who never walked by a red dress or a child wearing a baseball glove or a table where people were eating a good desert or a person who wanted to tell him a memory. He was galvanized by the beautiful things in life. And he refused to believe the ugly things defined us. It was his energy and hope that pushed me over the rough edges.

When I wrote my next book, The Machine, about the 1975 Reds, I tried to transport myself back to my childhood. I listened only to music from 1975. I cannot tell you how many times I listened to “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Jive Talkin’.” I hear those songs still in my sleep. I tried to watch 1975 television shows and movies. I tried to read a different 1975 newspaper every day. I don’t have any idea if any of that helped or worked its way into the book, but it was what kept pushing me forward, kept prodding me to the finish.

My third, Paterno, has been subject of many opinions about the book and about me. Of that I will only say it remains the proudest professional achievement of my life. I believe the book is true, and I believe it stands stronger over time. The inspiration that drove me through that book was to not let the fury of the moment overwhelm what I came to do. I came to write the remarkable life of Joe Paterno. I believe I did that honestly and through a roaring wind.

My fourth book was, as you might expect, a lot easier. The Secret of Golf  is about golfer Tom Watson and his rivalry and friendship with Jack Nicklaus. There are numerous things that make a great sports rivalry, but I think the biggest thing is that there have to be classic confrontations. The rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, for instance, never was a rivalry because they never really had great battles. They were just great at roughly the same time. That’s coincidence, not rivalry. Elway and Marino and Montana were the great quarterbacks of the 1980s but they did not have many memorable clashes. Maddux and Clemens did not really battle each other. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather called each other rivals, but they were not. They did not fight each other in their primes and the one time they did fight was a dud.

In this way, a rivalry is something more … there’s something almost mystical about it, the way one rival brings the most out of another, the way their styles interlock, the way they just keep running into each other in their journeys toward excellence. If you close your eyes, you can see Navratilova charging the net and Evert setting up to hit the passing shot. You can see Frazier beginning the big left hook and Ali sticking the jab in an effort to stop it. You can see Brady, all cool and calm and confidence, and Manning, arms flailing as he shouts out signals and nonsense in an effort to daze and confuse. You can see those things because they all had so many moments together on the biggest stages.

Three times, in three very different places, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus brought out something magical in each other. Those three tournaments — the 1977 Masters, the 1977 Open Championship and the 1982 U.S. Open — are the core of the book. But the inspiration, the thing that pushed me past the constant doubts and cynicism, was something else, something in the admittedly odd title: The Secret of Golf. There was something I was looking for, something that I think I’m always looking for when writing about sports.

In any case, here we are eight years after I started this crazy thing, and I can’t imagine my life without this blog. Yes, I sometimes wonder — and my wife Margo OFTEN wonders — why I spend so much effort and energy writing about silly things for free. I don’t have a great answer for that except to say that I love doing it, and I love the community that has built around this thing, and, right, the blog gives me a chance to say this:

Hey, buy The Secret of Golf.

Get a few copies for your friends.

Sign up for a free bookplate.

Watch this video I did about it.

It’s like the great Bob Feller (next book subject?) once told me: “Hey, if you’re not going to promote yourself, who will?”

P.S. Please buy the book.

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31 Responses to Shameless Plug for The Secret of Golf

  1. Gareth Owen says:

    As shameless plugs go … that one was pretty damn effective.

    • He’s entitled to all the free plugs he wants on his own free blog. As I think he mentioned, that was one of the reasons (not the only one) that he started this blog. To promote a book. Completely legit. If he’s not going to promote himself & his products on his own blog, in a digital world, who the heck is going to? I honestly wish he’d post more links to the various NBC sites he posts on.

  2. I have so thoroughly enjoyed your writing over the years.

  3. Love your writing, Joe. Best of luck with this one. A Feller book would be fantastic, by the way.

  4. benji says:

    It worked, I just pre-ordered it, looking forward to the read! I also can’t believe that it’s been 8 years since you started this blog. I was here the first day and have done my best to follow your writing around, but always knew I could find you here.

  5. john4psu says:

    I read Paterno and The Machine and am currently reading The Soul of Baseball. I look forward to reading The Secret of Golf as well. Thank you Joe and for writing your blog!

  6. Bob in VA says:

    I don’t see anyone dissing your blog or your books…and if they do, there are lots of us who will tell them how much we love your blog and your work.

    It seemed that everyone in Kansas City “knew” Buck O’Neil. And sang the song with him. He was everywhere, and what a guy. Your love of him came through loud and clear.

    Of course I will get your book. Maybe several copies. I’m a 70-year old guy, and people have no idea what to get me for a birthday or Christmas because I need to get rid of things, not get them. But with your books, I’ll make an exception.

    My blog is difficult, I try really hard but I just don’t have the skill or the genius. But I persist and appreciate what you do and the efforts of my old friend, Ted Kooser (read some of his stuff, he was Poet Laureate of the US). Keep it up, Joe.

  7. I remember being home from college for the 1982 US Open. Me and four or five high school buddies went over to a friends house to watch the last day of the Open. His parents had a house on one of the fairways at the local country club; a big sprawling ranch house with a huge patio and great views of the course. We started drinking beer at 10 or 11 in the morning and watched (and drank) the entire day. Nicklaus vs Watson, and the insane chip-in on 17. I thought I had died and gone to heaven – a perfect day.

    So, yes, I’ll buy the book too. Can’t wait to read it.

  8. Curtis says:

    I reckon even if the book is terrible, well, I got $20 of pleasure out of reading about Katie the prefect. So I have nothing to lose.

  9. tomemos says:

    “My third, Paterno, has been subject of many opinions about the book and about me. Of that I will only say it remains the proudest professional achievement of my life.”

    I’m sorry to be the party pooper, but that book, and your Paterno coverage leading up to it, was the low point of your career, as far as this fan can see.

  10. David says:

    I wish there was a crowd funding option to give money for all of the amazing writing I get to read here for free, I feel very guilty at times. At least I feel good I bought Soul of Baseball twice, gave my hard copy to a friend from NY and then bought it electronically because I couldn’t be without a copy. And I will soon be reading Secrets of Golf.

  11. dreamkafka says:

    I would have been interested in Buck’s opinion of Paterno.

  12. dlf9 says:

    Joe – I know that some sites get a small Amazon referral fee if we buy via a link. Do you get such a fee? I’d rather have my few shackles go to you than the seller.

  13. Milwaukee Mike says:

    At some point, Joe will write a book on the 1985 World Champion Kansas City Royals – not because of his affinity for the Royals, but to have a excuse to exclusively listen to chart topping hits from that year like The Outfield’s “Your Love” 😉

    • invitro says:

      “Your Love” is from February 1986, and was not chart-topping, but made #6 :).

      There are many classic #1 hits from summer/fall 1985 to choose from, like “Shout”, “The Power of Love”, “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)”, and “Money for Nothing”.

      (In fact, those four songs were #1 for two months, Aug 3 – Oct 11, and it seems astounding today that even one uptempo rock song could hit #1, let alone four in a row for ten weeks! I am glad I was a Top 40 and baseball fanatic at that time. Trivia: what was the last uptempo rock song to hit #1? My guess right now is EMF’s “Unbelievable”, which you have to go back 24 years. Rock truly is dead.)

      • KHAZAD says:

        “Unbelievable” is not a rock song, and wouldn’t be the last one if it was. I would say the last #1 song by a rock band which was not a ballad was by Nickelback, which is sad enough in itself.

        Stretching and using the same criterion that you used for EMF, (dance club music with rock influence), I suppose one of the recent Pink #1’s would qualify as well.

    • Just Bob says:

      On the other hand, if you’re listening to chart-toppers from 1985, you’d have to subject yourself to “I Want to Know What Love Is”, “Heaven”, “We Are the World”, “Saving All My Love for You”, and “We Built This City”. (Not sure I should include “We Built This City”, since it didn’t hit number 1 until November 6, 20 days AFTER the Royals won the series.

      • Milwaukee Mike says:

        I was referencing Joe’s comment a while back that he didn’t care for “Your Love” by The Outfield, which started a mini-firestorm in the comments section (all this in the context of his 1975 music listening while writing “The Machine”). Does anyone else remember that or am I the crazy uncle in the room. (And yes, “Your Love” the single was released in 1986, but its album “Play Deep” was released in 1985. Joe writing about Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters win would make a great book, too).

  14. Rick says:

    Joe, when an audio version comes out will you be the narrator?

  15. Iram says:

    Just finished the Reds book and thought it was great. Bought the Buck O’Neil book and am looking forward to it. While I prefer baseball over golf, I think I’ll give this one a try. Thanks for all the great work, Joe.

  16. KHAZAD says:

    Had a great experience meeting Watson when I was young. At the time, he was the 4th sports “star” I had met. (Willie Lanier, Fred Patek, and Frank White were the others) All were excellent experiences and I thought that all sports greats were also great people. (In time, I learned this was not the case at all)

    A friend of mine and I were were having a conversation about the 5 plays in sports we would change over the years for better stories or outcomes. (This would make a fun Poscast, I would think) One of mine was Watson making the putt to win the British Open at age 57.

    Also, what happened with the cover picture of Watson and Nicklaus you were going to use?

  17. cowhand214 says:

    You know, I’m not much of a golf person but I’ll buy this one I think. Hey, great rivalries are great rivalries and great writing is great writing. I look at it more as a way to illuminate something I know little to nothing about and how can that not be a good thing?

    Anyway, I certainly haven’t been here all eight years but I’ve enjoyed last couple for sure and am looking forward to the next eight.

  18. patglex says:

    Purchased PATERNO as an ebook, and I think you did a good job. I have my own ideas about what happened, and the era Paterno grew up and lived in. I intend on buying the hardcover version of THE SECRET OF GOLF — not only to enjoy it more (I’m a physical book person), but to pass it on to people and tell them “Hey, read this guy!” and hopefully pull them into your blog and other books.

    The reason that the cover may not have a photo on it is that the publisher might want to intrigue more people with the main title so that they’ll pick it up. (I’m in scholarly publishing . . . and if only I could convince our director that a book without a photo can be effective!)

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