Longtime Pioneer Press sports stringer Mike Cameron has written his first book and will hold a book signing party open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Howard Street Inn, 6700 W. Howard St., in his hometown of Niles.
Cameron’s book, Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball’s Fred Merkle, is a factual look at one of the most controversial plays in baseball history — Merkle’s Boner — though I have yet to have found an instance where Cameron actually uses that famous term, and I’m halfway through his book.
Cameron, a former high school pitcher at Barrington, loves baseball and lists Merkle (right) and Ernie Banks as a couple of his heroes. You can tell Cameron loves baseball. The book is exhaustively researched and Cameron has done a good job of placing the reader back to 1908 when Merkle, a New York Giant at time, neglected to touch second base in what would become a forceout. The game against the Cubs ended in a tie and would have major ramifications on the pennant race that season.
The book has been featured on WGN-TV, written about in Pioneer Press and Cameron even contributed a guest column to CBS Sportline’s “Bleacher Report.”
I asked Cameron (below) why he decided to write the book:
“Six years ago, I picked up a very good book at the library. The book went into quite a bit of detail about the infamous Merkle play and the fantastic 1908 NL pennant race. I was immediately hooked. I found every bit of information I could get my hands on concerning Merkle. It didn’t take long for me to become completely convinced that Merkle did nothing wrong on the play in question and got the rawest deal any big-league player ever got. The abuse never abated. But he persevered and stood up to it all with tremendous strength of character. Fred Merkle became my hero and role model against adversity.
Along the way, I got to know his family. Particularly Marianne, his surviving daughter. Merkle’s family members carry deep hurts. They were insulted plenty along the way, too. But they also overcame the ignorance and cruelty of others. I formed relationships with baseball experts who are big Merkle supporters.
The project became a cause, a crusade for me. I felt as if I was meant to write this book. Merkle was a very smart man who was the direct opposite of a “bonehead.” He surmounted all the obstacles that came his way. It’s never too late to set the record straight. Merkle deserved this book–the first in-depth biographical account of the man and all that he endured.
My book is intended to inspire and empower the reader. If Merkle could take all the adversity that he had to deal with, you and I can overcome the bad breaks that will come our way.
But the book also will entertain and inform the reader. 1908 was a spectacular, dizzying year in America. People were trying to deal with all sorts of weighty realities. They escaped to baseball, which suddenly soared in popularity. This was the very best season of the great Deadball Era. The games were tight, hard-scrabble, low-scoring and rich in strategy. The players were memorable and colorful as the first wave of superstars came to the fore. And imagine that some team called the Cubs was a dynasty.”
The book is available at sportingchancepress.com.