I had another good time with the baseball nerds on Saturday afternoon. Mike Carminati was the first to show up (a few of us met up an hour before the book signing at the Coliseum and settled across the street in Bryant Park, directly behind the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd street between 5th and 6th avenues). Mike is teddy bear of a guy, a top-heavy dad of two in his late thirties. Mike has a pronounced chin and a warm smile. He looks as if he could be related to Joe Torre. He is engaging and easy to talk with.
Alex Ciepley soon joined us. Alex looks like a young Alec Guiness. He’s got smiling eyes, and seems to be in a constant state of amusement. Jay Jaffe (Robin Ventura with black-rimmed glasses) found us in the park and the four of us had a good time chatting. It was a brilliantly sunny day; the park was gearing up for a concert that night, sound-check and all. Jay got a call from Steve Goldman and Chris Karhl who were tied up in traffic and running late.
As 6:00 rolled around, we headed over to the bookstore. The first speaker, a con artist named Dan Schlossberg, was hawking his recent book on the world champion Marlins. Cliff Corcoran, who showed up shortly after us, leaned over to me and said that Schlossberg was a dead-ringer for Bob Balaban. Not a bad call, though this zhlub had a rounder face. Schlossberg spoke rapidly and patrionizingly at his audience, not to us. With his shirt collar exposing a gold Jewish star, Schlossberg had the greaseball charm of one of the salesmen from “Tin Men” or “Glengary Glen Ross.” There was a group of us who were squirming in our chairs, shooting clandestine looks, like we were kids in high school. Not one for a fight, I quickly tuned Schlossberg out. But Mike C, who was fidgeting and shifting in his seat like a kettle ready to boil over, could not. Mike is not the sort who suffers fools lightly, and soon enough, he was challenging Schlossberg.
That was good for some private laughs, but I couldn’t take much more of this guy, so I excused myself and poked my head around the cook books until Kahrl and Goldman showed up. They arrived before long, both wearing black. For those who don’t know, Kahrl–BP’s most sardonic wit–is a woman who used to be a man (she’s the sabermetric Dorothy Parker). She has a broad face like a man, but fine features like a woman. We were sitting across the room from the podium, where Chris’ feminine features–thin, raised eyebrows and think lips–were accentuated. Did she look like a cross between Christopher Reeves and David Bowie? No, that wasn’t quite it. She had the look of a Hollywood starlet from the 30s or 40s. Paulette Goddard came to mind.
Chris spoke in a low, husky voice which sounded male, but her body language and facial expressions were decidedly female. She rolled and flitted her eyes, like a teenager. Both Kahrl and Goldman wore black in honor of the late Doug Pappas. Karhl spoke first and eloquenly eulogized her friend. It was difficult for me to hear her at first. Her voice was muffed and she spoke softly into her chin. But her words were poignant and moving.
I have to admit, the scene was right out of a David Lynch movie. There we were, a small, clannish group of baseball freaks listening to Kahrl talk about the finer points of advanced statistical analysis. Talk about off the beaten path. Especially after the comedy provided by our first speaker, it was a sight to see! Kahrl hinted at the recent changes in her life–once with regards to how Pappas had supported her from jump, and another time when answering a question about whether she would be interested in working for a major league team–but didn’t talk about it directly. Personally, I was impressed that she had the courage to talk about it all. (After the signing was over, I was introduced to Chris briefly. Her features were more blunt up-close, and she was friendly and warm, a very cool lady.) But as she spoke, I scanned the room and wondered what the audience made of her. Of course, I have no way of knowing what they were thinking, but I didn’t catch any funny or screw-faced looks. Frankly, I think they were too interested in what she was saying, not what she looked like. When a group of us huddled outside of the store later on, there was no tension at all, and Chris spoke to an audience that was hanging on her every word.
Goldman, far more at ease with public speaking, was as aimable and charming as ever. I actually missed hearing Steven speak at the Prospectus feed earlier this spring, and was grateful to see him in action on Saturday. I still haven’t spent more than five minutes talking to Goldman, but am more impressed with him each time I see him.
I had to break out shortly after the signing was over to attend my cousin’s birthday party. But it was great to talk with hardcore baseball fans like Darren (aka Repoz)–who told me stories about growing up with the Mike Burke Yankees, and Jon Daly, a Red Sox fan, who is a keen student of baseball history. Jay, Cliff, Chris, Alex and Steven all went out for eats and drinks and hours of more baseball talk. Next time, I hope to stick around longer. My only complaint is that there was Derek Jacques was nowhere to be found. Groucho once said that he wouldn’t want to belong to any kind of club that would have someone like him for a member, but I’d happily sport my baseball nerd club card anywhere, anytime.