In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Fielder's Choice, Rick Norman approached us with some of his thoughts on the development of Fielder's Choice and his nostalgia for the early days of his beloved baseball book for kids.
This month marks the 25th anniversary since August House was kind enough to publish Fielder’s Choice, my debut novel, and I am happy to report, I have not aged at all - at least not on the inside. However, like the fans of the old St. Louis Browns, over the years, I have grown quite nostalgic about my mediocrity as a novelist.
The publication of Fielder’s Choice in the Spring of 1991 became the watershed event in my life that seemingly everything else has since been described as either pre or post my novel. It even replaced my wedding day as the watershed moment that, in turn, had replaced my losing the 1971 state high school football championship game. I suspect my next watershed event will be a hip replacement or terminal diagnosis but, so far, it has been a wonderful 25-year run that has afforded me many unique experiences.
I can still remember the day August House sent me my first hardback copy of the novel. I spend the afternoon daydreaming about walking down the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of “Fielder’s Choice - The Movie.” Daniel Stern, fresh off Home Alone fame, would be cast as Gooseball Fielder. He would motion for me to leave the peasants swarming me for my autograph and to join him in the front row to watch the film. Unfortunately, so far the only red carpet I have traversed is when the local Long John Silver’s restaurant opened in Lake Charles. There actually was a movie “Fielder’s Choice,” released in 2005 starring Rob Lowe. But, as far as I could tell, there was not a triple in the whole 85 minutes.
That day in 1991, I anticipated quitting my job as an attorney and, with my millions in book royalties, buying a ranch in Montana so I could write full-time while looking at the Rockies. I had never been to Montana, but the photographs I had seen were breathtaking, and I was certain the mosquitoes there were smaller than the ones we have in Louisiana. I finally got to Montana last year but I had to cut the trip short because of work. I was actually lucky to get back to Louisiana. In Montana, without the Louisiana mosquitoes siphoning pints of my blood nightly, my clothes had started to get tight.
I also made some great friends through Fielder’s Choice. Red Barber, the iconic Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers and later the New York Yankees provided me with invaluable information and insights about baseball in the 1940s. Duke Snyder, legendary center fielder for the old Brooklyn Dodgers, signed a copy of my book and sent it to me. He did not say whether he like it, or even if he read it, but he did sign it so I’ve taken that to mean it was his favorite book.
Rightly or wrongly, I tried to extend the joy and “fame-light” that Fielder’s Choice brought me by using it as the foundation of a Gooseball Fielder trilogy. But, sadly, I found that I never quite recaptured the excitement of a “six-year-old-at-Christmas” when I unwrapped that first copy of Fielder’s Choice 25 years ago.
Fortunately, the radiology department at the local hospital recently confirmed that I do not have another book in me. Even so, Fielder’s Choice remains my lottery ticket. It is that one in a million chance that may yet beget my ranch in Montana. It is the last thing I think about before falling asleep as the mosquitoes circle my balding head.