For its baseball post-season, TBS has an in-studio pregame (and post-game show). For those of you who don't care one whit about baseball -- a) your loss, and b) not to worry! This isn't about baseball. But going into a little background to the larger point always helps.
As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, the TBS in-studio show is hosted by Keith Olbermann, and the panel is filled out by major league players (mostly former, but not always) and some journalists. One of those former major leagues they've had on occasion is a fellow named Dirk Hayhusrt.
Most people probably don't know him, likely because he had an extremely short career in the majors. However, he came to a lot of attention a couple of years ago, when he wrote a wonderful book that was an insightful and humorous diary of his time in the minor leagues, trying to become a major league pitcher. The Baseball Gospels: Major Leagues Dreams of a Minor League Veteran. Olbermann was a massive fan of the book, and talked about it heavily on his old MSNBC show. I suspect he had a lot to do with getting Hayhurst on the show.
Hayhurst has done a respectable job. He's got a good presence, is bright, light-hearted and has fairly good insights. He doesn't bring much gravitas to the table, but he's handled himself well, better than some of the most notable major leaguers they've had on.
This isn't so much about Dirk Hayhurst, though, but his publisher. I just thought it was good to put it all in perspective.
Hayhurst has written two books, and has a third coming in February. Actually, though, he has another book published, but bizarrely it’s a short ebook with random material that was edited out of his first two books. Most online Amazon commenters loved it, but the ones who’d read the first two books were scathing.
But even that's not what this is about.
It's that the rally annoying thing about this book -- something that's the publisher's fault, not his, I'm certain -- is that it's titled, Out of My League. That was the name of George Plimpton’s first book, the one which made him a national figure. It began life as an article for Sports Illustrated -- what if an everyday guy pitched to the best hitters in all of baseball -- and Plimpton expanded it into a full-length book, telling the tale of him pitching to a team of all stars.
Now, I know there’s close to no protection of titles, though if something is so well-known that you'd be impeding on its fame, there are protections. For instance, you couldn't make a movie and call it "Gone with the Wind." And Plimpton's Out of My League isn't at that level. But --- in this circle of books, it may well be.
It's considered a classic. How renowned is it? Look back up at the graphic of the cover above, on the left. You see a blurb quote from another author. If you can't read it clearly, here's what it says --
“Beautifully observed and incredibly conceived, this account of a self-imposed ordeal has the chilling qualities of a true nightmare. It is the dark side of the moon of Walter Mitty.”
– Ernest Hemingway
It's a classic. It's a well-known classic. It's the book that made the legendary George Plipton known. In fact, it -- and Plimptons books that followed -- probably helped created the market for first-person, real-life sports books, which gave this book from Citadel such a platform. And in in the end, it's not only the same title, but it's about the SAME thing. A ne'er-do-well pitcher dreaming about facing batters in the major leagues.
George Plimpton is not unknown. He wrote probably two dozen books. One which was made into a movie starring Alan Alda. He did several TV specials. Edited the renown Paris Review magazine for decades. A documentary was just made about him. And this was the book that started it all.
The publisher, Citadel, had to have done due diligence -- no lawyer would let his company not do so. And they had to have and found Plimpton’s. It's not possible that they wouldn't have. And if you found a book with the same title...and saw a guy in a baseball uniform on the cover -- with almost the identical, deer-in-the-headlights expression as the guy on your book, you had to have asked someone in the company, "Gee, did you know about this??"
I'm sure Citadel figured that since Plimpton's book was 50 years ago, gosh 'n' golly, there was no problem. Sorry, there's a problem. There’s no way someone should title another non-fiction baseball book the exact same as George Plimpton’s very first book, most especially since it’s a non-fiction book about baseball. Even further, they’re both about pitchers. And with the same pitcher.
This is thoughtless and small-minded, and makes the publisher, Citadel, look incompetent at best, and disrespectful to its own profession and the legendary career of George Plimpton at worst.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor