I played baseball for a bit when I was younger. I was pretty damn awful.
Writing an entire novel with a strong baseball element seemed daunting at first. Writers are told to write what they know and baseball was foreign in so many ways.
Then, I realized it wasn’t foreign at all. For what can be more American than baseball?
In my eyes, watching games on TV never did baseball justice. I was very lucky, because my dad took me to a professional game every summer when I was a kid.
Although I wasn’t a good player, I loved the intense magic of going to a game. The enticing smell of popcorn in the air, the perfection of the combed dirt and manicured grass, and the joyful innocence of every spectator regardless of age.
Even today, these memories with my dad are very dear to me. And it was not until writing this book that I found the right one to dedicate to him…
For My Dad…He taught me I was just as good as the boys.
Funny thing is, this story fell right into my lap.
I’ve always wondered what opening a treasure chest might feel like, and a couple of years ago I found out when I discovered clues from 1954 in this vintage handbag.
Hidden deep inside the crevices of the musty lining were these…
On the back of the voting receipt was a shopping list written in a woman’s elegant handwriting…
Suddenly I was linked to the past, to a woman who carried this handbag sixty years ago. I pictured three different women who might have owned it and my imagination went wild.
So wild that I wrote my third book, NOLA FRAN EVIE.
The baseball tickets were from 1954. Interestingly enough, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folded that same year. I decided this was fate, so I brought these historic women back to life in my book.
The women who played in the league during WWII were considered unladylike and unusual. But during that time women filled in for men everywhere while they fought overseas, including the baseball field. The boys weren’t there to throw the ball around, since they were busy pitching grenades.
Though at first seen as a girly spectacle, according to aagpbl.org, during the league’s peak year in 1948 the teams attracted 910,000 paid fans.
Before the movie “A League of Their Own” came out in 1992, the women’s league was hiding out in the dusty shadows of history. The film is actually done quite well, with a decent amount of historical accuracy.
Most importantly, the film brought these incredible women who changed history into our modern lives.
Besides the film and some non-fiction, my online search the other day did not provide any fiction books written about the All-American Girls Baseball League. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit shocked.
I hope this book will honor the female players in the smallest way that I am capable of. For they were brave women who forever deserve to be recognized and celebrated.
An excerpt from NOLA FRAN EVIE—from the first chapter we meet Nola in 1954, ten years after she has left the league…
Dark shades receded from her face. Nola soon became a welcoming victim to the cloudless skies and breathless majesty of the stadium. Brick red dirt intermingled with apple green grass, both pristinely groomed for the occasion. White bases littered the canvas sporadically, accenting the no man’s land like islands of security.
It smelled like her dreams.
Silently, Nola reached her son’s side and gave him the soda. He drank straight from the rim of the bottle while she applied more lipstick to her curvy straw.
They joined hands and slurped. Energy, awe-inspired energy, radiated through their palms.
They descended the stairs—toe ball heel, toe ball heel—tiptoeing upon the unsuspecting field with care. Sunlight bounced off their shiny hair, illuminating them as they drank their pops.
At the railing they released hands and leaned forward to absorb every scent on the field. The earth, the sweat, the leather.
Grady spoke first, his voice clear over the murmuring crowd and the provoking announcer. “Can you imagine, Ma?”
Drunk with memories, Nola briefly touched the back of his head. “Imagine what, little sir?”
He folded his lanky arms on the railing and rested his chin. “All of this.” His blue eyes devoured the field, admiring each player warming up.
Nola followed his gaze and mirrored his love for all that was happening.
The ball shot through the air, a stitched bird gliding until it met the leathered hand of its receiver. Then it catapulted to another, simultaneously graceful and open-minded about its destiny. Tobacco spit shredded the clean air like tarred fireworks. Backsides were scratched with opulent vigor. Sneers and jeers traded seamlessly from one ace to another.
Like the thick noise of the stadium every part of the experience blanketed her, smothering everything Nola thought she needed, replacing it with what she really craved…baseball.
“Yes, I think I can imagine all of this.”
He squinted at her, confused by her unexpected response.
She cupped Grady’s chin with her quivering hand. “I think I can.”