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Slouching Toward Fargo:: A Two-Year Saga Of Sinners And St. Paul Saints At The Bottom Of The Bush Leagues With Bill Murray, Darryl Strawberry, Dakota Sadie And Me Paperback – Unabridged, March 7, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Any baseball book beginning with a descriptive list of characters that includes a Benedictine nun, the hold-out college player of the year, a woman pitcher, a 300-pound pig, a seemingly washed-up Darryl Strawberry, a blind announcer, comedian Bill Murray, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, and the spirit of Bill Veeck--the game's greatest showman--hovering over it all as the holy ghost, is a book that swings for the fences. Slouching Toward Fargo does go deep, even off the deep end at times. The really amazing thing is that it's all true.

A resourceful veteran writer, Karlen spends the summers of 1996 and 1997 following the mismatched misfits who mold themselves into the St. Paul Saints of the unaffiliated A-level Northern League, one of the strangest clubs in one of the oddest leagues in the history of organized baseball. On one level, his chronicle is a certified hoot; the presence of team owners Murray and Mike Veeck, who inherited his father's gene for baseball theatrics, ensures that Fargo flirts with the unpredictable. But this is also a circumspect tale filled with second chances--not the least of which is Karlen's own redemption as a journalist, which resonates in counterpoint throughout. His adventure begins at a personal crisis point when he accepts an assignment from Wenner, who's had a longstanding grudge against Murray, to follow the comedian and do a hatchet-job on him for Rolling Stone. Karlen needs the check, sure, but he needs a reality check too. "It was time to put my scorecard in order," he admits; after all, this isn't his grudge. Can you hear the bass chord of conscience beginning to thrum? "As I followed the team, I would be searching for some clue to my own battered spirit." By the end of his journey, both the clues and the Saints entertainingly add up to a winning volume and a winning team. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance writer Karlen tells the antic story of how, in order to get back in the good graces of his former boss, Rolling Stone founder Jan Wenner, he agreed to spend a season covering the minor league St. Paul Saints. "Wenner made it clear to my beleaguered editor what he wanted done if I wanted back into Rolling Stone after a long stint as a prodigal: Bill Murray, a co-owner of the St. Paul Saints, and Darryl Strawberry, he of the notable rap sheet, had to be carved." But though he set out with the intention to write a hatchet job, Karlen was won over by Murray (who was hiding from fame), Strawberry (who was on his way back to the majors after drug and tax problems) and the Saints. His book is about how baseball can redeem the human spirit. In fact, just about everyone associated with the teamAfrom owner Mike Veeck (son of the legendary baseball owner and showman Bill Veeck) to the author himselfAfinds redemption. Karlen documents numerous team subplots (the travails of famous has-beens and anonymous hopefuls), comes across high-profile stories (e.g., those of former pro pitcher Jack Morris and Ila Borders, the first professional female pitcher) and re-creates a host of colorful characters, some charming (minor league fans), some despicable (TV and magazine people from the big cities). Readers not acquainted with the independent leagues will appreciate the portrayal of life on baseball's back roads. Unfortunately, Karlen reveals his own redemption within the first few pages, rendering later personal epiphanies anticlimactic. Plenty of rich anecdotes shine through the moralizing, but Karlen's entertaining book would have been even better had he trusted readers to draw their own conclusions about the beauty of baseball.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (March 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038079215X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380792153
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,905,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on August 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. Neal Karlen was a writer for Rolling Stone, sent to St. Paul, Minnesota to "get the dirt" on Bill Murray, iconoclastic actor and part owner of the St. Paul Saints. The Saints are a minor league baseball team, part of the independent Northern League, and operated by Mike Veeck, son of the legendary Hall of Famer Bill Veeck. (Casual baseball fans will most likely recall the senior Veeck for having sent midget Eddie Gaedel up to bat as a pinch hitter. It was only one of many colorful stunts by the games' most creative promoter ever).
Karlen sticks around for a couple of years; the story for Rolling Stone never materializes, but along the way this book emerges, as much about Karlen's crisis of spirit as it is about the Saints and the zany cast of characters surrounding them. But along the way we meet many of those who have given the Saints and the Northern League their unique cachet: on the field performers like former Mets slugger Darryl Strawberry, who temporarily redeems his life and career during a two-month stay with the Saints; former pitching star Jack Morris, seeking one more taste of glory, but on his terms only; Ila Borders, the first female to play in a professional game; and Wayne "Twig" Terwillliger, player and coach for 50 seasons and quiet representative of so much that's right with the game.
There are also wonderful portraits of Sister Rosalind. the nun who offers massages at games; a blind radio announcer convinced he's on his way to the big leagues; an employee of one of the Saints' rivals who earns the title "Most Beloved Woman in the Northern League" and others who find solace, healing and a chance to keep dreaming dreams in this strange, wacky, wonderful firmamenent. I really hated to come to the end of this one. The empty feeling was almost as bad as the night the World Series ends.
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Format: Paperback
This book has some incredibly intriguing subject matter, from the redemption of Darryl Strawberry in 1996 to a nun who gives backrubs and advice in the stands, and many other enjoyable and colorful characters besides. But the author spends so much time hand-wringing about his own angst (over whether he, as a journalist, will write a "hatchet" piece for Rolling Stone), that he rarely focuses on the actual game. Perhaps that's because he himself was so distracted by his angst that it was all he could really write about. By halfway through the book, I was wishing to hear less about Neal Karlen and more about the game itself. The scenes that take place on the field are few, despite the annoying sense that Karlen gives that a drama is being played out there... we're only seeing glimpses of it. Karlen also repeats himself often--as if he intended different chapters to stand alone as articles?--causing him to tell the same stories and trivial facts repeatedly, and yet often seemingly skip the meat of the story. His editors should have done a more careful job. It's a shame Karlen gets in the way of his own story--maybe Rolling Stone ruined him as a writer.
Nonetheless, I still recommend this book because its subjects are so unique and so worth hearing about! What a wild tale! Every baseball fan should know of some of the unique characters and history associated with the Saints.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved the new Neal Karlen book "Slouching Toward Fargo". It captured what life is like in the unique Northern League of Baseball. I should know, I was a memeber of the 1996 St. Paul Saints - I was the infielder born without legs - Dave Stevens, and it was a dream of a lifetime to play alongside Darryl Strawberry and Jack Morris - Please read this book for an incredible unprecidented inside look at the oddball life and times of the rennegade league and why that team in St. Paul can outdraw it's ugly step sister - the Twins - just two miles away - on any given summer night
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Format: Kindle Edition
If you followed the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League in 1996 and 1997, you probably remember that your team included several memorable characters. The team leader was a convicted felon with Hall of Fame credentials. His name was Darryl Strawberry. One of the other outfielders under consideration in spring training had no legs.

The pitching ace was Jack Morris, a former major league all-star trying to launch a comeback whose personal charm was akin to a rabid Rottweiler. Another pitcher was a converted outfielder who threw a no-hitter in his first start on the mound. Of course, you remember Ila Borders, the first female to play in an all-male professional baseball league. The closer was so handsome that he could use the world’s worst pick-up lines in country bars around the Midwest and leave within minutes with the most beautiful girl in the place.

The St. Paul Saints were also surrounded by quirky individuals off the field. One of the team’s owners was Mike Veeck. The worst promotion in major league history, Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago, was Mike’s brainchild, although his father, 20th century baseball imagineer Bill Veeck, took responsibility for the fiasco. The St. Paul Saints ownership also included arguably the finest comedic actor of our time, Bill Murray, who liked to show up at game time, sometimes selling beer in the stands or coaching first base or tossing out the first pitch by throwing it high over the press box and out of the stadium. The third base coach was Wayne Terwilliger, one of only three men to spend fifty years in uniform.

In the stands you could get a massage during the game. The masseuse was a nun. And one of the radio announcers during the 1997 season was blind.
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