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Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland Hardcover – June 1, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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"The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams"
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This saga of a six-team independent league in the North Central U.S. and Canada will delight diamond fans. Fatsis, a former AP reporter, here covers the 1994 season (the second) of the Northern League of Professional Baseball, begun by Miles Wolff, owner of the minor league Durham Bulls. The new league has teams in St. Paul, Duluth, Sioux Falls and Sioux City on this side of the border, plus Thunder Bay and Winnipeg in Canada. In its second year, the league drew almost a million fans, nearly 4000 a game. The team salary cap is $72,000, to insure that the people on the field will be motivated by their love of play. How the league will weather being raided by the majors remains to be seen, but Fatsis's affectionate story is an affirmation that the national pastime still has a strong hold on the heartland. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Baseball's minor-league renaissance and the bitter, recently settled major-league strike fomented a rash of books this spring extolling the virtues of minor-league ball. This may be the best of the lot. Journalist Fatsis profiles the independent Northern League. Brainchild of onetime minor-league whiz-kid Miles Wolff, the Northern is made up of teams with no major-league affiliation. Typically, the big club contracts players, pays them, and assigns them to their minor-league affiliates. Not so in the Northern League, which relies on players overlooked or released by major-league organizations. (Occasionally, one of these rejects, such as Oil Can Boyd or Pedro Guerrero, even makes the Big Show.) What differentiates Fatsis' look at the minors from similar treatments is his objective presentation of his subject. He doesn't mythologize the Northern: sure the owners love baseball, but they are also business folk who want to turn a profit. The players aren't presented as fuzzy-focus field-of-dreamers, either, the book jacket to the contrary. Some just like to play; some want a shot at the bigs; a few are exorcising their baseball demons; and a few are the baseball equivalent of ski bums. And then there's Ed Nottle, a career minor leaguer and now Sioux City manager. He made the decision long ago that baseball was his life. He stuck with it and has few regrets. It's worth reading this fine book if only to get to know Nottle, someone whose "just do it" credo led to satisfaction if not wealth. Wes Lukowsky
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802712975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802712974
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,230,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on May 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many of us with a visceral connect to baseball have always had a sort of ambivalent relationship with MLB. It is certainly a thrill to watch the game played at its highest level by people who are the best of the best. I certainly would not want to have to do without the beloved White Sox and I will routinely watch whoever is playing on Sunday and Monday nights, even when it is the insufferable Yankees or Red Sox. However, there is always a slight feeling of disconnect, on TV or in-person at a major league park. There is always a sense of being a "spectator" in quotes - there, but not really mattering.

I grew up in a minor league (Triple A) city and going to the ballpark was something more there. Maybe it is the smaller, more intimate parks; maybe it is the extra sense of urgency in the players trying to get, or get back, to the majors. Maybe it is the sense that the owners and organization care more about what the fan gets out of it. Or some combination of those. In any case, a minor league game feels more alive, more elemental. It feels like it matters that you are there.

Wild and Outside is a look at the attempt of a bunch of guys who love baseball to create an independent minor league. It follows the ups and downs of the owners, managers and players as they negotiate the 1994 Northern League season. It looks at the teams and the league from financial and logistical perspectives, but it is really a love letter to elemental baseball - baseball that connects to the people who love it without regard to the biggest names, the highest salaries, the longest held records or the biggest TV markets. It is really about the fun of going to the ball park and being part of the game, even from the grandstand. It reminds of the feeling that it matters if you are there or not.
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Format: Paperback
This is a good read that moves along quickly. Since it was written about the 1994 season I'd consider it an early "history" of the Northern League, which kicked off the independent baseball movement, one that's lost steam over the years as teams and entire leagues (including the NL itself) have come and gone at a sometimes-alarming rate while the summer college league movement has gained momentum. There've been a few books on the NL and they all seem to focus on the St. Paul Saints, but this is one of the better ones in that it spends time on other franchises that provided on-field competition for the Saints, who are now in a more far-flung group of teams that took the old American Association name.

Anyway, about the book: Fatsis does a nice job profiling some of the owners/operators, managers and players in the NL along the way, updating the year through their eyes as well as his. I'm with another reviewer here in finding Duluth owner Ted Cushmore the most sympathetic figure. Owning a team is tough enough when you're a neophyte, impossible when your manager rarely listens or talks to you as he assembles a badly overmatched group of players. What's interesting is how St. Paul's overwhelming success at the box office and power in the league office caused distrust and even resentment among other teams in the league, not the ripple effect you want if you're running the league.

One other reviewer notes the steady drumbeat of Major League Baseball bashing, not surprising since 1994 was also the year players walked off the job and MLB cancelled the World Series. It's not really a distraction and it's hard to argue the logic, since MLB owners are anything but sympathetic figures, but it seems almost gratuitous at times.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone who enjoys or follows minor league baseball will find this a fascinating read. Heck, anyone who likes baseball ...and reads...will probably enjoy it immensely. Well-written, chock full of lots of interesting information, the perfect summer read for the baseball, especially minor league, fans.
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