On the cover it claims it is “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”. The book is Slouching Toward Fargo by Neal Karlen, and I enjoyed every bit of the book except the “Me” part.
The book is about the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League mostly during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. The team, and league, were still in its infancy and full of interesting people on and off the field.
How the book started it seems was that writer Neal Karlen was sent by Rolling Stone to do a piece on Bill Murray who was part owner in the club. He was there to do a hatchet job on Murray and as fate would have it on Darryl Strawberry as well.
Over the course of the first year Karlen has some interesting run ins with Murray, Strawberry, as well as others. These stories are entertaining, but I got a little tired of hearing how Karlen was there to do the hatchet job.
The characters of St. Paul were amazing. You have the great Bill Murray who in my book is one of the funniest men of all time. You have Darryl Strawberry who is there trying to make his way back to the Major Leagues by showing that he is now a good guy. Then you have Mike Veeck the president and co-owner of the Saints who had been blackballed from Major League Baseball for things that happened years ago. Not to mention there is an outfielder with no legs, a pig that delivered baseballs, a blind announcer, the first woman player and a nun who gives massages at games.
It’s a cast of characters that would make any story interesting, and Karlen does a good job of writing about this. But what I didn’t like is how Karlen kept inserting himself in the story. As a reader I want to read about the Saints, not how the writer was burned out and didn’t love baseball anymore.
With that being said, the book is still very good. The people of this town and team make this book. Everywhere you turn there seems to be someone just as interesting as the last. You get a taste of what life is like in the lowest of the low minor leagues where people are working and playing for the love of the game.
Mike Veeck’s “Fun is Good” motto really shows through in the writing and you can imagine the fun that people had at the games. And even though the book was written about a time that is now more than 15 years ago, it’s still a great read.
The ballplayers, former MLB guys and career minor leaguers alike, are interesting, funny, and you even finding yourself rooting for some of them even though all this happened nearly two decades ago. There are just a lot of likable people that you will be looking up on Google and Baseball Reference to see how they performed after the time of the book.
So get past the part of the writer inserting himself a little too much into the story, in my opinion, and give this a read because it’s definitely worth it. It’s been out for some time so you should be able to find a cheap used paperback copy somewhere.
I give this book a rating of 3.5 gloves.