Two (not so recent) bits of writing

2010 July 11
by Don Hammack

A story and brief review on a new book by Dayn Perry, which ran in the Sun Herald on June 6:

Coast author writes Reggie Jackson biography

Dayn Perry learned something very important writing his latest book. It had to do with getting his head in the narrative elements of the biography he was working on. It’s something that he learned to cherish, even as someone he cherished more made it harder.

“I wrote this, largely, after we had our son,” he said. “I didn’t realize how important solitude and silence were in the process.”

Wyatt, now 2-1/2 years old, didn’t stop Perry from finishing “Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October,” his second book and first biography.

He wrote during Wyatt’s naps, taking time last week to talk from his Chicago home for an interview before those nap-time work hours.

Perry graduated from Gulfport High School in 1990, went on to Millsaps College and completed undergraduate and masters degrees in English with an emphasis in creative writing.

Perry is a baseball fan, for sure, writing columns for Foxsports.com and posting at daynperry.com. He’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan, raising Wyatt in the ways of hardball guerilla warfare in enemy Cubs territory.

His first book, 2006’s “Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones”, was an examination of great teams using statistical analysis and storytelling.

His latest plumbs the depth of, as the subject himself would say, Reggie Jackson’s greatness.

Perry utilized old-school time in the Harold Washington Library looking at New York and Los Angeles newspapers for Jackson’s time with the Yankees and Angels. He also went new school to look through online archives in Oakland and other New York newspapers.

“There’s a lot out there on him,” Perry said. “Not a lot recently. when you get in newspaper archives, its’ a slow process. It’s every day of his career, pretty much.

“It’s a time-consuming effort, but it’s also pretty fascinating for a baseball fan and guy who likes to poke through newspaper archives.”

Perry wrote in his source notes about unsuccessfully trying to get Jackson to cooperate with the project. He said that made him have to “enter Reggie’s head and presume to communicate his thoughts.”

It’s not unusual in biographies, but it was new ground for Perry. He said he did it judiciously, and not just for legal reasons. He felt the book’s narrative engine needed it, but he stripped some of those efforts in later drafts feeling they were leaps too far.

Perry is decompressing right now, keeping an eye from time to time on how his book does on the Amazon.com list.

He’s kicking around an idea for his next book, one on the 1932 season that saw the Cubs play the Yankees in the World Series.

That year saw the beginnings of the Cook County political machine and the fall of Tammany Hall.

He’s unsure what the subject of his current book thinks about Perry’s product.

He chooses to believe that’s good news.

If Jackson was outraged, Perry would have heard about it.

“I’ve not had any contact from him and doubt if I ever will,” Perry said.

“My guess he would read it, and it would be somewhat beneath him to ever acknowledge it.”

“Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October” (William Morrow, 326 pages, $25.99), by Dayn Perry

Dayn Perry mines the mountain of previous material on Reggie Jackson and combines it with information derived from interviews with many who knew him as teammates, coaches and reporters to tell a strong tale of a pivotal player in baseball history.

Jackson faced some of the overt racism that Jackie Robinson did when breaking the color barrier and superstars like Willie Mays surely still dealt with, but Jackson’s place in baseball racial history may be in breaking the shackles of acceptable personality players of color had to deal with.

He certainly had the outsized ego to take and expand the stage, but Perry writes about Jackson’s own complicated racial experiences.

He grew up largely among whites, including many Jews, and frankly hung around white players more than blacks.

He also flouted societal “rules” and dated a long list of white women.

Lost to death were such interview subjects as New York Yankee teammate Thurman Munson, manager Billy Martin, Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley and Jackson’s father, Martinez.
Perry couldn’t interview Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, either, his memories taken by illness.

But he did catch up with a score of journalists who covered Jackson, including Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, who told him the following anecdote, Perry’s favorite.

“Bob Lemon was sitting in his office putting his signature on a ball the rest of the team had signed to give to a sick kid or whatever,” Perry said. “(Madden) noticed he didn’t sign the sweet spot of the ball like most managers do. He asked him about it and Lemon held it up and Reggie had all signed there.

“Bill Madden said if this had happened when Billy Martin was there, it would have started a brawl.”

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