Monday, February 08, 2010

Kathy Lockwood Deserves Rookie of the Year Award for Her Book: "Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside the Ballpark

I walked into a business meeting early this morning with a book in my hand. For those of you who know me, you will realize that this is a normal state of affairs. But this morning's book was the one the cover of which you see above. One of my friends quipped: "Oh, very nice. Are you getting married - are you about to be a bride?"

Despite the teasing I received from carrying around a book that looks at first blush like a bridal magazine, I boldly recommend this book to men and to women. Kathy Lockwood has done a wonderful job in capturing the nuances of what it means to support a husband who is attempting to carve out a career in baseball.

Skip Lockwood, who spent time with a variety of baseball organizations, including the Milwaukee Brewers, Yankees, Mets, signed in 1979 to pitch for the Red Sox. As a former Sox player, Skip is now a regular signer and a popular figure at Fenway Park's Autograph Alley. Last summer, when I was helping to staff a session at Autograph Alley, I had a conversation with Skip's wife, Kathy, and learned that her book was going to be published in a few months. I had been eager to read it, and was delighted when my copy arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.

This book is not a light weight "puff piece." Kathy Lockwood, a graduate of Regis College in Weston, MA with a degree in English, is an eloquent writer and an erudite commentator on the world of baseball and beyond. I love her writing style and her sense of humor. This is a book that will prove relevant not just to sports aficionados, but to all who contemplate the complex lives of professionals from all walks of life who must learn to juggle stressful careers, uncertain schedules, volatile career paths and the vicissitudes of parenthood. Kathy sets the scene very well in establishing the broad scope of her readership:

"At one time I thought that it was only the wives of professional athletes who were thrust into this protective custody role. I now recognize this same quintessential quality in strong and supportive women from all walks of life. The gift of creating an oasis of serenity has been bestowed on countless families across the country by ordinary women just 'doing what needs to be done at the time.' The military bride whose husband can be deployed at any time, the politician's spouse who needs to maintain a serene presence in her home state as well as entertaining constituents in Washington, D.C., the corporate weekday widow whose husband is constantly traveling, the family of the firefighter who can be sent to 'put out the fires' anywhere at any time, and the wife of the doctor who is constantly managing life-and-death situations all recognize the need to provide a sanctuary for her hero to regroup in the comfort of home." (Page 5)

One of the things that I find delightful in Lockwood's writing style is her ability to weave prose from situations and lyrics of songs that have been meaningful to her. Often, the allusion is subtle and may escape the notice of the casual reader, but that touch adds a layer of elegance and whimsy to her writing that I love. Here is a wonderful example of her distinctive style, taken from the period in the Lockwood's life when Skip was pitching for the Mets and they lived in Greenwich, CT, close enough to make frequent forays into the theater world of Manhattan:

"We were not alone in our obsession with theater. I remember Sandy Swan raving over Ann Reinking's performance in A Chorus Line months before it showed up on everyone's must-see list.

We enjoyed the same singular sensation the night we took our seats in the audience of A Chorus Line for the first time. Still riding high from the afternoon game where the entire fan base of Shea Stadium had given Skip a standing ovation as he entered the game and remained on their feet cheering loudly until the final strikeout, we headed over the 59th Street Bridge and on towards the theater district. As we entered the lobby of the Schubert Theater, it seemed that every eye was turned in our direction. They probably were, but it was not our presence but that of our companions, Tom and Nancy Seaver, that had heads turning. I don't recall the how and the why, but Nancy had become friendly with Anne Reinking, and the incredibly talented dancer had left her four tickets to the night's performance. We had been invited to join the Seavers at the theater even before Skip had saved Tom's game in the last inning that afternoon. Maybe it was my imagination, but it appeared that the entire cast was spotlighting its performance to the gregarious gentleman whose name was synonymous with the Amazing Mets. The play was every bit as entertaining as we had been told, and Ms. Reinking's dancing far surpassed the superlative praise Sandy had given it. As heart-stopping as the theatrical experience had been, the most exciting portion of our evening was just about to begin. The star of the show, Ann Reinking, joined us for dinner after the play. At the time she was in the midst of breaking up with a famous Broadway producer and anxious to leave the drama of the theater behind and share a meal with a few out-of-industry 'normal' individuals. I guess we fell on the fringes of that category." (Pages 139-140)

Ms. Lockwood then goes on to make an apt connection between the fragile world of a Broadway dancer and the fragile career of a baseball player.

"Whenever I hear the refrain of 'Kiss Today Goodbye,' I'm transported back to the days when Skip was given the extraordinary gift to do what he did for love for such a long time." (Page 140)

At the risk of quoting the entire book, let me share one more delicious snippet of the prose that sparkles throughout the pages of this delightful volume. The author loves to weave together clever plays on words. This one caught my eye as she was describing the challenge of a group of Mets' wives facing the national team of Bermuda in a softball tournament on that lovely set of islands in the Atlantic:

"Perhaps a little more practice should be added to our itinerary. We didn't want to embarrass ourselves or the Mets organization. We have to forget about collecting charming little sea shells on the coral sand for the moment. We needed to corral our team to practice improving our softball skills, or we would be shelled ourselves." (Page 154)

This is a book that deserves a broad readership. It will make a great gift - birthday, anniversary, Mothers' Day, Opening Day, etc.

The book can be ordered from the publisher, McFarland:




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