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‘CHASING WILLIE MAYS’: BACKYARD FANTASIES, BASEBALL, ARCHEOLOGY OF THE 50s and 60s MELD INTO PRIZE-WINNING MEMOIR

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BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

ED NOTE: Be sure to check in with THE PLANET tomorrow. You’ll be the first to read about a tax hike of 400% to 600% the city of Pittsfield wants to impose on businesses and homeowners. They are trying to sneak this one through without fanfare. Rest assured, however. THE PLANET will be there to let the world know about it. 

And thank you to those who have responded by purchasing copies of Paul Kocak‘s great memoir, CHASING WILLIE MAYS. This book will be in line for some major literary prizes later this year. It’s a great read, and it makes a great gift for fans of memoir, biography, autobiography, baseball, and Americana.

On another matter, Supercitizen Terry Kinnas and THE PLANET had one of our best hours of television yet. PLANET VALENTI TELEVISION can be seen on PCTV Channel 16, Time Warner Cable, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. Thursday, and 12:30 a.m. Monday.

Finally, be sure to get your copy of The Berkshire Courier tomorrow, when the new copy of Pittsfield’s finest weekly hits the stands. It will have our newest fire-breathing column in it. 

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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY FEB. 21, 2017) — One of the most recent book projects THE PLANET undertook was our role in a magnificent new memoir by Paul Kocak. a book titled CHASING WILLIE MAYS: Chronicles of a Fan Left Behind. If this title doesn’t win a major award in 2017, then Otis Campbell didn’t have a drinking problem.

We edited the manuscript and thorough Europolis Management, worked in conjunction with Creators Publishing of Hermosa Beach, Calif., and our own Planet Media Books to bring this important work to the market. The book is now available, and later in this column you’ll find ordering information.

First, though, here’s a what’s what about CHASING WILLIE MAYS: Chronicles of a Fan Left Behind
By Paul Kocak (from the press release):

What if your hero is forced to abandon you and you can’t let go?
Spanning a baseball fan’s life, this memoir explores hero worship, coming of age, and obsession. Paul Kocak grew up as a New York Giants fan in baseball’s golden age. When the boy’s team moved to San Francisco, he became a fan in exile. We relive backyard fantasies playing Wiffle Ball and Hitting Them Out. We learn of a heart-breaking teenage drowning of the narrator’s neighbor. The chronicle’s time line coincides with the assassination of JFK, Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. He encounters Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, former Cy Young winner Vida Blue — and Willie Mays. With a subtext of addiction and recovery, Chasing Willie Mays travels coast-to-coast and into the soul with grace, insight, and humor.

“Paul Kocak captures what it was like to grow up as a baseball fan in Stamford, Connecticut, our hometown. Along the way, he recalls a golden era of New York baseball.”—Bobby Valentine, former manager of the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox

Print ($14.99) ISBN: 978-1-945630-31-6 E-book ($9.99) ISBN: 978-1-945630-30-9.

Chasing Willie Mays is available for purchase at: Amazon, Google play, and Nook. Locally, you can purchase signed copies at The Red Lion Inn gift shop.

——– 000 ——–

PAUL KOCAK

Paul Kocak is the author of Baseball’s Starry Night, which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin called “a magical book about a magical night.” Born in Stamford, Connecticut, he lives in Syracuse, NY. This is his seventh book.

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From Dan Valenti’s introduction:

“All memoirs and autobiographies suffer from a form of aphasia. As a writer attempts to tackle his or her own story, the use of words to convey what that life was actually like fall short, as in no other form of historical prose. Unlike the historian, the memoirist and autobiographer uniquely know what happened from the inside out and soon realize the story can’t be told in full — or not even close. The complete and honest memoir? Impossible. Words fail to suffice, experiences overwhelm, and too much of daily living’s endless cascade and repetition confuse the essential information, leading the writer to a series of less-than-ideal choices: the “probably this goes in,” the “should I include this?” and the “No way does that belong!” To add sea water to the sliver, these choices aren’t easy.

“As Nietzsche deftly observed, the one book that no writer has ever written and will never write is the totally honest autobiography or memoir. Consequently, the writer of these two unforgiving rhetorical forms must leave out many aspects of Truth, even the glorious and glorious moments. Can you imagine, then, the wicked but irresistible impulse to expunge when one’s shortcomings must be confronted? What does the diarist do? Typically, he leaves out the embarrassments and failures, spins them, wildly exaggerates or understates, or outright lies. All are forms of massaging, a clever and time-honored way to add distortion to the landscape of one’s life as presented to the dreaded Others. When done artfully, though, the disfiguration isn’t noticed.

“The memoirist has the essential problem of space: How can life — a life, my life — be captured in a few hundred pages? A few thousand? It can’t be done, and so when a writer as meticulous as Paul Kocak reaches past wall-to-wall autobiography into selective memoir, he cuts to the chase. Being unable to tell you everything, he tells you what matters — to him. That’s all we see and all we need to see.
The collage Kocak composes in this remembrance consists of family, friends, the 1950s, a love of baseball, the New York-then-San Francisco Giants, and Willie Mays. In looking at these people, places, and things, Kocak shares them with us, the readers. That is his giving. Moreover, in the act of doing this, one senses the author always trying to reach an understanding of himself. Besides ego, isn’t that the reason writers share their innermost lives? That kind of voyeuristic element has long kept this narrative form so popular with readers. Only Paul will know for sure if these pages led to some self-enlightenment, a catharsis, or a greater and more therapeutic understanding of his life. As a reader of this manuscript and as one who offered many editorial suggestions, I sense he has done that for himself. That is his receiving, an illumination that has to produce a measure of self-satisfaction and fulfillment.”

This book makes a great gift for any reader, especially those who enjoy memoirs, biography, autobiography, baseball, Americana, and the archeology of the 1950s through 1980s.


Chasing Willie Mays is available for purchase at: Amazon, Google play, and Nook. Locally, you can purchase signed copies at The Red Lion Inn gift shop. BUY YOUR COPY TODAY!


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“An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes a better soup.” — H. L. Mencken

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

The views expressed in the comment section or opinions published within the text other than those of PLANET VALENTI are not those of PLANET VALENTI or endorsed in any way by PLANET VALENTI. This website reserves the right to remove any comment that violates its Rules of Conduct, and it is not liable for the consequences of any posted comment, written word, or information from any source other than PLANET VALENTI as provided in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and PLANET VALENTI’s terms of service. All users of the services of PLANET VALENTI agree to these conditions by virtue of this notice.

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heh heh
heh heh
4 years ago

A school custodian discovered a fire at PHS Friday night at 8pm. Fire dept took care of it. No mention of how it started or if smoke alarms went off.

Wonder if any more details will ever emerge or is it better to just keep such things on the down low.

Really?
Really?
Reply to  heh heh
4 years ago

Really?

I heard It was an electrical short in an IBM typewriter. Can’t believe they still have those laying around. Don’t people use word processors now?

Ed Check
Ed Check
Reply to  Really?
4 years ago

I don’t know about others, but I used an IBM typewriter for labels and forms even after I had a computer. It was much easier than a setting up and printing labels, file folders, tabs,etc.

No need to worry, IBM has deep pockets, so I can see some enterprising attorney starting a class action lawsuit. Did IBM ever issue a recall for electrical problems? Or is this just a fault of an overloaded electric circuit?

In any case, there was a fleet of Service Master vehicles on the scene at PHS this morning taking care of the cleanup.

A V
A V
Reply to  Ed Check
4 years ago

I repaired IBM typewriters for 20 years – never had one overheat or catch on fire

Pat
Pat
4 years ago

Fire at Pittsfield High School that will cost 10 to 15 thousand dollars in damage.

Pat
Pat
4 years ago

Donald Trump is absolutely correct about the refugee problem in Sweden. Get on Utube and listen to testimonies from people living in Sweden who say that their country has been changed into a country they do not recognize after their large influx of refugees.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  Pat
4 years ago

Now we know there are white supremacists in Sweden. Go and be with your kind, Pat.

And Dean, still not Matt, you festering miserable Dick.

Dean
Dean
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

Yes you are. everyone knows.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  Dean
4 years ago

you are his secret admirer, you sly dog you. I wonder if he knows you have the hots for him?

Let me ask you Dean, how is the guy in your bed?

Dean
Dean
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

matt (shakes) we all still know its you

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

Dean (not my sweet baboo) if you’d stop being so pathetic and fake, you would still be a dick

12 Gauge
12 Gauge
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

Take a Prozac Dorfmann.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  12 Gauge
4 years ago

Is this some weird obsessive fatal attraction between you two creeps and some Prius driving tool named Matt Dorfmann?

heh heh
heh heh
Reply to  Pat
4 years ago

Any woman from another country that Donald is not going to marry should leave

thems the rules

Pat
Pat
4 years ago

Chasing Willie Mays sounds interesting and about more than just baseball. I will get a copy.

Having a really hard time finding the Berkshire Courier now that Dan is writing his weekly article. The newspaper is impossible to find.

heh heh
heh heh
Reply to  Pat
4 years ago

Some time ago when an alternate news source came on the Pittsfield scene, and was offered free in stores, it threatened some special interest types.

and, so it was to be, that these host stores were spoken to, and many would no longer carry that paper. I know this because it was told to me by the stores. And it was also true that local business s were told not to advertise with this upstart.

this was a result of their objective content in regard to the special interest promoted CIVIC AUTHORITY.

let us hope no such heavy handed politics is taking place now

H
H
4 years ago

Humpty Trumpty sat on his Wall
Humpty Trumpty says he’ll bomb them all
All of his Generals
And all of his Billionaire friends
Makes me want to read Valenti’s latest book project again.

Pat
Pat
Reply to  H
4 years ago

Let’s see, Berkshire County local media only prints the news that flatters the powers that be, the county is in deep financial trouble, and you are obsessed with Donald Trump.

Obama looked the other way as Russia took over territories and expanded their power and now Trump is being too nice to Russia. There is audio that came out today of Obama in a microphone gaffe telling a Russian official that he would have more flexibility after he is elected to deal with contentious issues. Of course the media didn’t care because Obama is one of them. They never made a big deal about it. Progressives weren’t terrified of Russia during the Obama years. Only now.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/9167332/Barack-Obama-microphone-gaffe-Ill-have-more-flexibility-after-election.html

Yet Trump is being too friendly with Russia?

heh heh
heh heh
Reply to  Pat
4 years ago

I once saw OBAMA feeding and grooming Putins horse.
So he and Putin are definitely friends. Wouldn’t be surprised if Obama snuck the horse a few extra oats when Putin was not looking. Can’t trust the guy.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
Reply to  H
4 years ago

Poor H, you were making such good progress. Don’t be down on yourself everyone relapses sometimes. Go play with a puppy and think good positive thoughts.

Jaxur
Jaxur
4 years ago

Congratulations DV. Can’t wait to read this book. I loved Willie as a ballplayer.

heh heh
heh heh
4 years ago

Speaking of the Berkshire Courier. I wonder if they do or can print obituaries and if it covers the legal aspect of doing so. Could be a great alternative to the greedy papers who are just trying to bury their loved ones. It just adds insult to injury when some try to take advantage of the distraught family. What kind of people do that? What kind of business model is that?

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  heh heh
4 years ago

there is no legal requirement for an obituary.

12 Gauge
12 Gauge
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

Let’s take up a collection for Dorfmann’s obit

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  12 Gauge
4 years ago

The Obamacare deathsquads will get you first.

12 Gauge
12 Gauge
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

Dorff, you are so funny.

Not Matt Dorfmann
Not Matt Dorfmann
Reply to  Shakes His Head
4 years ago

I am a pretty funny person. Thank you for the compliment, baby cakes.

The School Committee
The School Committee
4 years ago

Trump creates real news by making things up.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
4 years ago

Yeah Trump and yeah Trump does stuff man. Yeah that Trump like he does stuff. Not my yeah

The School Committee
The School Committee
4 years ago

Trump needs a pet.

mi
mi
4 years ago

Paul Babeu is defending Trump on C N N.

EddieP
EddieP
4 years ago

Note to Really?
The foundation is in at the DD on First St. Other than that, no work has been done all winter. I would guess the steel is late coming in from China.
Who needs the Prozac now?

Really?
Really?
Reply to  EddieP
4 years ago

Really?

You do. You implied some sort of conspiracy. It is getting built. Cafua is to smart to start construction then abandon their investment.

heh heh
heh heh
4 years ago

If there is no legal requirement for a printed obituary then at least one local funeral home must be getting a cut of the Eagle fee. Because on more than one occasion it has pretty such been put to me that it was law.

Fugimoto Hockalugi
Fugimoto Hockalugi
Reply to  danvalenti
4 years ago

Somebody needs to write an obit for Pittsfield. Do they write obits in case of murder?

heh heh
heh heh
Reply to  Fugimoto Hockalugi
4 years ago

Pittsfield is not so much murder as it is suicide. Suicide by neglect.

P Hewton
P Hewton
Reply to  Fugimoto Hockalugi
4 years ago

We can’t afford the Funeral right now, out of free cash.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  P Hewton
4 years ago

Best three comment thread in a while! Kudos

P Hewton
P Hewton
Reply to  P Hewton
4 years ago

Thank You Comrade Dave!
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. .

Dilly Dilly
Dilly Dilly
4 years ago

We don’t need to pay for no stinking Eagle.

The School Committee
The School Committee
4 years ago

Trisha Farley loves Eversourse and let’s them set rates that runs small business out of pittsfield…..also old people who have electric

The School Committee
The School Committee
4 years ago

Eversourse gets cheap natural gas but steals our money

Still Not Dorfmann
Still Not Dorfmann
Reply to  The School Committee
4 years ago

Unless I am unawares of something, the City has ZERO influence on natural gas rates.

Luce Ball
Luce Ball
4 years ago

Val is number one.

Luce Ball
Luce Ball
4 years ago

))))))))))))
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Luce Ball
Luce Ball
4 years ago

))))))))))))
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