Remembering Jim Brosnan: His book ‘Long Season’ was groundbreaking

Before there was Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay and Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, there was Jim Brosnan’s The Long Season.

In 1959, Brosnan, a journeyman pitcher, kept a diary of his year with St. Louis and Cincinnati. His subsequent book was the first inside account from an active player on the ups and downs of life in the big leagues.

It was a groundbreaking book and one of the most important ever written on sports. For many young fans of my generation, it was among the first relevant books we read.

Brosnan, 84, died on June 28. There were several obituaries and tributes filed about him during the holiday weekend.

From Bruce Weber of the New York Times:

In 1959, Brosnan, who played nine years in the major leagues, kept a diary of his experience as a pitcher, first with the St. Louis Cardinals and later, after a trade, with the Cincinnati Reds. Published the next year as “The Long Season,” it was a new kind of sportswriting — candid, shrewd and highly literate, more interested in presenting the day-to-day lives and the actual personalities of the men who played the game than in maintaining the fiction of ballplayers as all-American heroes and role models.

Written with a slightly jaundiced eye — but only slightly — the book is often given credit for changing the nature of baseball writing, anticipating the literary reporting of Roger Angell, Roger Kahn and others; setting the stage for “Veeck — as in Wreck,” the vibrant memoir of Bill Veeck, the maverick owner of several teams; and predating by a decade Jim Bouton’s more celebrated, more rambunctious (and more salacious) pitcher’s diary, “Ball Four.”

“The first workout was scheduled for 10 o’clock,” Brosnan wrote, in a typically arch passage, about the first day of spring training. “The clubhouse was filled by 9, and we sat around for an hour, anxious to go. But first came the speeches. Spring training has a convocation ceremony that follows strict patterns all over the baseball world. Manager speaks: ‘Wanna welcome all you fellows; wanna impress on you that you each got a chance to make this ball club.’ (This hypocrisy is always greeted by an indulgent and silent snicker from the veterans of previous training camps.)”

Dave Hoestkra on his site recalled spending time with Brosnan.

Mr. Brosnan quietly kept notes on a pad while sitting in the bullpen during a game. He never showed his manuscripts to anybody. Not even his roommates. Besides writing books, Mr. Brosnan wrote book reviews for the New York Times and the Chicago Daily News. For 25 years he was the baseball writer for Boy’s Life magazine. In the spring of 1968 he wrote articles for the Chicago Tribune magazine like “Moe Drabowsky Leads the League in Supernonproductive Outs,” and the eternally hopeful “Bonehead Baseball is Out, Out, Out at Wrigley Field.”

On road trips Mr Brosnan would pack books by Dostoevsky (not Drabowsky) and John Updike. He also carried a blue-gray 1960s portable Olivetti typewriter.

The typewriter broke in early 2004 when it fell off a shelf. He did not own a computer. He did not have e-Mail. Mr. Brosnan said he stopped writing after his typewriter went down. I wish I had made the effort to stay in touch with him.


2 thoughts on “Remembering Jim Brosnan: His book ‘Long Season’ was groundbreaking

  1. Jim paid a major price for his writings and breaking the “code of the clubhouse.” After a very good 63’ season with the White Sox (15 saves, 2.84 ERA) G.M. Ed Short cut him in spring training because he refused to give up writing like Short insisted.

    I have an interview with Ed in my Sox library from April 1964 where he talked about the situation. When Short spoke about Jim you could hear the disdain in his voice

  2. The irony of Ed Short’s having cut Jim from the Sox roster in the Spring of ’64 at a time when he (Jim) was still an effective reliever is that the Sox that year missed winning the pennant by just one game.
    While having a great starting rotation, they were perhaps a relief pitcher shy of a strong enough bullpen to put them over the top.
    Had Jim been there and had anything like the year he had before, it seems certain he would have made the difference.

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