Thursday, April 30, 2009

E-Golenbock: Alert Correspondent Cries Foul Over New Steinbrenner Book

When Facts Strike Out; Checking a Manuscript Too Much of a Bother for John Wiley & Sons

Author Peter Golenbock has been nothing if not prolific for more than 30 years, churning out sports books -- many of them about baseball.
Perhaps the best known, "The Bronx Zoo," about the then-hugely talented but immensely dysfunctional New York Yankees, rode The New York Times best-seller list for 29 weeks in 1979.
Golenbock has since collaborated with several Yankees on their autobiographies, and has now returned to his motherlode with "George: The Poor Little Rich Boy Who Built the Yankee Empire," about now-enfeebled Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
So, with all that time spent with the Yankees, you'd think Golenbock would have his material down cold. Instead, as CBS News Radio Correspondent Peter King found out, Golenbock merely shows why every author needs an editor. And what happens when he doesn't have one -- at least one who knows the subject matter.
King (full disclosure: a former colleague and current friend), who has logged many hours in and around ballparks during his career, was slated to interview Golenbock about his book. Then he read it and found it riddled with enough errors to have Golenbock sent down to the literary bush leagues for life. Among them, as King writes:
--On page 277, there was a reference to the 1981 White Sox and their General Manager Dave Dombrowski. That would have been amazing because in 1981, Dombrowski was just 23 and hadn’t been in baseball that long (his first GM job came with the Expos in 1988).
--On page 314, he mentions Florida Marlins owner "Bob Luria." Maybe he was thinking of ex-Giants owner Bob Lurie? The Marlins’ owner is actually Jeffrey Loria.
--On page 144, he had Billy Martin trying to get himself fired from Texas in July of 1974 so he could manage the Yankees. He was off by one year; it happened in 1975.
Perhaps the most amazing error of them all came on page 196 when he had the Yanks trading away relief pitcher Sparky Lyle in the spring of 1979. Here, Golenbock contradicts Lyle - and himself - since they co-wrote Lyle’s book "The Bronx Zoo." The last paragraph of that book is a post-script, saying that Lyle was traded away on November 11, 1978.

King called the flack working for the publisher, John Wiley & Sons to cancel the interview and express his dismay. Wiley has since owned up to the problems, as has Golenbock, who has also been roundly attacked by knowledgable fans on Word is the errors will be corrected in the next printing. We'll see.
Of course, Golenbock is hardly the first non-fiction author to get facts wrong. It happens all the time. And that's the problem. Most publishers don't have the inclination or resources -- unlike magazines -- to do proper fact-checking, or any at all. They want you to pay 25 bucks to read nonfiction. After that, you're on your own.
But it didn't have to be this way. Any editor with even an adequate knowledge of baseball would have easily been able to flag these errors before the book went to press. It's bad enough Golenbock was so consistent in his sloppiness. However, Wiley compounded Golenbock's errors by letting them go unchallenged.
Sadly, this not an isolated incident for Wiley. It also publishes the Frommer's travel guides. As I wrote in 2007, my experience using their 2008 guide to Walt Disney World was an experience in frustration, as it was often badly outdated or just plain wrong.
Sound familiar?

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