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The '68 Series turned when the Tigers' Freehan stood his ground

Lou Brock (left) and Bill Freehan in the pivotal play of the 1968 World Series.

Jon Warden told me about Bill Freehan's death earlier today. And that, in and of itself, is a touch ironic. Even cruel.

For you see, Jon was the only player on either team -- the Detroit Tigers or St. Louis Cardinals -- not to take the field during the epic 1968 Fall Classic. 

Bill Freehan, of course, was involved in the key play of that epic seven-game series, which I wrote about in SUMMER OF '68: THE SEASON THAT CHANGED BASEBALL, AND AMERICA, FOREVER.

He's the one who took the throw from outfielder Willie Horton and stood his ground to tag the Cardinals' Lou Brock at the plate. In a bang-bang play, home-plate umpire Doug Harvey called Brock out and then the ump gestured to the baserunner's spike marks in the dirt, seemingly inches in front of the plate.

On such plays a series, even the fortunes of a team can shift. Heading into Game Five, St. Louis held a 3-1 series lead, one victory away from securing its third championship in five years. With Brock, Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepeda and other stars, the Cardinals were considered by many to be the best ballclub in baseball at the time.

In comparison, the Detroit Tigers were still battling for respect. They had lost the pennant on the final weekend the season before and until this play at the plate many of them weren't sure they could win in all. At least not in 1968. Until this point, the Tigers were just trying to keep the Cardinals' baserunners, notably the legendary Brock, from making them look like fools.

But once Brock was called out (and there's still debate about that in St. Louis), the Tigers battled back to take Game Five and then Game Six, and they did the improbable, border-line impossible. They defeated Gibson in the seventh and deciding contest.

The summer before there had been riots in Detroit. The worst such demonstrations in America since the Civil War. A year later, when the Tigers somehow won it all, there was celebrations on many of those same city blocks.

"The '84 Tigers like to talk about their 35-5 start (to the season)," Warden once told me. "That's nothing. When we won, we saved the city."


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ESCAPE off and running

Thanks to everyone who made the launch for ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA such a success.

A tip of the cap to ONE MORE PAGE BOOKS in northern Virginia, BOOKS & BOOKS in the Miami area and those who bought the novel in book, ebook or audible form.

The sequel to CASTRO'S CURVEBALL has been out for almost eight weeks now and one of the high-water marks was this virtual conversation with Saul Wisnia, who did Luis Tiant's autobiography, SON OF HAVANA -- https://bit.ly/3uhMefj.

Perhaps the most intriguing questions I received at such gatherings was, Will there be a third novel featuring the intrepid Billy Bryan? To be honest, I hadn't planned on one, but it's got me to thinking. Let me know where you'd like the onetime catcher to head next? As my friend Jane Leavy said in endorsing ESCAPE, "In Billy Bryan, Tim Wendel has created the perfect baseball man."

Indeed, Billy is a fun guy to write about. 

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Pub dates nears for ESCAPE

Copies are shipping from Nebraska Press and Amazon, where Audible and Kindle editons can be found, too.

And here's a recent column about Cuba, politics and baseball that I wrote for USA Today -- https://bit.ly/3jSXwSL

That can tie you over until your copy arrives.

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Escape from Castro's Cuba

Just finished the audiobook version for 'Escape from Castro's Cuba.'

The new novel will drop March 2 from Nebraska Press, with blurbs from Daniel Silva, Jane Leavy and former big-league pitcher Luis Tiant.

We're in the process of scheduling virtual events with such outstanding independent bookstores as One More Page in Arlington, Virginia, and Books & Books in Miami.

More news soon.


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Latest audio -- Habana Libre

What to do during the pandemic? Hunker down in the home studio and narrate some more audiobooks, right?

The latest is my novella HABANA LIBRE, which came out with CityLit Press a few years ago. The story of an odd couple -- a young sailor and a showgirl -- who dare to escape by sea from Havana and it can now be found on all audiobook outlets. Good fun to narrate a novella that Holly Goodard Jones said is told with "tender complexity and rich detail."

It's also an appetizer to my new novel, ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA, which is also set in Havana. A sequel to CASTRO'S CURVEBALL, it will be out this spring from Bison Books.

More on that soon. In the meantime, enjoy the HL audiobook.

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Audio beat goes on

RED RAIN, a World War II thriller, is now available on Audible.

I've been trying to stay sane during COVID-19 by spending more time in the recording studio, which is actually a closet in our three-bedroom apartment. 

The audiobook for RED RAIN, a thriller about the Japanese fire balloons in WWII, just went up on Audible. Thanks to my sister, Amy, for doing the great cover.

Also, I had fun narrating BUFFALO, HOME OF THE BRAVES,  which is about the star-crossed basketball team I used to cheer on when I was a kid. 

Pete Weber, the voice of the Nashville Predators, pitched in by reading that book's foreword by team announcer Van Miller. More about that soon as it should post on Audible in the next few weeks. It's already up on Google, Apple and other outlets.

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Staying busy in a pandemic

During such surreal times, I returned to the studio and finished the GOING FOR THE GOLD audiobook for Audible. This was my first book and details the U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid. Fun and a little strange to relive those days.

In addition, ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA, the sequel to CASTRO'S CURVEBALL, my first novel, is in process at University of Nebraska. This will be a Spring 2021 release, so stayed tune.

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Last Pitch on Audiobook

I've been in the studio doing the audiobook for DOWN TO THE LAST PITCH. It's now available on Audible. Please check it out.

I'm currently in the midst of the GOING FOR THE GOLD audiobook. Yep, that's the story of the 1980 Olympic hockey team, which was my first book.

The goal is to have it out for the 40th anniversary this February.

Stay tuned.

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Back in Bay Area

Dr. Donald Pinkel at Roswell Park, Buffalo, N.Y.

I'll be returning to the Bay Area to discuss my award-winning memoir CANCER CROSSINGS: A BROTHER, HIS DOCTORS AND THE QUEST FOR A CURE TO CHILDHOOD LEUKEMIA.

On Wednesday, August 7, I'll be speaking at the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street. We'll begin at 6:30 p.m. and I'll be showing vintage photographs from this epic period in medical history.


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'Summer of '68' trailer

Below is the trailer for the SUMMER OF '68 documentary. It's currently storyboarded as a five-part series and I think you'll agree that it rocks. Pardon Denny McLain's F-bombs, but he's rapidly becoming the Shelby Foote of this project.

Right now we're looking for a few folks with money who would like to be excutive producers and help us make this a reality.

Here's the link --  https://www.dropbox.com/s/ip1glvc4pdv2617/1968SizzleFinal.mp4?dl=0

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