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Reviews

Nine Bucks a Pound

2/27/15: Book Review: Nine Bucks a Pound, MiLB.com

As a former Baseball America correspondent (and book reviewer), Bailey is well-qualified to tell such a story. He is familiar with the Minor League locales through which Del ascends, as well as the various personalities — agents, scouts, host families, coaches, players and assorted hangers-on — that populate the landscape. Additionally, Bailey did his research, speaking to (unnamed) former players about the drug testing process and to trainers about workout regimens. Nine Bucks A Pound, though a work of fiction, seems real.

Spring 2014 Issue, Spitball Magazine

Here at Spitball we are pretty sick of hearing about PED, which makes James Bailey’s accomplishment with his new baseball novel, Nine Bucks a Pound (Sun Field Press), all the more amazing. It is the modern story of a deal between the devil and Del Tanner, a first baseman in the Minnesota Twins organization, who injects batting power-increasing illegal drugs long enough to boost him out of the minors. Bailey’s goal of presenting a believable character whose motivations are understandable, if not excusable, is realized; even if Tanner’s downfall is predictable. Other well-drawn characters, plausible dialogue, and a sure feel for the landscape of professional baseball round out the pleasures to be had in reading the book.

5/19/14: Quick Review of Nine Bucks A Pound, Tiger Tales

It may be a work of fiction, but it’s a well researched and realistic portrayal of a young man who battles with the temptations of money and fame, guilt of cheating other players and the fears of side effects and getting caught.  Bailey does an excellent job of showing the human side of a complex issue which is too often portrayed as black and white.  Regardless of your feelings about PED use in the game, you will likely find yourself empathizing with the main character and his family.

4/26/14: Review of “Nine Bucks a Pound,” The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

With excellent character development, a story that never stalls but keeps the reader moving forward and many emotional moments that range from elation to downright sadness, Bailey has written an outstanding novel that should be read by fans of not only the game of baseball, but also of human nature stories as that is the strength of this book – it puts a human face on an ugly issue in America’s Pastime.

4/23/14: When juicing and its ramifications has reached a point where it can be the stuff of fiction, Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News

We’ve been careful to pick and choose the novels we want to include in this annual series over the years — Joseph Schuster’s “The Might Have Been” from 2012 was in, but Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding” in 2011 wasn’t, mostly because of the timing of getting a copy despite all its publicity). Bailey’s first effort, “The Greatest Show on Dirt” in 2012, was worth taking a chance based on our respect for the depth of storylines from the minor-league game that he lived through, and we enjoyed giving the first-time author some swings in the cage. With “Nine Bucks,” Bailey has hit it on the screws again.

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Bailey, who takes Tanner’s path from 2003 to 2010, isn’t off base at all in how he lays all this out, saying in the acknowledgements that he got help along the way from players who have described to him the way drug testing in the minor leagues was done, as well as some information from trainers. Bailey’s previous experience again around the game and how it works is one part of. The other is how he uses realistic dialogue to connect with the reader in a way to make it real.

As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark writes: “Bailey hasn’t just given us a great read. He’s given us an important window into a topic we can’t seem to stop talking about.” You kind of wish a guy like the late Ken Caminiti was still around to read this and take it to heart.

3/11/14: Novel explores temptations, ramifications of steroid use, Bob D’Angelo, Tampa Tribune

James Bailey has a writing style that is as smooth as the left-handed swing of Del Tanner, the main character in his second novel.  Once again, the Rochester, N.Y., author has written an engaging story with characters readers can relate to — even if the underlying theme is the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

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Bailey’s second novel mixes baseball, romantic tension and testosterone into a satisfying cocktail of prose. It bubbles and percolates with action and tension. Even the cover is eye-catching, as it depicts a bobblehead of a baseball player wielding a syringe like he would grip a bat.

The Greatest Show on Dirt

6/2/12: Review – Durham Bulls novel looks at life behind game, Ben Steelman, Wilmington (N.C.) StarNews

Lane’s co-workers are colorful enough to make Damon Runyan’s characters look like the cast of a Henry James novel. Besides a few leftover college buddies (see: “Animal House”), you have vendors who work the county fairs in the off-season, a scattering of elderly dugout denizens, the occasional foul-mouthed kid and assorted trailer trash.

Their common denominator, if there is one, is a shared worship of The Game. Nearly all of them played it, nearly all had to face that moment when they realized they’d never reach the big time, but they still can’t let it go. They’ll put up with a lot – including loudmouthed, and often drunken, ballpark fans – to stay near it.

5/23/12: Homage to the Durham Athletic Park, Hassan DuRant and Mark Herring, NC State Technician

Minor league baseball isn’t about the money or the glory. According to James Bailey, long time Durham Bulls fan and sports novelist, the romanticism of the minor leagues carries a nostalgia for the spirit of the sport: having fun.

But that romanticism doesn’t always pertain to those playing the game. Bailey, N.C. State alum, turns the spotlight of his new book away from the athletes and directs his dramatic comedy piece onto those off the field. His book, The Greatest Show on Dirt, pays tribute to the Durham Bulls and the team’s former stadium, the Durham Athletic Park, a former home away from home for Bailey.

5/22/12: ‘The Greatest Show on Dirt’ is a grand-slam must-read, Aaron Schoonmaker, WRALSportsFan.com

Despite being a “baseball book” the storylines of deep-rooted friendships and newfound passions executed with a sprinkle of life-lesson metaphors make the fast-paced novel an easy and must read for anybody with a summer itch. For those seeking the baseball aspect of the story, it doesn’t skimp, however, offering vivid scenes of game day operations from early morning hours to sun-up nights. People in the Triangle-area will be especially attached as Bailey memorably describes outings to familiar locations along Hillsborough Street, in Cameron Village, Chapel Hill and more.

4/30/12: Upon further reviews: Ranking the 30 books of April, 2012, from top to bottom, Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News

STAND-UP TRIPLE

4/25/12: Alum uses experience with Durham Bulls to write novel, Caitlin Barrett, Red & White For Life

James Bailey ’93 grew up in Seattle loving baseball. When his mom moved to North Carolina in 1990, Bailey followed and immediately started a job with the Durham Bulls. His passion for minor league baseball, and love of the Bulls, inspired him to write his first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt.

4/22/12: The Greatest Show on Dirt, Chris Wise, Watching Durham Bulls Baseball

Mostly a coming-of-age/love story, what distinguished the book for me was its setting, the old Durham Athletic Park in the early 90’s. I like (but never loved) the DAP and I don’t understand at all the mechanics of putting on a baseball game. That made Greatest Show on Dirt something of a twofer for me, I learned something about both. And reading what it was like to actually work at the DAP was fun.

4/8/12: N.C. State alum James Bailey’s novel revolves around Durham Bulls, Glenn McDonald, Raleigh News & Observer

Bailey’s new novel, “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” is packed with fascinating details about life in the old D.A.P. Those were the heady years after the movie “Bull Durham” made the park a destination for baseball fans, and before the team moved to its new upscale digs. The novel depicts one crazy summer in the life of Lane Hamilton, an N.C. State grad who takes a job with the Bulls after getting fired from his going-nowhere sales job at a downtown bank.

4/3/12: Rub a little Durham dirt on it, things might feel better, Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News

As Bailey digs deep into his baseball life here for the landscape, it’s not just believeable, but is easy to imagine as being the starting point for a movie script — even with “Bull Durham” already a classic. Bailey doesn’t use baseball locker-talk for shock value, but keeps the reader moving at the right pace, fully locked and loaded, trying to figure out how this crumbling old minor-league park will somehow expose the secret to life for at least one person who feels disconnected, but it willing to listen to see if if it’s speaking his language.

3/24/12: Novel takes behind-the-scenes look at the minor leagues, Bob D’Angelo, Tampa Tribune

It’s a good read. Bailey has experience writing, with pieces in Baseball America to his credit. He also has reviewed several dozen books on his website. There’s plenty of baseball in “The Greatest Show On Dirt,” but Bailey combines the sport with some romantic tension, mystery (someone is stealing money in the locker room and Lane concocts a plan to nab the suspect), and the all-around goofiness that is present in almost every business — yet seems more comical when put in a sporting context.

2/27/12: The Greatest Show, Judy Johnson, Watching the Game

The Greatest Show on Dirt came as a surprise to me. I expected more in the way of locker room jargon, raw humor, clubhouse antics, hits, errors, and food fights.  These ingredients are all in place, to be sure, lending the novel its authenticity and some of its momentum.   But the book surprised me, because it’s not entirely what its inviting cover suggests – a gritty texture, an abandoned game ball, the amusing mascot, shabby splinters, peeling paint in colors of rust and faded blue.   What I did not expect was a love story; what I did not expect was a candid account of what goes on in a man’s heart during a minor league season.  Deep down, beneath the dirt and grit, men can be such romantic souls.  

2/20/12: Good Show, Mr. Bailey, Jeff Polman, Seamheads.com

What’s truly refreshing about Bailey’s book is that it lovingly plummets us into a minor league world we don’t see enough of. Sure, it would be beyond cool to work in the “show,” to be dusting off deep grandstand seats when Prince Fielder is stepping to the dish behind you. But Bailey, who maintains his own excellent baseball book review site and also writes them on occasion for Baseball America, is happy with the arena he “grew up” in. Whether you’re in PNC Park or the DAP, the crack of bat meeting ball is still loud, the greasy and popcorny smells are a match, the games can still be exciting, and you probably can’t tell the infield dirt apart. The Greatest Show on Dirt may be set in the minor leagues, but it has a major league heart.

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