Jonathan Weeks has written several sports biographies and two novels, one of which was a posthumous collaboration with his father. He grew up in the Capital District region of New York State and currently works in the mental health field.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Schenectady, which is in the Capital District Region of New York State.
When did you begin writing?
I can actually remember the first book report I did for school. It was in second or third grade and it was on the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The entire report was just one hand-written page glued inside a manila folder. On the cover of the folder, there was a diagram of the pyramid, which I drew myself. That was the first research project I ever completed. I’ve always been interested in history. And I’ve always been the kind of person who looks stuff up to gather facts.
What is this book about?
It’s a biography about the life and career of Joe Dimaggio, who is considered to be one of the greatest players in baseball history.
What inspired you to write it?
I have been a baseball fan since I was seven or eight years old. I went to my first New York Yankees game in 1976 and I was blown away by the experience. Before then, I had been following the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. But that visit to Yankee Stadium turned me into a lifelong fan of the team. The DiMaggio biography completes a trilogy I have been working on for the last three years. I started with Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. I debated doing the third book on Lou Gehrig, but it seemed that DiMaggio was a bit more intriguing as a person—More mysterious.
Can you share an excerpt?
THE MEANING BEHIND MRS. ROBINSON
Among the most popular folk-rock duos of the 1960s, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel began writing songs together when they were in grade school. By the time they embarked upon solo careers during the 1970s, they had won ten Grammy Awards. Some of their highest charting hits included “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The Sound of Silence,” and “Mrs. Robinson.” The latter song, which contains multiple lines about Joe DiMaggio, deeply offended the Yankee idol until he understood the meaning of the lyrics.
Released in 1968, “Mrs. Robinson” was written in reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, who Simon greatly admired. The tune was actually entitled “Mrs. Roosevelt” until the popular duo changed the name to make it fit the Academy Award-winning movie it was being featured in (The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft). “Mrs. Robinson” was a smash hit for Simon and Garfunkel, peaking at number-one on the Billboard charts and remaining there for several weeks. The four-minute musical masterpiece, which is about better days gone by, suggests that DiMaggio faded from the spotlight at a time when the American public needed him most. When the retired Yankee slugger heard about the lyrics, he believed that Simon was making him out to be some sort of deadbeat and threatened to sue.
As fate would have it, the two American icons had a chance encounter in Lattanzi’s restaurant on West 46th Street in New York. Simon, who was a lifelong Yankee fan, had heard about Joe’s beef with the song. Upon spotting the legendary Hall of Famer at a nearby table, he worked up the courage to say ‘hello.’ DiMaggio invited him to sit down and immediately started talking about Simon’s lyrics.
“What I don’t understand,” said Joe, “is why you ask where I’ve gone. I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial. I’m a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven’t gone anywhere.”
“I don’t mean it that way,” Simon explained. “I mean, where are these great heroes now?”
When DiMaggio realized that Simon considered him a hero and that the song was actually about how much he meant to people, he was flattered. The two shook hands and remained in each other’s good graces from that day forward. Interestingly, Simon was forced to explain himself to Mickey Mantle while taping an episode of The Dick Cavett Show. Mantle, who was actually Simon’s favorite player while growing up, asked the singer why he hadn’t used his name in place of DiMaggio’s. Simon explained that Mickey’s name had the wrong number of syllables.
How is it similar to other books in its genre? How is it different?
Well, like most biographies, it takes you through DiMaggio’s life and career chronologically. But I divided the book into two sections. The first section carries you through DiMaggio’s boyhood, playing career, and life after baseball. The second section features shorter, stand-alone anecdotes, which can be read individually or as a larger whole. I tried to include as many humorous stories as I could. DiMaggio was a serious guy. But some of the people he played with were real characters.
What is the most important thing readers can learn from your book?
Most baseball fans know a little about DiMaggio. He’s one of the most iconic figures in Yankee history. But there are aspects of his life he kept hidden from the public. He was a very private individual. And he didn’t trust the people around him—especially in his later years.
Where can readers purchase a copy?
Almost any online bookseller: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Lyons Press or Rowman and Littlefield websites (etc.)
What is up next for you?
I’ve completed a book about the World Series that will be released next spring. And I’ve already started another new project. But that one’s a secret. LOL
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes. I’d like to thank you for hosting my tour and for taking an interest in my work. I greatly appreciate it.
Jonathan Weeks will award a randomly drawn winner
a $25 Amazon/BN gift card.
a Rafflecopter giveaway