He loved her enough to build her a baseball stadium.
With a tip of the cap to the works of W.P. Kinsella, A Diamond for Her is a historical and magical story of love between two people – Raymond & Rochelle – and two grand institutions – America & baseball.
In 1920, railroad man Raymond Blythe had a series of disturbing dreams-giant creatures with Greek names playing baseball. He was determined to find out what they meant. The dreams set him on a bizarre quest to find a connection between Iowa, Theodore Roosevelt, baseball, and his deceased father. While searching for answers at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, he met a young librarian named Rochelle Christy. This meeting sets him on another quest-to win her hand in marriage even if it means he has to establish his own baseball league in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains.
The following is the prologue of A Diamond for Her, my new novel releasing March 23. This is written from the perspective of the story’s narrator, Dr. Charles “Shoeshine” Henry. The novel is available for preorder in Kindle format from Amazon and in paperback through any local or online bookstore including Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, Walmart, Amazon, Books-a-Million and many more. Or ask for it at your local independent bookstore! Enjoy and thanks.
Prologue: A Doctor’s Note
How’s a sane person to understand this game of baseball? The fantastical underpinnings of which are haphazardly stitched together with a dash of lore and a pinch of childish chutzpah. The game is ruled by mechanics, not time, and when the mechanism of the cosmic baseball world clicks into place, the preposterous becomes the stuff of legends, the improbable becomes the mundane, and the ridiculous becomes the inevitable. Oh, what a smidgen of faith will accomplish!
I hope to illustrate the phantasmal nature of the national pastime by recounting the stories of my all-time favorite baseball team—the Winasook Iron Horses, the stalwart franchise of the Allegheny Independent League from 1921 to 1954, when Jasper Eltrane fired the final Iron Horse pitch in Rochelle Stadium.
These stories are not meant to be clever or manipulative, only simple illustrations of the wonder of baseball and the awe of life. If, perhaps, they are more feeling than science—and I pray this will be the case—accept them as they are, for I have not encountered anything in this life that can stir the passions of unsubstantiated, illegitimate logic more than baseball.
I myself am not a baseball player. I’m a semi-retired medical doctor, a lover of stories, and a fan of the greatest game ever invented. I’ve heard it said (or maybe I said it) that if the Greek gods played a modern sport, it most definitely would have been baseball. A team sport that emphasizes individual achievement. A round ball and a round bat played on a diamond with a starting point and ending point of home. Bases used to demonstrate increments of achievement for both players and wannabe young boys exploring the virtues of the opposite sex. A pace of play that encourages conversation, poetry, grand schemes, miracles, and mythology. A history interwoven around a people and their triumphs and failures.
There is much that could be said about the grand scale of baseball, from the towering steel stadiums which changed the landscapes of a hundred American cities, to the scandals that rocked people’s faith in the franchise, to a young determined man named Jackie Robinson, who defied the wrong side of history with the courage to force others to acknowledge his humanity; to the beloved Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente, who gave his life to the humanitarian cause. There’s much that could be spoken about baseball from the macro view of the major leagues, but my purpose is different. I want to simply tell the stories, remarkable in their own right, of one independent franchise that epitomized what it means to be American — and human. Some of the stories I witnessed myself, from my many appearances at Rochelle Stadium over the years. Others were told to me. The most intimate details of the Iron Horses’ entire historical record came from an extraordinary interview with owner Raymond Blythe as he was on his death bed in October of 1971.
I had told Raymond Blythe many times over the years that I had wanted to document the history of the Iron Horses. I had always put it off for a variety of reasons, chiefly my medical practice. But that all changed one day when I was summoned to the hospital during his waning hours. He wanted to tell me his stories, most of which I did not know. While I can attest to the veracity of everything in this book, he told me some things I hesitated to believe. But his insistence and his mortality forced me to include them here as well—the mythology—the insane ramblings of a man who could sell his mother her own apple pie recipe. And yet, in the years that have passed since the bedside encounter, I have given more credence to his stories, and even in some regards consider them part of the historical record. And why not? Baseball didn’t merely form from a boyish imagination or, God forbid, that ghastly rounders game hailed by the British. The poetic lore of Mighty Casey, the prodigious swing of the Sultan of Swat, or the stocky soft hands of the Flying Dutchman cannot be explained by the acknowledged arrangement between two teams to follow a set of rules regarding a ball and bat. Such mundane explanations could never adequately describe what I witnessed that day in 1949 when Archibald Showalter fouled off ninety-five pitches. Nor does it explain what Raymond Blythe found in Iowa on a trip in 1954.
There is a beauty and a poetry and, yes, a mythology which goes much deeper into the universe which necessitates this game. While today’s millionaire players may alienate a generation of fans by their grandiose egos and self-promotion, they cannot degrade a game which has defined our nation. We have become a better people for what we have learned between the lines of the diamond: reward for hard work, compassionate cooperation, fierce independence, and faith in the mystical realms of the unseen.
Finally, a brief note about the storytelling itself. I sometimes recount these stories from my own point of view, but do indulge me from time to time as I try to develop my own literary skills by distancing myself from my foreknowledge of an event in order to tell a proper story in third-person narration. I feel rather sneaky attempting this, but baseball is rife with such messiness—the ghastly DH experiment its greatest example—so perhaps it will work.
All the best,
Charles “Shoeshine” Henry, M.D. Winasook, Pennsylvania June 1985
I’ve teamed up with GOODREADS to give away 100 Kindle versions of my soon to be released 10th novel: A Diamond for Her: Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses
You’ll be one of the chosen FEW to receive it before its release date. Giveaway ends March 16 – one week before it releases on March 23 – just in time for the new baseball season!
If you like history or baseball, I think you’ll enjoy it. You’ll notice I said OR. You don’t need to like both in order to like this novel. My editor confirmed this! So click on the link below and get into the running. Good luck! It’s 100 copies so the odds are in your favor!
This is the baseball novel I’ve always wanted to write, and when hunkered down in March and April of 2020 with no baseball to enjoy, I wrote it.
Don’t like baseball? No worries. My editor assures me you won’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy this unique story. If you like historical fiction, sports fiction, historical romance, magical realism, or the film “Field of Dreams,” this novel is for you!
I had so much fun writing it. Order it now for a special pre-order price of only $2.99. It will go up in price upon release. Available in Kindle & Paperback on March 23, 2021.
Thanks for your support. Here’s the short blurb:
In 1920, railroad man Raymond Blythe had a series of disturbing dreams—giant creatures with Greek names playing baseball. Determined to discover their meaning, he sets off on a bizarre quest to find a connection between Iowa, Theodore Roosevelt, baseball, and his deceased father. While searching for answers at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, he meets a young librarian named Rochelle Christy. This meeting sets him on another quest—to win her hand in marriage even if it means he has to establish his own baseball league in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains.
I’m sure I don’t need to rehash the monstrous year 2020 has proved to be. And I won’t. Who would want to re-live that?
And yet, I’m fairly sure there were positives along the way. A focus on family. Time to delve into areas which had been neglected. And writing. Yes. For me, this year has helped me focus in on several areas which I haven’t been able to focus on in years. So, thank you, 2020! Here’s how it helped this writer.
Compilations. I’ve been meaning to compile a bunch of my short plays forever, but time, you know. Well, 2020 provided time. In abundance. So I went at it and in the course of the year, I was able to release volumes 2, 3, 4, 5 of my short play collection. Here they are:
I’m so happy to get these out to the public, or at least the (shuttered) theatre industry. These are plays I’ve written over the past ten years. All have been stage produced and just need a gentle nudge to get onto the stage again. So once Covid is done … well, I’m proud of these works. I hope people enjoy them.
On the story front, I published my first Malaysian novel in July: Moses the Singer!
I had wanted to write a novel about my beloved Penang for many years, and I was thrilled to get this YA release out and about in the middle of the year.
Lastly, during the darkest lockdown days of spring 2020, I found myself with a lot of extra time to write, and I finally wrote the baseball novel that I always wanted to write: A DIAMOND FOR HER: MYTHS AND TALES OF THE WINASOOK IRON HORSES. I can’t tell you how much fun I had writing this. It was, for me, my most enjoyable novel to date. I had always wanted to write a baseball novel, but I just wasn’t inspired until the quietness of COVID lockdown allowed me to explore areas I never would have anticipated. The novel is now three months out from release and available for pre-order. What a great year … for writing. Here’s to hoping 2021 is a great year for everything else.
I wrote this novel in the summer of 2019, and one of my projects this past year was to revise, edit, and eventually publish it. It’s finally here.
This story spawns out of two ideas. First, the downtrodden of society. I’ve lived overseas many years and I’ve witnessed scores of hardworking people who had basically nothing. It made me realize how lucky and privileged I am in the simple things of life like having a nice bed, plenty of food, heat and running water–let alone the chance to travel and use technology. I’m blessed, and I know it. One thought I’ve always had was who are the ultra-talented people in society who have never had a chance to shine and grow in their talent. How many incredible voices will never be heard because of where they were born. As the back of my book states: TALENT IS DISTRIBUTED EQUALLY BY GOD!
With that in mind, I wanted to tell a story of a downtrodden and forgotten man of society who had a hidden talent. Thus the beginning of Moses the Singer.
The second idea comes out of my eleven years teaching at an international school in the wonderful tropical island of Penang, Malaysia. I worked with many talented teens over the years, so I decided to use that backdrop of island life and teen musicians from a local school to combine with my first idea.
These two ideas are the backbone of the story: Justice for the downtrodden, music for the masses.
This is my first Young Adult book, and I had a blast writing it — especially trying to figure out the banter between the teens. I hope I nailed it.
It’s a fun, tragic, yet uplifting story. I hope you’ll give it a try. Available from July 1st in Kindle and paperback.
EARLY PRAISE FOR Moses the Singer:
“If you’re looking for a feel-good read that will help you believe in humanity once again, make “Moses, the Singer,” that book.” – Author Colleen Chesebro
“Sasse manages to pen a masterful tale filled with many unexpected twists and turns which is sure to please a wide reading audience. He skillfully demonstrates the art of kindness and compassion combined with determination to positively affect the lives of the less fortunate people in our world. Very touching novel!” – inspirational author Dolores Ayotte
“The story takes the reader on a journey through numerous emotions. Grab a tissue to blot your tears of joy and tears of sorrow. Highly recommend.” – Reviewer L. Denn
Moses the Singer, my brand new YA novel set to release on July 1, has two beginnings. The first part of the novel is told from two different point of views. First, there’s the story of four talented teen musicians as they plan to win their school’s talent show. The second part is about Musa “Moses” Marbun, a destitute and country-less old man living a meager and marginalized existence on the island of Penang. Then the stories merge.
I’d like to share both beginnings with you. The novel will be available in Kindle and paperback starting July 1. Kindle pre-orders are being taken now!
EXCERPT 1 – CHAPTER 1 YOU SUCK – In this chapter, you get to meet the bantering Will & Sanchez who have been playing music together for years.
The patio door whipped open and startled the two teens sitting on upside-down white paint buckets—papers with lyrics and chords strewn on top of a plastic table in front of them. “Enough. Please. Will, you’re killing me.” The teen lowered the six-string into his lap. Behind him, two yellow palms towered in ceramic pots. “I’m just trying to get this song down.” Will’s father tapped his clenched fist on the glass door. “Isn’t it obvious? That song is not going down, and if it does, it’s going to be regurgitated back up.” “All right, Dad. Jeez.” “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get some sleep.” Sanchez, at Will’s left holding his fretless bass, glanced over at Will’s father. “Will the killer. That’s what I call him.” “Shut up,” snapped Will. “You’re killing this song. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.” “Boy, you two are really supportive.” Will stood up and hit his knee on the side of the table, knocking several pages onto the patio stone. “Why don’t you guys wrap it up, okay?” shouted the perturbed father. “All right. But did you hear my singing?” “Who couldn’t hear your singing?” “Sanchez thinks we need another singer.” Sanchez waved his hands in the air and blurted the honest truth as clearly as humanly possible. “Dude, you suck.” “Why is everyone attacking me?” Will threw his left arm into the air, his right still grasping the neck of the guitar. “Because it’s 2 A.M. and your screeching is keeping all the night critters from their work. And my nighttime work is sawing logs so I can do actual work in the morning. That’s what I do. I work to support your garage band habits.” “But Dad … just listen to one thing.” Sanchez along with Will’s dad lowered their heads in synchronous agony. “Come on, just give me a second.” Will returned to the upside-down paint bucket, lowered his hands on the fretboard, and plucked out a series of notes clear and melodic—a beautiful sonic moment, until his mouth opened and inserted a strand of battle-weary notes which had been ripped to shreds by the Muse—the sage protector of all melodic harmony. Sanchez put his hands over his ears and mumbled, “It’s been like this all evening.” He put down his bass and snapped open his case. Will’s dad stepped a foot out onto the patio. “Will, listen to me.” Will stopped playing, which allowed the creatures in the neighborhood to catch their breath. “You’re a terrific guitar player. Really, I’m amazed at what you can do. But you’ve got a disease, and you need to admit it.” “A disease?” “Yes, it’s called the Kerry Livgren syndrome.” “There’s a name for this?” inquired Sanchez, clasping the buckles on his case close. “Kerry Livgren. Master composer, guitar player, musician extraordinaire of the classic rock band Kansas?” Both boys stared into the blank night with confused looks. “You know, ‘Dust in the Wind,’ ‘Carry on Wayward Son’?” “Dad, do you have a point?” “Yes, Kerry Livgren was a musical wizard, but he couldn’t sing a lick. Or as Sanchez stated so eloquently, his voice sucked!” “What are you trying to say?” Will’s dad used his left index finger to point at the place between his eyebrows several times. He seemed to be rubbing out the rough edges of his stress-induced midnight headache. “You need to find a new singer.” “That’s what I’ve been telling him for a year,” chimed Sanchez. “But—” “And go to bed. Do the latter, first.” “I’ll catch you later, Will. Good night, Mr. Jennings.” “Good night, Sanchez,” offered Will’s dad. Will, guitar in hand, walked past his dad standing in the sliding glass doorway. “Good night, Will.” “I’m still a little angry at you,” moaned the guitar player. “The sheep over my bed feel the same way. I guess we’re even.”
I’m excited to announce that the e-book, Kindle box set of The Forgotten Child Trilogy is coming soon! It’s been great to get some feedback about the series, and so now I can’t wait to get it out in one terrific file – at a great price, too!