Local baseball fans and history enthusiasts will have an opportunity this weekend to meet and greet the author of the first book detailing the history of baseball in Pensacola.
Author Scott Brown will sign copies of his latest work, “Baseball in Pensacola: America’s Pastime & the City of Five Flags,” at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Saturday afternoon.
“I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been interested in baseball,” says Brown, who grew up outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Brown played Little League and, being a devoted Reds fan, followed the game throughout his childhood and teen years, and “loved it, loved the history.”
Brown moved to Pensacola in 1979 with family, where he met his future wife and began playing baseball in the Southwest Men’s League. The idea to write about the history of baseball in Pensacola first occurred to Brown many years later while watching a Pensacola Pelicans game.
“The history of baseball in Pensacola is so rich, so vast, so deep,” said Brown, who had heard “snippets” of the history from local players and history devotees, but realized among the many stories, “there was not a concise chronicle of [baseball] history.”
“I’ve always enjoyed writing … I’ve always been a story-teller. It’s something I think has always been a part of me,” said Brown, whose first publication was a 2008 biography of Hall of Famer Mordecai Brown, which he co-authored. Brown also serves as the president of the Mordecai Brown Foundation, which Brown was instrumental in founding.
While collecting information for the Pensacola baseball project at a Pelicans charity function, Brown met Jill Hubbs of WSRE, who had been tasked with developing a documentary of baseball in Pensacola.
“We realized we weren’t too far off in our process, so it was a natural fit,” Brown recalls of he and Hubbs’ first working meeting.
From there, Brown says he began working on the two projects concurrently. “While writing the book, I was able to do interviews for WSRE, which was again collecting info for the book which fed back into the documentary, and it was a very unique synergy.”
The documentary “Baseball in Pensacola,” for which Brown wrote the script, first aired on WSRE in November 2012. At two and half hours in length, the feature met with positive response and served as a precursor to the book’s release in March 2013.
The film and book trace the history of baseball in Pensacola in the late 1800s until the opening season of the Blue Wahoos in 2012. Both look at the various minor league teams, Negro League teams, and the famous Major Leaguers—including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson—who traveled through and played on Pensacola’s fields.
“We purposely stretched [the release] a little bit so we could capture the first part of that [Wahoos] season, both with the documentary and with the book. We all felt that it was extremely important that that be the period to the story.”
Brown lectures regularly on the subject of baseball, in the past with local groups at UWF and the Pensacola Historical Society, and saw, “One of the unique things about this project, was there was a whirlwind of interest for it before it ever came out.”
Over the course of his research, Brown noticed given its size, Pensacola had a large number of locals who went on to have careers in the Majors. The former players he spoke with credited their success to a work ethic instilled in Pensacola’s young people. “I think that’s been the overall theme of this project: the disciplined, hard work of Pensacola people,” he said.
Brown also discovered over the course of the project, “We have a good many of our former major leaguers still living here in town.” Like other retirees, many former Major Leaguers return home to the beaches of Northwest Florida, so Brown found he usually didn’t have to travel far for interviews.
A group of former players will participate in a Baseball in Pensacola Reunion on Thursday, August 15 during that day’s Blue Wahoos game. Many of Pensacola’s former Major League players and legacy families will be at the stadium for pre-game events and autograph signings throughout the afternoon. “Some of the major leaguers that are not known to this particular generation will have a kind of day in the sun again,” said Brown, who will do book signing that day as well.
Brown will be accompanied at this Saturday’s book signing by Blue Wahoos’ mascot Kazoo, who will lead a children’s storybook reading at 11 a.m. Barnes & Noble ordered over 100 books from the publisher due to public interest.
Looking forward to the signing and future projects, Brown says his book is the first of what he hopes is many more history treatises on Pensacola baseball to follow. “My end hope is, because there is no way I could have covered every aspect of Pensacola history, is that I spur somebody on in the future to pick up where I left off and further the chronicling of our history,” he said.
With publication of Brown’s work—a historic milestone in and of itself—there will now, at long last, be a starting point for future historians delving into the city’s continuing baseball legacy.
BASEBALL IN PENSACOLA: AMERICA’s PASTIME & THE CITY OF FIVE FLAGS
WHAT: Book Signing with Author Scott Brown
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, June 1 (Story Time with Kazoo begins at 11 a.m.)
WHERE: Barnes & Noble, 1200 Airport Blvd.
COST: Signing is free to attend, book itself will be available for purchase