1999-2010

Thursday, November 01, 2007

EXCLUSIVE! BARAS' REVENGE! ISRAEL BASEBALL LEAGUE FOUNDER AUTHORIZES BOOK TO COUNTER OUR MAN ELLI'S EXPOSÉ! EXCLUSIVE: "ELI (sic) WAS A BIT HARSH"

Two books about the snakebit first season of the Israel Baseball League are in the works and rushing to publication—and though neither is written by Our Man Elli in Israel, one of them is authorized by the league founder who’s been waging a behind-the-scenes smear campaign about the author of the article, first published here, that offered a no-holds-barred investigation into a bumbling, dangerous operation that cared more about the bottom line than the fans or the athletes.

One of the books is being written by Nate Fish, the All-Star infielder from Brooklyn, also known as the Pride of the Tel Aviv Lightning. Nate is not only a heavy hitter, but a straight shooter, and his insider's account could turn out to be the IBL's Ball Four.

Remember, as controversy swirled over Elli Wohlgelernter’s article in September, Nate was one of the few players brave enough to go public, telling us that his last IBL paycheck “bounced— which pretty much sucks.” Nate is bound to be candid and compelling, and edited well (Elli?), the book could be a delight.

More interesting for a different reason is the book from New Jersey-based sportswriter and public relations consultant Ron Kaplan (caricatured, above right), who tells us he’s got a “verbal agreement” with McFarland sports and reference book publishers to write a book on the IBL's first season.

What’s more, the book is being written with the cooperation of IBL founder Larry Baras of Boston, who until now has attempted damage control by with a behind-the-scenes character attack on Our Man Elli, the journalist who wrote the Story of Record about the launch of the IBL when he wrote the New York Times article that told the world that IBL's Opening Day was nigh. (In other words, Elli gave Baras and company the ultimate PR!)

"It is not an exposé"

After months of fierce argument among Israelis and sport fans, and shoot-the-messenger slurs that painted Elli as the killer of Israel’s baseball dream, Ron Kaplan officially entered the debate—and our radar screen— on Monday, when he commented on our exclusive report about the connection between the New York Yankees’ signing of two IBL players with little chance of making the Majors— and the Yankee honchos on Baras’ advisory board: Kaplan wrote, in part:
“…I would be more suspicious if the Yanks had signed on of the Israeli-born players, with less experience… I guess some people have no patience. They expect the fledgling league to start off making millions of dollars in a culture where the sport is totally foreign, with no negative experiences at all.”
If that sounded a bit like the Baras party line, it’s also the theme of Kaplan’s planned book. “I hope it will be an honest look at the joys and hardships of beginning a new enterprise, including the difficulties,” he tells Tabloid Baby. “I have several players lined up for interviews and they seem very forthcoming so far. This is meant as a baseball book marking an historic occasion. It is not an exposé.”

It is not first-person, either

Kaplan tells us that “in my job as sports editor for a weekly Jewish publication I have done many stories on the league,” but admits his “is not a first-person account,” as he lives in New Jersey and has never been closer to an IBL game than Hoboken.

Even so, he insists, “I thought Eli's (sic) article was a bit unnecessarily harsh, given the circumstances of the start-up enterprise. Bringing baseball into a culture that has no experience experience with it, no infrastructure behind it, is bound to prove difficult.”

The man who also runs the Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf website is cagy about whether his book will be the “authorized” (read “whitewashed”) version of history, approved by Larry Baras. “I have spoken to Baras about it and he has not objected to it, so I suppose I have his cooperation.”

Whitewash

Any author will have to roll many layers of whitewash to cover up Elli’s already-classic and never-refuted exposé of a league that played to an overseas— not Israeli— audience, and failed to live up to the most minor league standards when it came to accommodations amenities or even adequate ice, leading to a season that wil be remembered for:

“...more errors than hits: players threatening to strike when paychecks were late; a manager hired to help give face to the fledgling league leaving in the middle of the season, after trashing the league to the media; and a player almost killed by a batting practice line drive, an accident that might have been prevented with proper equipment.”

After the article was first published on Tabloid Baby on August 28th, it appeared in various forms in Jewish weeklies across America. It was plagiarized by a Chicago Tribune reporter, and caused great backlash among baseball fans and league boosters, many of whom characterized the missteps of the first season as typical to any startup operation.

“Not so!” responded players and other insiders, who responded with stories of bounced paychecks, unpaid deals and dangerous field conditions.

Nixon

That was when Baras responded behind the scenes by taking shots at the messenger.

The IBL fundraiser could not refute the facts of the story, so he spread rumours that Our Man Elli was a disgruntled job seeker and had an axe to grind- rumours that were helped along by the whispering of advisers and cohorts like New York Yankees flak Marty Appel, whose malicious gossip about the veteran respected international journalist Wohlgelernter drew him even closer to Richard Nixon than did his relationship with the Alzheimer’s-afflicted felon George Steinbrenner.

We’ve contacted Our Man Elli about this latest turn of events. Stay tuned for his response.
Our thanks to Ron Kaplan for his forthright statement to Tabloid Baby this afternoon:
I would appreciate you NOT (running a story) at this point. No contract has been signed, just a "verbal" agreement.

In answer to your questions, however:

It is not a first person account. In my job as sports editor for a weekly Jewish publication I have done many stories on the league.

I have spoken to Baras about it and he has not objected to it, so I suppose I have his cooperation.

I hope it will be an honest look at the joys and hardships of beginning a new enterprise, including the difficulties. I have several players lined up for interviews and they seem very forthcoming so far. This is meant as a baseball book marking an historic occasion. It is not an expose. I thought Eli's article was a bit unnecessarily harsh, given the circumstances of the start-up enterprise. Bringing baseball into a culture that has no experience experience with it, no infrastructure behind it, is bound to prove difficult.

I have corresponded with Nate, who was a player in the IBL, but was unaware of his project; in any case, I'm sure our audiences will be different. It's not a race to see who gets published first.

4 comments:

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Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the look on Larry's face when he goes to jail
Ron won't sell too many copies. People only want to read the truth.

Anonymous said...

Ron:

Save yourself a lot of embarassment by doing some real research on the founder and Ibl before publication. That research is only a google click away. No one wants to destroy a seemingly good idea (baseball in Israel)but when when promises are broken, people aren't paid, and questionable financial management, this needs to be revealed as well.

Please do your homework!

Anonymous said...

Where should I google?