Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Making of the Book (Part 1 )

By Chris Wendel
Summer 2004: My brother Tim and I wax poetic about Phil Ranallo, the late, great columnist for the now defunct Buffalo Courier Express newspaper. Ranallo’s column “What’s New Harry” was a breakfast staple during our adolescent days growing up near Buffalo in Lockport, New York. I recall making the mad dash to the paper box on cold mornings, just to read the column while eating my morning cereal. Tim was fortunate to work with Phil at the Courier after college in the early 80’s. We wonder where the old columns are if they still exist at all.

November ’04: Tim informs me that old issues of the Courier exist in the archive section of a Buffalo library. I decide to take my first of what turns out to be many trips back to Buffalo to view old articles and microfilm of the Courier Express. I live in Michigan and use the trips to visit my parents in Lockport and look at the columns. Revisiting the Ranallo columns 25 years later is somewhat surreal. To my relief his writing stands up well over time and I still can’t stop reading them.

January ’05: I’m back in Buffalo collecting columns with the help of the library’s helpful staff. Looking at microfilm for a few hours causes serious eye strain but fortunately there are also plenty of old columns that someone literally cut out of the old paper and mounted on typing paper. After reading 50 or so columns and several conversations with Tim it is apparent that Phil has a soft spot in his heart for the Braves. We decide that the Braves have been placed on a shelf long enough and their story that needs to be retold.

April ’05: Another trip to Buffalo and more research. Tim is an accomplished writer and I enjoy the grunt work of finding pictures and assembling the Ranallo columns. The format is unclear until I talk with Mike Romstadt of Village Press here in Michigan. The debate between us will continue for months. Mike thinks that this has the makings of a high quality coffee table style book that should be printed in a limited quantity and sold for a premium price. I run this scenario past several people I know and trust. Two camps quickly develop; the first includes those who think that there likely is a market out there (that already pays hundreds for decent game tickets) for a high quality book about the Braves. The second consists of folks who know little or Buffalo or sports and think that I’m nuts.

What we’re lacking is pictures. Finding the photos is a story we will save for the next installment.

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