August Publications

Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League

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Fans of the Southern League have seen it all since the circuit was founded over 50 years ago: colorful characters, charming ballparks, and some of the best baseball players showing their potential. From Chipper Jones and Cal Ripken, Jr. to Michael Jordan and Jose Canseco, Mark McCarter has seen them all—and tells their stories with grace, humor, and style in Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League.

The updated edition from McCarter, a four-time Alabama Sportswriter of the Year and four times the Southern League Writer of the Year, features his tales of the Southern League. From can’t-miss prospects like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Jose Canseco to some of the most colorful players in the minors, like Joe Charboneau, Bo Jackson, Chipper Jones, and Derrek Lee, Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League is a fascinating account of the people who make baseball what it is. In Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League, you’ll find entertaining tales like these: 

  • The legend of Jose Canseco begins in Huntsville, as he goes from a skinny kid in the 1984 Cal League to a bulked-out specimen in 1985, winning league MVP with 25 homers and 80 RBI in just 58 games
  • The enduring charms of America’s oldest professional ballpark, Rickwood Field, including how native son Charlie O. Finley brought minor-league baseball back to Birmingham in 1964—while making his Barons the first integrated pro-sports team in Alabama, stocking the team with players like John “Blue Moon” Odom and Reggie Jackson
  • Jim Bouton discusses his final run at the game, pitching for the 1978 Savannah Braves before a last stint with the Atlanta Braves
  • The only time a .202 hitter made a huge impact on any pro league: When Michael Jordan joined the Birmingham Barons in 1984 and immediately lifted the league’s bottom line and boosted Minor League Baseball’s profile
  • Cal Ripken, Jr. practically grew up in the Southern League, working as a bat boy for the Asheville Orioles when his father managed the team and later believing in himself as a pro player in 1980 for the Charlotte Orioles
  • Joe Charboneau’s meteoric career was highlighted by a 1979 batting crown with the Chattanooga Lookouts and an American League Rookie of the Year award in 1980—and entertaining reporters every step of the way with antics like opening a beer bottle with his eye socket and sewing a gash in his own arm with fishing line

What others say about Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League:

“As someone who spent an inordinate amount of time watching the Huntsville Stars—go ahead, bet me that I can’t name their 1985 championship-winning starting lineup—and can recite Joe Charboneau’s Chattanooga Lookouts stat line by heart, I thought I knew all I needed to about the Southern League. I was wrong. Few history lessons are as entertaining as Never a Bad Game, and few writers are as entertaining as Mark McCarter. This book is proof that the best stories are often found far away from the glare of the big-league spotlight.”—Mark Bechtel, Senior Editor, Sports Illustrated

“Having covered minor-league baseball for six years before moving on to cover the Brewers, I can vouch for the minors being a treasure trove of great stories. This is where the game is played without the distractions of labor disputes, megabucks contracts and other off-field maneuverings. Mark McCarter gives you the inside stories of the Southern League that never see the light of day in big-league newspapers. You’ll feel like you were right there in Joe Davis Stadium with Mark when you’re reading these well-written and entertaining stories of life off baseball’s beaten track.”—Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Mark McCarter is a former sports reporter and columnist who began covering the Southern League in 1976 for the Chattanooga News-Free Press. He is the author of Pandamonium: Engineering Pro Baseball’s Return to the Rocket City, the story of the Rocket City Trash Pandas’ arrival in north Alabama, to be published in the fall of 2020 by August Publications. A four-time Alabama Sportswriter of the Year and four times the Southern League Writer of the Year, he lives in Huntsville with his wife Patricia. He has been inducted into the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame and the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, a bittersweet honor when he learned it was for his writing—not for having led the Brainerd Dixie Youth League in home runs in 1966.

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