SMALL TOWN HEROES           This is a book for real fans of minor league baseball. A collection of stories and photos for those who follow the minors and keep track of its budding stars, as well as those who wonder "What really goes on down there in the bushes?"

Imagine putting your real life on hold, and getting in your car with little more than a suitcase, camera, and roadmap: a journey with little more to guide it than a Baseball America Directory and the sight of some light towers off in the distance.

That is precisely what ex-New Yorker Hank Davis did, when he put a successful career in psychology and music journalism on the shelf and went on a loving odyssey through twenty-eight host towns in search of minor league baseball. Writing with beguiling charm and a firm knowledge of the game, he traveled the backroads of small-town North America and found more than he bargained for: a wondrous cast of characters on and off the field. Davis brings them to life with his splendid, incisive prose and his remarkable photographs.          
Rivers Mitchell
Jamestown Jammers hero Rivers Mitchell enjoying a minor league dinner.
Richie Sexson
Richie Sexson
          The small town setting is a universe unto itself. Within it, minor league baseball exists in a time-warp. Unabashedly unsophisticated, it has all the quirky charm of a traveling carnival - full of hawkers and gawkers - and the unaffected simplicity of a concert in the park on a hot July night. SMALL-TOWN HEROES is rich in detail from inside and outside the ballpark.
Bobby Estalella
Future catching star Bobby Estalella with the Spartanburg Phillies
Writing with a firm knowledge of baseball, Davis looks beyond the ordinary game. SMALL-TOWN HEROES is not a collection of stats. It is a book to humanize the minors, to put a face on those first round draft picks whose rookie cards are selling for wildly inflated prices. Some of the players who appear in SMALL-TOWN HEROES have already made it to the Major Leagues. Their dreams were already coming true before this book was in stores.          
Tim Crabtree
Tim Crabtree of the Toronto Blue Jays (Courtesy of Syracuse Chiefs)

Jesse Ibarra
Burlington (Iowa) Bees star Jesse Ibarra
          Other players are still out there trying. They continue to make those glamorous 8 hour bus trips, stay in second rate motels and live on Doritos and cheese.          

Charles Rice
Slugger Charles Rice with the Erie Seawolves
Jason Abramavicius
Pitcher Jason Abramavicius, released by Pittsburgh
But they are the lucky ones compared to those who have been released. Their stories are here as well. In fact, most of the stories in SMALL-TOWN HEROES do not end in fame and fortune. They end in real life - back with the same high school sweetheart in the same small town that gave birth to these dreams.      
Harry Muir
Pitcher Harry Muir, released by
the Blue Jays

SMALL-TOWN HEROES is not just about players. You'll also find stories of managers and coaches, men in their 40s and beyond, making arduous bus trips with players half their age. There are assistant general managers, happy to scrub toilets and paint dugouts just to be close to the game. You'll also meet the concession workers: black entrepreneurs selling barbecue in Durham, NC and barely grown kids selling Cracker Jacks in Bluefield, WV. Have a glimpse at the lady who operates the famous Mechanical Bull at Durham Athletic Park, and meet a retired FBI agent who fulfils a childhood dream by broadcasting baseball games. And then, of course, there are the fans and the groupies.
Steve Turco
Johnson City manager Steve Turco

Here's what the critics are saying about

"SMALL-TOWN HEROES is a sure-fire hit for minor league baseball fans - warm, humorous, moving, and full of the magic of summer nights at the ballpark." - David Lamb, author of Stolen Season: A Journey through America and Baseball's Minor Leagues

"SMALL-TOWN HEROES is a must-read for any baseball lover. It is the Ball Four of minor league baseball. This book should be used as a teaching tool for those who think all professional baseball players are spoiled millionaires." - Curt Schilling, pitcher - Arizona Diamondbacks

"SMALL-TOWN HEROES is a winding, pleasant journey through the minor league ballparks of North America. Davis's vehicle is baseball, but his destination is an America that many might believe was lost forever. Over three summers, Davis visits twenty eight cities in the US and Canada, and he finds ballplayers, fans, and ordinary people with dreams and hopes and stories that are intriguing and fascinating. It is a great way to discover minor league baseball and America." - Miles Wolff, President, Baseball America

"[SMALL-TOWN HEROES] is over 350 pages of magic...pure entertainment. It ranks right up there with the best works of W.P. Kinsella. Its format of offering up short snippets makes it a great book to take along with you wherever you may be going." - The Kalona (Iowa) News

"SMALL-TOWN HEROES is written with an intelligence and sensitivity that are rare in sports books. Davis seems to get closer to players than most journalists, and he has a very good ear for dialogue." - John "Doc" Palmer, radio voice of the London Tigers

"In SMALL-TOWN HEROES, Davis has written a remarkable chronicle of life in the minor leagues, a lighthearted, bittersweet paean to the purest form of the national pastime." - New York Times

"Davis clearly knows the game of baseball and writes compellingly. It is the portraits of people that make SMALL-TOWN HEROES such a lively guided tour of minor league baseball." - A B Bookman's Weekly

"SMALL-TOWN HEROES is a warm, lyrical salute to an America that seems almost mythical." - Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Davis is a talented observer and easy confidant. SMALL-TOWN HEROES will prove a valuable legacy to future scholars of the game, both for its prose and for its pictures." - Washington City Paper

"SMALL-TOWN HEROES is the best baseball book I've read since 'TheBoys Of Summer'" - Al Kern, National Public Radio



In case SMALL-TOWN HEROES isn't prominently displayed in your local book store, it is also available online from the Internet's largest bookstore, for the discounted price of $24.45 - 30% off the cover price! Click on the graphic below for ordering information.

YOU CAN ALSO ORDER SMALL-TOWN HEROES at list price directly from the publisher by calling University of Iowa Press at 1-800-621-2736. Click here to browse their catalogue, which contains other fine baseball books.

University of Iowa Press

Hank Davis           HANK DAVIS is a professor of psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He has written several books on animal cognition and also works as a music journalist, compiling boxed sets on Sun Records and such artists as Charlie Rich, Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis. A lifetime fan and part-time player, this is Hank's first book about baseball.

The author may be reached on the Internet at

University of Iowa Press, 1997
ISBN 0-87745-579-1, $34.95 cloth

Copyright 1997 Hank Davis
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