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Out & About 11-2-2023

From the BookShelf Writers

The BookShelf Writers consist of four Estero Bay women who have been writing and critiquing together for over five years. For more samples of their work, please visit www.the bookshelfwriters.com

Each issue, this column will feature one of the BookShelf Writers: Debbie Black, Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich, Judy Salamacha and Susan Vasquez.

November 29, 2023

A Salamacha Five Star Review: Cayucos Author Dell Franklin Hits It Out of the Park!

Dell Franklin’s latest book is a must read for fans of baseball and family relationships.

 There were three reasons I instantly wanted to read Dell Franklin’s second published book. First, Dell is an excellent writer. I knew his stories would take me to another world. While reading his first autobiographical experience, I literally felt I was on a virtual Mississippi cruise learning about his Life on the Mississippi, 1969. I’m also a baseball fan. I love going to games, but I go for the show, watching teamwork in action. This is a book of action and introspection. Finally, my favorite reads and movies have rich, complicated characters that reveal drama in their backstory and truth in their today. Dell has taken another deep dive into his amazing life. I hope there is a movie version someday of all nine innings of “The Ballplayer’s Son: Following the Footsteps and Escaping the Shadow of Big Moe Franklin. “   

 The book’s promotional write-up is spot on. “’The Ballplayer’s Son’ is full of passion, grit, and heartbreak. It is the story of baseball in the hard-nosed 30s, 40s, and 50s, of a Jewish ballplayer who dealt with bigotry head on, of a devoted dad’s burning desire to play in the major leagues. And it is the story of a son who both feared and idolized his father, whose personal journey went from soaring self-confidence to utter despair on the journey to find himself, even if it was a self he barely recognized.”

Let me add that the book reveals universal truths about us – and America – past and present. Murray ‘Big Mo’ Franklin’s life lessons are warnings for us to pay attention or we risk discovering something important only after the “aha” moment is no longer useful. Indeed, this is a baseball story and anyone who follows baseball will relish the insider information about many of baseball’s greatest players Big Mo met during his professional career and young Dell had the privilege to know personally or through his father’s vivid storytelling. Big Mo’s ballplayer son could recite them in his father’s voice as if it was a current interview by professional writer, Dell Franklin. This is a coming-of-age story with Dell the protagonist, wrestling with his struggles to adulthood. It is a love story – between mother and dad, son and father, and mother and son – all entangled with their love/hate relationship with professional baseball.  Dell’s characters are believable and likable, not because they are real and related to our neighbor in Cayucos, but because they demonstrate commonality among all of us as the Franklins live through the good times and years of struggles.  

Let me tease you with a few highlights that would have made me curious enough to buy his book even if I didn’t care much about baseball.  

Most author biographies promote their backgrounds to pump up their worthiness as an author. Dell’s bio is pure honesty – preparing the reader he’s the son, but not the ballplayer: “Always a practicing athlete, Franklin tended bar most of his life with occasional cab driving, a stint as riverboat storekeeper, and futile stabs at waiting tables, sales and construction…” 

A Murray “Big Mo” Franklin life lesson: “Sometimes, Dell, you have no control over events in your life. You have to eat a little crow and you gotta make the best of it all because there is no other choice. It’s no different in baseball than in life.”

And another life lesson: “Big Mo” signed up to play his first professional experience for $100 p/month in West Virginia. “We were the town heroes. They had nothing and we had everything. It was a good lesson in life to never get too big for your britches.” 

Dell’s grandfather predicted Dell would be a scholar and an artist. Growing up Dell read all the classics and played baseball every chance he got.  

The Franklin family was very close and loved each other enough to survive their many battles. The book’s introduction begins: “My mother always urged me to write about my father, and when I asked her why, she said, ‘Because he is different than most men, and he is especially different from the other players he played with in his career. Oh, his teammates loved him, and he fit in, because he managed to find something good in just about everybody, and he is the kind of man people trust without knowing why.’” 

Dell adds, “I always felt I was different too.” And Dell was…and yet he wasn’t. In what ways, you ask? My readers, that will be up to you to discover and enjoy.  

Dell will be signing “The Ballplayer’s Son” at Coalesce Book Store on Saturday, Nov. 25 from 1-3 p.m. during Morro Bay’s Community Market.

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