A Conversation with Author Robert Skead
A Conversation with Robert Skead
Q: What inspired you to write The Batboy and the Unbreakable Record?
A: Before he died at age 96, I promised Johnny Vander Meer’s boyhood best friend, Dick Jeffer, that I’d do whatever I could to help keep the memory of his friend and the record alive. For almost his entire life, Mr. Jeffer trumpeted Vandy’s accomplishment and he passed the torch to me. Writing a book about the event from a Reds batboys experience seemed like inspiration from above and I know it would be Mr. Jeffer’s favorite book.
Q: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway from the book?
A: I’m confident baseball fans of all ages will laugh and be entertained by the story as they learn about “the greatest feat in the game’s history” as the Cincinnati Post’s headline declared the accomplishment. I also want readers to be inspired to pursue their own big dreams. Vandy once said, “Kids are always chasing after rainbows and baseball is a world where you can catch them.” Vander Meer certainly caught his rainbow with this feat and I hope readers will be excited to dream big, work hard and go after the desires in their heart after reading the story.
Q: Why is there elements of bullying in the storyline?
A: The main character in the story experiences forms of bullying from a classmate and another senior batboy. These scenes drive conflict and help the main character deal with his emotions and the reader discover the proper things to do and say when faced with a bully, as best practices from experts. Since bullying is something so many youth encounter, I wanted this story to resonate and reinforce that life and relationships can get better when we diffuse situations correctly and speak up, stand up and be kind.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Johnny Vander Meer?
A: He never forgot his roots. He grew up in Midland Park, NJ, a town I also lived in for nine years. He donated money to the local baseball program for scholarships in his name. He’d sign baseballs left for him when he got his haircut at the town barber shop. He donated funds from his autograph signings to help former major leaguers who needed help with health care needs. He had a kind heart, was a good man, and a role model. It’s been an honor to help keep his memory alive.
Q: What’s special about the night he pitched his second no hitter?
A: That night reads like it was created in a Hollywood screenplay.
Handsome, 23-year-old rookie pitcher from small town America achieves miraculous accomplishment at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York.
Mom and Dad and 500 fans from Midland Park watch every pitch nervously.
It was the first official major league game ever played at night in New York City or anywhere outside Cincinnati, for that matter. The 615 floodlights tinted the grass a surrealistic green.
Official paid attendance was 38,748—one of the largest crowds ever to attend a game at Ebbets Field.
Even the opposing Brooklyn Dodger fans start to cheer Vander Meer on in the seventh inning realizing they are witnessing baseball history.
And just before the end, Vander Meer loses control in the ninth and walks the bases loaded—but he manages to get out of the jam and the Vander Meer-acle is etched into baseball immortality!
Before the game, a retired Babe Ruth, sporting a Reds cap, greeted Vandy in the dugout. After the game, the Babe said, “Nice going, kid.”
Upon meeting Babe Ruth in the dugout before and after the second No Hitter, Vandy said, “And the Babe was always my idol, believe me, that was the biggest kick of all.”
Q: Do you think the record will ever be broken?
A: No. That’s what makes the record so special. There are few records in sports that will most likely never be broken—this is one of them.
Q: What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I hated reading as a child but showed a gift for creative writing.
Q: Tell us about the art on the cover and in the book?
A: The cover illustration was done by Dirk Rovich. The interior art by Stephen Colyer. Both artists are Cincinnati Reds fans and live in Ohio, which makes them the perfect illustrators to bring the elements of the story to life visually.
Dirk Rozich: Originating in Northeast Ohio, Dirk Rozich has made a name for himself in the professional athletic realm of illustration. Dirk's detailed and narrative driven painting style has earned clients such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, NFL, PGA, Joe Namath and The LeBron James Family Foundation. He is also an accomplished mural painter and graphic designer. Samples of Dirk's work can be viewed online at www.dirkrozich.com.