My name is Paul Dickson, and I am a confessed serial writer who, by the end of 2009, will have published 55 books
. I am writing this impromptu one-off blog (is a single blog a blip?) as a way of self-introduction to my appearance at Powell's City of Books on Burnside
, in Portland, this Friday, May 1st, at 7:30 PM.
The gist of my talk will be on the topic of my immodestly titled The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Third Edition, which was recently published and, among other things, featured in an extraordinarily laudatory column in the Oregonian by David Broder a few weeks back.
The Dictionary is my proudest work for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I have been working on it for a quarter-century. It began 25 years ago when my sons, Andrew (now of Portland) and Alex, kept asking their old man to explain the game. Why, for example, did they say "bunt" when they really meant "bump," or why did baseball have an umpire and not a referee?
I could not find a book with the answers and began working on the Dictionary. I found a publisher, and the first edition was published in the spring of 1989. Before the ink had dried on the first edition of this book, good people — fans of baseball, and both professional and self-taught lovers of American words — began to call and write with their lists of omissions from what I had deemed to be a work that defined the national game one entry at a time. I had thought that the dictionary pushed the whole business of baseball terminology and slang to its logical conclusion.
I was wrong.
That first edition, immodestly titled The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, contained 5,000 entries. With the help of more than a hundred new recruits and volunteer lexicologists, The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary was published exactly 10 years later in the spring of 1999 with nearly 7,000 entries, which seemed, at the time, to be fairly close to definitive at last.
Ten more years have elapsed, and you are now looking at 2009's The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, Third Edition. It contains no fewer than 10,867 entries and more than 18,000 definitions, and more than 400 people have helped with the project. If someone had told me at the very beginning of this undertaking that there would be 10,000 terms to define, I would have said this was impossible. This accomplishment is not one to be credited to the author and his army of lexical irregulars — more than 350 of them — but rather, one to be scored to the game itself, with an assist to that rich and flexible entity known as the English language.
So on the nines — 1989, 1999, and 2009 — we get a new Dictionary. This one weighs in at 4.2 pounds and has everything possible in it (that is, everything that will not be in the 2019 edition). So, come out on Friday and discover the difference between the Bugs Bunny changeup and the Peggy Lee fastball. Meanwhile, you might want to check out my personal web site or the special web site for the DBD 3. The latter links to several interviews I have given for the book, including one with Melissa Block that I gave on All Things Considered in March.
So, if you are in the neighborhood on Friday, I look forward to meeting you. I will also be discussing my other new baseball book, The Unwritten Rules of Baseball.