Thursday, December 2, 2021

I Can Do Anything


It was January of 2020 when TigerBlog flew to South Florida to meet with the great Merrily Dean Baker to talk about the history of women's athletics at Princeton. 

While he was there, he wrote this: 

This is a business trip for him. And the business is the beginning of the project on the history of women's athletics at Princeton as the 50th anniversary of coeducation approaches. The purpose of coming to Florida was to meet with the woman who started women's athletics at Princeton, a woman named Merrily Dean Baker.

At one point when he was down there, TB sat down on a bench next to a stream. It was one of the most serene and peaceful spots he's ever been. The temperature was around 80. There was a little breeze. There sun felt warm. He took out his laptop and started to write, getting down about 1,000 words to start to tell the story about how Merrily had gotten women's athletics at Princeton off the ground in 1970. 

At the time, he had no idea what was to come. He didn't realize he'd write another another 5,000 words  just about Merrily, let alone 130,000 more about the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton. 

He thought about that peaceful stream a week ago, on another peaceful morning, one that also featured sunshine, no clouds and little wind. This time, he was in the Pennsylvania farm town of Lancaster, so it wasn't quite 80 degrees. It was peaceful though.

That's what TB was thinking as he walked into the bindery there. This project started out on a peaceful day, and now it was coming to fruition on another one.

Once inside the bindery, he finally, finally was able to see the finished product. Oh sure, he'd seen PDFs and proof copies, version after version. This, though, was the first time he got to actually see it.

There it was, TB's book: "I Can Do Anything ... Stories From The First 50 Years Of Women's Athletics At Princeton." 

It certainly made him smile. After all, of everything he's done in all of his years at Princeton, he is most proud of this book.

This is what Helena Novakova, one of the first two women ever to compete at Princeton, emailed TB  after she received a copy last week: 

"This book is such a phenomenal collection of stories of Princeton's women's athletes. I could not put it down after I first opened it, and I read until the wee hours. I am humbled by the achievements of the other women and terribly proud of being counted among them."

Helena's story, by the way, is one of the most fascinating in the book.

What started on a bench in South Florida grew to be 500 pages, with more than 131,000 words and 400 pictures. It is not an encyclopedia of Princeton women's athletics but instead of a collection of stories that tell the history. 

As TigerBlog has mentioned here before, the very, very beginning of the book is an apology to all of the amazing women whose stories are not told in the book. There were more than 4,200 women who competed for Princeton in those first 50 years, and there are just under 100 who are featured. There are hundreds and hundreds of others who are included in pictures. 

The book is divided into nine sections: 

1. Pioneers
2. Administrators/Coaches
3. The New Era (the early 1980s)
4. Three-Sport Athletes
5. Olympians
6. National Champions
7. Professional Athletes
8. Service
9. Sport-by-Sport Review

In all, there are 55 chapters. There's also an introduction, which explains the significance of the book's title, and a prologue, which talks about the pandemic and how the 50th year ended with the women's lightweight national championship.

The book was edited by M. Kathryn Taylor, herself an early Princeton woman student, from the Class of 1974. The design was done by Mike Trunzo, whose layout really has enhanced the book. It was published by Tom Krisak of Prism Color Corporation.

This is the second book TigerBlog has written. The first one was a novel (shameless plug, you can find out more about that HERE), and TB can tell you that the non-fiction book was so much more difficult to write, largely because he couldn't simply make up the facts. 

He can also tell you that when he started this project, most of the women in the book were just names that he knew of, with general accomplishments that he had seen or read about. The best part of the book was the opportunity to get to know these women and share their stories, and so many of them have remarkable stories indeed. 

His favorite section is the first one, on the pioneers who did so much to get the women's athletic program started. They were part of a Princeton that is wholly unfamiliar to most of the generations that followed, and what was asked of them was not always fair. What shines through brightly, though, is their love of having been able to compete and compete together and the friendships that they made that still go strong to this day.

He finished the actual writing portion back in April. Since then, it's been layout, choosing photos, rewrites, edits, edits and more edits, followed by proofing and more proofing. Then it was printing and lastly binding.

And now they're here.

TigerBlog has a book that was published in 1900 that has a review of every Princeton sporting event of the 1800s. He's used it a thousand times for historical research and for his own curiosity and interest. He's often wondered if the person who wrote it more than 120 years ago ever dreamed that in the 21st century some Princeton athletic historian would still cherish the book.

As he wrote his, he wondered if the same would be true, that in 2141 or so that his book might still be on someone's desk. He won't be around, but hey, he likes to think it's possible.

In 2021, though, he really hopes you check it out and enjoy it. 

Like he said, this is the best thing he's done since he's been here.

1 comment:

Mark Disler '74 said...

Thanks for all the great coverage and insights into Tiger sports all these years. I ordered the book days ago and await its arrival. I identify with Helena's email. When "The Tigers of Old Nassau" by Dunn, concerning Tiger football, arrived at my home in 1977, I could not put it down and read it into the wee hours of the morning. Probably too old to stay awake to do that with your book, LOL. It may take a couple of days. Warm regards, Mark Disler '74