Inspiration strikes for new Northbrook author
Lo and behold, Jack Shniderman had a book in him.
Few if anyone saw it coming.
In the apparel business until his retirement in 2016, the Northbrook man's love of baseball fueled the 532-page tome, "Phenom," co-authored with former Daily Herald sports writer Bruce Miles.
Shniderman formerly was president of Chicago's Polo Ralph Lauren store on Michigan Avenue and also president and owner of Robert Vance Ltd. clothing stores in Chicago and the suburbs.
"When I was working I was always '24/7' involved in my business," said Shniderman, who with his wife, Sharon, has two adult children. The new author dedicated "Phenom" to his five grandchildren for their inspiration.
"I had time to sketch it out and follow an outline on this idea that had been germinating for a long time. But when I finally had time to devote time to it, I think I surprised everybody in my family, and friends," Shniderman said.
Since 2013 he'd had the idea to write a fiction book about the Chicago Cubs reaching the World Series. In 2016 that became nonfiction.
Shniderman altered his subject to that World Series loser, the Cleveland Indians, another team with "a tortured history," as he said.
"I had a good idea, a good outline, but I needed help with the narrative," he said.
It arrived after a June 2019 meeting of Gentlemen Enjoying Leisure, a club in which Shniderman participates. Miles, in the midst of his 22nd season as the Daily Herald's Cubs beat writer, was guest speaker at that monthly meeting.
Shniderman believed he had his man to help on "Phenom."
"It's 162 games seen through the eyes of a sports writer, which was right up my alley," said Miles, who in 2007 had collaborated with Cubs announcer Pat Hughes on "Harry Caray: Voice of the Fans."
The two started with a breakfast discussion, and after Miles retired from the Daily Herald following the 2019 baseball season -- he remains active with a variety of publications and projects -- the duo began work.
Working remotely from their homes, sending copy back and forth through email, and meeting periodically to review progress and bounce ideas off one other, "Phenom" came together from October 2019 through March 2020. Published in July, it is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Though it uses real ballclubs and details historic events, "Phenom" is a fictional account of the players, characters and situations surrounding a 162-game season, box scores included.
Each chapter is a game in the fictitious Cleveland team's season as relayed by a writer named Sam Lardner, the great, great nephew of actual legendary sports writer Ring Lardner. Sam Lardner's personality departs from that of the friendly, unbiased co-author.
"He's not quite an alter-ego but I allowed myself to be a little more edgy, or a little more smart-alecky," Miles said.
"It was a rewarding project and I think the readers will find it a kind of breezy run through a baseball season through the eyes of a sports writer," said Miles, who believes the book captures the rhythm of the sport.
Some will get a real kick out of it. Shniderman peppered the book with "shout-outs" to family, friends, neighbors and classmates. He uses real names for some characters while others are a combination of actual names.
Reviews have been positive, Shniderman and Miles both said.
"It's been germinating for seven years and to finally see it come to fruition and have it come out is something I'm proud of," Shniderman said. "It's a fun read, a good story, interesting characters, so there's a sense of accomplishment not only for myself but I think for Bruce, too."
We must ask ... What about the follow-up?
"It took me since 2013 so this was more of a fun project rather than a vocation," Shniderman said. "You never know, maybe inspiration will strike again."