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Retired teacher, now full-time author, updates his books on baseball and Bob

Nogowski Books.jpg
John Nogowski
Liberated Author John Nogowski poses with the latest editions of his books.

A Tallahassee writer, who also has been a high school teacher, journalist and avid baseball fan, has updated two of his books. After a dozen years teaching language arts and journalism at Gadsden County High School, John Nogowski, the teacher many students referred to as “Mr. Nogo,” is long last at liberty.

“I am an ex-teacher, full-time author! The pay is much worse, but the hours are much better. And I don’t have to worry about kids pulling out their phones and texting, I don’t have to do lesson plans, I don’t have to go to faculty meetings, or worry about which kids are showing up for class and which aren’t.”

But instead of racing off to the golf course, or the Gulf of Mexico, Nogowski has immersed himself into producing an updated edition of “Last Time Out.”

“The original book happened because John Updike, who had written a wonderful account of Ted Williams’ last game with the Boston Red Sox, and he left with a home run with his last at-bat, I got a chance to talk with Updike about (his) writing that story and how much I enjoyed it. And he said, ‘Nobody was there!’ He was really surprised that only 10,000 people or so showed up at Fenway.”

That hallowed Boston ball park has a capacity almost four times that. Anyway, Updike’s tale inspired Nogowski, a former sportswriter for several papers including the Tallahassee Democrat, to consider the final games of 25 major league baseball stars over the years.

“I recalled that Babe Ruth had a three-home-run game just before he retired, but ended worse in his last game. And I remembered Willie Mays in the World Series not doing well. And I thought that might be an interesting topic for a book.”

Thus, a book chock full of stories, stats and literal “insider baseball” info to entice even the most focused fan of the American pastime. But there’s also something to fascinate non-baseball folks: the question that faces all of us:

“When you get to that moment and it’s over. You’ve done all you can do and in some cases way more than anybody could possibly have expected. How are you going to bow out?”

still, not every chapter in the book is about career endings. It seems Nogowski has passed the torch of baseball love to a new generation. He tells about his son, John Jr. And how, as a youngster, he encountered one of the retired players featured in his dad’s book.

“We walked over and I introduced myself to Bob Feller and I’d told him I’d written a book called ‘Last Time Out’ and I wrote about his last game where he pitched a complete game and didn’t strike anybody out, which for a ‘fireballer’ (power pitcher) was pretty unusual. So he looked at John (Jr.) and said, ‘Who’s this guy here? I bet he doesn’t know who the hell I am.’ And John looked at him and said, ‘Oh, no! You’re Rapid Robert Feller. You’re in my Cooperstown Heroes video game."

Nogowski-the-younger didn’t confine his baseball enthusiasm to the cyber realm. He went into the minor leagues, then the majors, playing for St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and is now back in the minors awaiting another shot at the big-time. But his dad isn't only consumed with a lifelong love of baseball. Author Nowgoski has also been a huge fan of Bob Dylan, even including Dylan lyrics as inspirational fodder for his creative writing students. That led him to write another book entitled: "Bob Dylan: A Descriptive, Critical Discography and Filmography, 1961-2022."

"Because I really tried to sum up his career and how he looked at himself from when he started, as an artist. And in 1963-64-65, rock 'n roll performers didn't think of themselves as artists."

But, as he would in so many other ways throughout his career, Dylan would swim against the tide.

"He's just somebody who always seems to be a step, or two, or three, ahead of where everybody else is. I think he's a fascinating writer. I was one who was just delighted when he won the Nobel Prize for literature."

And, with Columbia Record's recent release of so much previously unavailable Dylan tracks, Nogowski has updated the book to include those references.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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