Right around the turn of the century, Otto Penzler invited me to write a story with a baseball theme for an anthology, MURDERER’S ROW. I agreed, wrote a story which I called ALMOST PERFECT, and did as I always did—sent it first to Alice K. Turner, fiction editor at Playboy. If she passed on it, I intended to send it to Otto…but Alice crossed me up by buying it, and so I had to pass the news (good for me, bad for him) to Otto.
“Oh,” he said. “Well, can you write another baseball story for me?” I replied that I’d love to, but I really didn’t have a viable idea for one. Long pause. “Well, that’s never stopped you in the past.”
And a day later I had an idea, and some days after that I sent in KELLER’S DESIGNATED HITTER, which appeared in due course in MURDERER’S ROW and was later subsumed into HIT PARADE, third of the Keller episodic novels.
This is its first publication as an eStory for Kindle. I’ve always liked it, and I’m grateful to the two people to whom it owes its existence: to the late and much-missed Alice Turner, who snatched ALMOST PERFECT off the table, and to Otto Penzler, who’s always known better than to take no for an answer.