Nine Bucks a Pound

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The Story

For every A-Rod or Manny Ramirez seeking to boost his game to elite levels via illegal means, there have been scores of unheralded players toiling in the minor leagues, desperate to impress the brass enough to simply survive and advance. Young men who have dreamed of playing in the big leagues since they were old enough to swing a bat. When their natural ability alone isn’t enough, the black and white blurs to gray, their fear of getting caught using banned substances outweighed by a more consuming fear of failure.

Three seasons into his professional career, Del Tanner can read the writing on the wall. A contact hitter at a power position, he recognizes his days in the Twins organization are numbered if he can’t match the production of the other first basemen in the system. When his aspiring agent suggests he try steroids, Del makes a choice that will shadow him for the rest of his career.

In his second novel, James Bailey (The Greatest Show on Dirt, 2012) humanizes the players fans are so often quick to demonize. Nine Bucks a Pound ponders life on baseball’s fringe and the dreams that tempt a young man to heed the devil on his shoulder.’s Jayson Stark says, “Bailey hasn’t just given us a great read. He’s given us an important window into a topic we can’t seem to stop talking about.” Adds Russell Rowland, author of High and Inside, “Bailey expertly explores how the desire to succeed at any price can lead to unexpected consequences, mostly involving a man’s relationships with others, not to mention with his own conscience. This is a powerful story about the perils of success at any price.”


2/27/15: Book Review: Nine Bucks a Pound,
As a former Baseball America correspondent (and book reviewer), Bailey is well-qualified to tell such a story. He is familiar with the Minor League locales through which Del ascends, as well as the various personalities — agents, scouts, host families, coaches, players and assorted hangers-on — that populate the landscape. Additionally, Bailey did his research, speaking to (unnamed) former players about the drug testing process and to trainers about workout regimens. Nine Bucks A Pound, though a work of fiction, seems real.

Spring 2014 Issue, Spitball Magazine
Here at Spitball we are pretty sick of hearing about PED, which makes James Bailey’s accomplishment with his new baseball novel, Nine Bucks a Pound (Sun Field Press), all the more amazing. It is the modern story of a deal between the devil and Del Tanner, a first baseman in the Minnesota Twins organization, who injects batting power-increasing illegal drugs long enough to boost him out of the minors. Bailey’s goal of presenting a believable character whose motivations are understandable, if not excusable, is realized; even if Tanner’s downfall is predictable. Other well-drawn characters, plausible dialogue, and a sure feel for the landscape of professional baseball round out the pleasures to be had in reading the book.

5/19/14: Quick Review of Nine Bucks A Pound, Tiger Tales
It may be a work of fiction, but it’s a well researched and realistic portrayal of a young man who battles with the temptations of money and fame, guilt of cheating other players and the fears of side effects and getting caught.  Bailey does an excellent job of showing the human side of a complex issue which is too often portrayed as black and white.  Regardless of your feelings about PED use in the game, you will likely find yourself empathizing with the main character and his family. 

4/26/14: Review of “Nine Bucks a Pound,” The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books
With excellent character development, a story that never stalls but keeps the reader moving forward and many emotional moments that range from elation to downright sadness, Bailey has written an outstanding novel that should be read by fans of not only the game of baseball, but also of human nature stories as that is the strength of this book – it puts a human face on an ugly issue in America’s Pastime.
4/23/14: When juicing and its ramifications has reached a point where it can be the stuff of fiction, Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News
We’ve been careful to pick and choose the novels we want to include in this annual series over the years — Joseph Schuster’s “The Might Have Been” from 2012 was in, but Chad Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding” in 2011 wasn’t, mostly because of the timing of getting a copy despite all its publicity). Bailey’s first effort, “The Greatest Show on Dirt” in 2012, was worth taking a chance based on our respect for the depth of storylines from the minor-league game that he lived through, and we enjoyed giving the first-time author some swings in the cage. With “Nine Bucks,” Bailey has hit it on the screws again.
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Bailey, who takes Tanner’s path from 2003 to 2010, isn’t off base at all in how he lays all this out, saying in the acknowledgements that he got help along the way from players who have described to him the way drug testing in the minor leagues was done, as well as some information from trainers. Bailey’s previous experience again around the game and how it works is one part of. The other is how he uses realistic dialogue to connect with the reader in a way to make it real.
As’s Jayson Stark writes: “Bailey hasn’t just given us a great read. He’s given us an important window into a topic we can’t seem to stop talking about.” You kind of wish a guy like the late Ken Caminiti was still around to read this and take it to heart.

3/11/14: Novel explores temptations, ramifications of steroid use, Bob D’Angelo, Tampa Tribune
James Bailey has a writing style that is as smooth as the left-handed swing of Del Tanner, the main character in his second novel.  Once again, the Rochester, N.Y., author has written an engaging story with characters readers can relate to — even if the underlying theme is the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
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Bailey’s second novel mixes baseball, romantic tension and testosterone into a satisfying cocktail of prose. It bubbles and percolates with action and tension. Even the cover is eye-catching, as it depicts a bobblehead of a baseball player wielding a syringe like he would grip a bat.