Diagram the backbone to every story and it resembles an electrocardiogram, but when Jesse Braverman first sat down to write his, it was missing something.
On the back of his autobiography “The Comeback Coach,” Braverman is described as the varsity baseball coach for Troy’s La Salle Institute, a factoid opposing coaches in Section 2 know all too well. But, for those who pick up his book looking exclusively for a baseball tale, you’re going to strike out on a good story pitch.
German novelist Gustav Freytag amended Aristotle’s definition of plot by mapping out a pyramid. There’s the exposition, where characters are introduced and the setting is defined. Then the drama ensues, inducing the reader to flip pages as the two sides trade enough clapbacks to reach a climax. Before the story’s end, the reader is led down through what is commonly known as the “Falling Action.”
It was the Falling Action which inspired Braverman to start writing his autobiography. After nearly 20 years of coaching high school softball, basketball, soccer and baseball, he found himself without a team to lead. What verb you would choose to describe the reason depends on the dugout you sit in. One side of the field would use a word to describe a mutual agreement. The back cover of his book uses a verb to imply nothing of the sort. In addition to scholastic sports, Braverman coached a travel baseball team for 15- and 16-year olds. A Section 2 rule would place his summer job at odds with his varsity position. Braverman was presented an ultimatum.
The end result, Braverman was out of a coaching job.
Anyone who has sat with Braverman on a bus to and from baseball games knows he’s one to share stories. Braverman grew up in the New York City borough of Queens like any red-blooded kid in the ’50s and ’60s, with a baseball glove under his arm pledging allegiance to the Yankees. Queens is where his parents ran a candy store. Between learning baseball on the sandlot and crafting egg floats at his parents’ store is where Braverman learned much about life.
“It’s been a good experience, and worthwhile endeavor, but not an easy one,” said Braverman. “Writing a book is much more than the average person realizes.”
Through the urging of his old friend Gordon F. Sander, who would ultimately co-author “The Comeback Coach,” Braverman wrote a 360-page memoir. Today, it’s a 230-page autobiography of a man whose story didn’t have an “end people would want to read,” he said.
Braverman’s story reads like a Greek tragedy, but as the title implies, the hero finds redemption. Against Freytag’s diagram, the comeback lies in the prologue, recounting the events of a championship game. But, again, this isn’t just a baseball story. Braverman’s impact on his community is found through the ballplayers he coached and the students he taught as a special education teacher in both Bethlehem Central and La Salle Institute. People within those communities will be quick to pick up this book, but it’s also an inspiring story teaching all to not give up on one’s self or those around us.
As Times Union sports writer James Allen writes in the foreward, “[Braverman] coaches life and teaches baseball, not the other way around.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.