One evening in 1993 I settled in to read the Nation. Two words in a display ad caught my eye—“Elysian Fields.” A baseball nut, I knew about the Elysian Fields. They were on a bluff in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. It was where the Knickerbocker baseball club played the first games of baseball in the early 1840s. A closer look at the ad revealed, “Elysian Fields Quarterly: Writing on baseball by fans for fans.” I immediately subscribed and fell in love with EFQ.
That little magazine, bound in color, each page designed with understated elegance, contained essays, short fiction, poetry, long historical articles, book reviews, and a host of quirky pieces—all written with the clarity of a clean river.
It began as an idea in the mind of Ken LaZebnik in 1980. He showed a mock-up of a baseball publication to his friend, Stephen Lehman, a fellow resident of Minneapolis. Energized by their “twin loves of baseball and writing,” they went to work on it. In January, 1981, The Minneapolis Review of Baseball made its debut with Steve as editor. In 1992 they gave it a new look and new name—Elysian Fields Quarterly. By the way, the fields where the first games of baseball were played have another meaning. In the words of EFQ (printed below the masthead of each issue): “By the happiest and most appropriate of all baseball coincidences, the name of the site for the ‘birthplace of modern baseball’ is also the name for paradise in Greek mythology.”
Such luminaries as Roger Angel or Tom Boswell never graced the pages of EFQ—it couldn’t afford them. But the journal did publish the likes of Eugene McCarthy, a poet and former Senator from Minnesota, and John Thorn, now the Official Historian of Major League Baseball. Mostly, one found superb writing by fans, smitten by the twin loves of baseball and writing. Unfortunately, its financial picture was not so superb. Losses forced suspension of publication in1995.
Enter Tom Goldstein, a St. Paul sports retailer who loved the Minneapolis Review and EFQ. He persuaded Steve to bring EFQ back to life in 1998. Tom took the helm as publisher, then editor, with Steve serving as associate editor. For the next eleven years Tom worked to increase circulation—it reached over 4,000 subscribers—and hoped that someday “all those pundits and personalities and sportswriters across the land would finally take notice of this wonderful little magazine that’s edgy, rebellious, contrarian, nostalgic—and mostly damn good writing about baseball.”
Unfortunately, it never happened. After years of sacrificing income, losing sleep, and giving the journal every spare moment, he put it on hold, hoping to revive it after a hiatus. The hiatus continues. The last issue of EFQ came out in the fall of 2008, after nearly 30 years. However, in a recent email, Tom said, “I’m hoping to set up a Facebook page so the EFQ “family” can communicate with one another. I still harbor notions of finding some way to bring the journal back. For some reason, I still haven’t got it out of my system.”
The website is still up for Elysian Fields Quarterly. Google it and you’ll find the story of EFQ in greater detail in About EFQ. Click on Back Issues and you’ll see the cover of every issue, including a synopsis of each issue. It’s well worth the trip through EFQ-land.
I can be reached through this blog at Bobbitz@comcast.net.