The Utica Blue Sox were the only independent ball club in America in the summer of 1983. In the 1990’s a rash of wholly independent baseball leagues would spring up all over the United States. But back in 1983, playing independent ball wasn’t a choice – it was a sentence. Playing independent meant that no Major League organization was willing to entrust you with their prospects. And it meant that there was no one to backstop your payroll and expenses, beyond your own stockholders.
Under normal conditions, the Blue Sox would have bumbled along in obscurity until the owners moved or went bankrupt. But prior to the 1983 season, Boys of Summer and baseball romantic Roger Kahn bought a controlling interest in the Blue Sox for around $25,000. Kahn got into his Blue Sox adventure with the intention of writing a book. In the meantime, his personal notoriety generated considerably national coverage for the 1983 Blue Sox. Even People Magazine got into the act – a magazine that typically showed as much interest in minor league baseball as it did in Utica, New York.
On the field, the Blue Sox were led by 31-year old manager Jim Gattis, himself a veteran of several independent ball clubs of the 1970’s. Gattis’ team of unwanted players surprisingly won the New York-Penn League championship in 1983, adding a little extra drama to Kahn’s book-in-progress. Nevertheless, none of the 29 players who saw action for the Blue Sox that summer ever made it to the Major Leagues.
Kahn’s book, Good Enough To Dream, came out in 1985 to generally positive reviews. By then Kahn was out of the business – he owned the Blue Sox for only the one season. He was a dabbler – unlike many of his fellow stockholders. The ’83 Blue Sox had more than a dozen investors, including many of the men who went on to lead independent baseball movement of the 1990’s – Durham Bulls owner Miles Wolff, actor Bill Murray, New York Yankees minority partner Marv Goldklang and the investor/recruiter Evander Schley, who specialized in recruiting independent players and helped Gattis assemble the championship team.
The book reportedly aggravated some of those associated with the Blue Sox and required extensive legal wrangling to make it into print. Blue Sox manager Jim Gattis told The Los Angeles Times in a 1994 retrospective that he “hated” the book for years, before later making peace with it.
Another member of the Blue Sox prominently featured in Good Enough To Dream was 29-year old player/coach Barry Moss, a 12-year minor league veteran and the oldest every day player in the New York-Penn League in 1983. Moss went on to a long and respected career as an scout, manager and recruiter, particularly in independent leagues. In the 2011 film adaptation of Moneyball, Moss has a brief speaking role alongside Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill as an Oakland A’s scout identified simply as “Scout Barry”.