In this era of the self-proclaimed “web-lebrity,” and reality television stars with big personalities and little talent cramming the pop-culture landscape, real people with talent and big heart seem dwarfed by the lobby of the fleeting. One true personality who has touched my heart in recent months is Yolanda Acosta, the author of the new book ACOSTA. Published by U.K.-based O Books, ACOSTA is the story of a family in rural New Mexico, the struggles of Mexican immigrant parents, who came to the United States on the Bracero Program in 1950. The Bracero Program, which was a function of the Farm Bureau, brought thousands of migrant workers into the United States and essentially set the groundwork for the beginnings of agriculture in North America. Along with them, Juan and Concha Acosta brought hopes and dreams to the U.S., which would eventually be fulfilled by their children.
In order to write a book about her family, Yolanda had to start with her mother Concha--the rock of the family--who, through it all, including a successful battle with breast cancer, stuck to her strong faith and sense of family loyalty. It would seem that nothing would keep this woman down. Yolanda’s father Juan was a very honorable and traditional man, who believed that women should not go to college. He was a loving man, who wanted the best for his family, but his strict nature, at times was hard. He surprised the family by unknowingly getting involved with, as Yolanda refers to them, “very unscrupulous men” from Mexico. This would later be Juan’s downfall.
Yolanda Acosta’s brother Oscar Acosta, fought hard to make it into the Major Leagues of professional baseball. While in the Minors, Oscar faced an injury that led him to coaching. He worked his way up as a pitching coach for teams like the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs and the Texas Rangers. In fact, Oscar, with the help of his pitchers turned the Chicago Cubs around. He was, perhaps, the most loved pitching coach of all time for the Cubs.
While the pitchers whom he coached loved him, he sometimes clashed with owners over his style on the field. After all, here was a man, who was raised with strict cattle ranching values and a tough work ethic. Oscar expected his players to perform with the same ethic and he oftentimes took extreme measures to elicit it. Regardless, Oscar received respect where it mattered to him, and some, like pitcher Kerry Woods, name him as a huge influence on their careers.
In many ways, Oscar fulfilled the American Dream, being the only Mexican-American in history to wear two World Series championship rings, but it was cut short when he was tragically killed in the Dominican Republic in 2006 while managing the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League. He leaves a legacy and a story that became his sister’s obsession to tell.
At first Yolanda wanted to have a movie made. Over fourteen months ago, at the advice of colleagues, who said it was better to write a book first, Yolanda began the task of compiling family stories. Multiple through lines came out in the process and they are the backbone of ACOSTA, which is a story of a baseball pitcher, but the family behind the man as well. Yolanda is now seeing her dream of a movie-version of ACOSTA realized. Meira Blaustein, Executive Director of the Woodstock Film Festival is currently working on adapting the book into a screenplay and top directors are being sought to lead the project.
As I read this book, I couldn’t help being moved at the beginning and end of each chapter. It reads so much like a soap opera that one can scarcely believe that it is nonfiction. But the story is true, with its accounts of Oscar’s battles to gain respect, Yolanda’s constant battle with domestic abuse in a dynamic marriage to the love of her life, and finding out that her father was involved in shady dealings with the Mexican mafia.
ACOSTA is set to be released on Saturday, September 25. There will be an official launch party in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Hotel Albuquerque on the same day, which is, coincidentally “Oscar Acosta Day” in Albuquerque by proclamation of Mayor Richard Berry. The reception will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will feature hors d’oeuvres, music, readings and a book signing. Local retailer Bookworks will be there to offer books for purchase with 10% of the proceeds benefiting S.A.F.E. House New Mexico. The book internationally is available at http://www.amazon.com/, http://www.borders.com/ and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Yolanda Acosta about her book ACOSTA. Her passion for her brother and family comes out in her responses. Watch the video HERE:
***Chicago Cubs Photo Used Courtesy Associated Press