A Guide to the Eliot Asinof Papers, [ca. 1930s-2000s]
Born in New York City to Russian-American tailor Max Asinof, writer Eliot Tager Asinof (1919-2008) played baseball for Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst on Long Island, before joining the Swarthmore College team. Following graduation, he signed a contract for the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league team. During World War II, Asinof trained as a fighter pilot until going into the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidates School with the help of Detroit Tigers’ first baseman Hank Greenberg, a family friend. Upon graduation, Asinof was stationed for two years at the army and naval base on Adak Island, Alaska. Following the war, he returned to New York City, where he met and married actress Jocelyn Brando (1919-2005), the sister of actor Marlon Brando. The two eventually had a son, Martin, before divorcing in 1955.
In the 1950s, Asinof began writing scripts for TV shows and fronting for writers blacklisted by the House Un-American Committee. Signing a petition to integrate the New York Yankees, Asinof soon found himself among the blacklisted screenwriters. In 1955, he wrote Man on Spikes, a novel based on his former teammate Mickey Rutner’s difficulties making it into major league baseball.
That same year, Asinof moved to California to write a screenplay adaptation of Man on Spikes, which appeared on the television show Goodyear Playhouse. A contract writer for Warner Brothers, Asinof began work on a movie for John Wayne, but studio head Jack Warner fired Asinof after he wrote a scene where Wayne’s character grieves the death of a friend by hitting a horse.
Asinof then returned to New York City to write a TV screenplay for David Susskind about the Black Sox scandal, in which eight Chicago White Sox players in collusion with gamblers intentionally lost the 1919 World Series. When the screenplay was dropped, Asinof attained an advance from Putnam to turn the story into a book. He met with several people involved in the scandal, including White Sox outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch and boxer Abe Attell, who allegedly supplied money from gangster Arnold Rothstein to the players. The result, Eight Men Out, was published in 1963, receiving a place in Sports Illustrated’s top 50 best sports books of all time. John Sayles adapted the book into the 1987 film of the same name.
Asinof published numerous other novels and non-fiction books, such as People v. Blutcher (1970); Craig and Joan (1971); The Fox is Crazy, Too (1976); Bleeding Between the Lines (1979); Strike Zone (1994); and Final Judgment (2008).
Kisseloff, Jeff. “Bio.” Eliot Asinof. Accessed February 2, 2010. http://eliotasinof.com/page4/page4.html.
Weber, Bruce. “Eliot Asinof, Eight Men Out Author, Is Dead at 88.” New York Times. June 11 and 12, 2008.
Documenting Asinof’s writing career, the Eliot Asinof Papers, [ca. 1930s-2000s], comprise research notes, manuscripts and galleys, correspondence, photographs, printed materials, publicity and promotional items, film treatments, interview audiotapes, and videotapes of his speeches. Divided by type, the collection contains ten series: I. Scripts; II. Galleys; III. Publicity and published material; IV. Treatments and Proposals; V. Correspondence; VI. Notes; VII. Manuscripts; VIII. Personal documents; IX. Scrapbooks; and X. Audiovisual material. Each series chronicles the development of Asinof’s books, screenplays, teleplays; and articles, including Eight Men Out; The Fox is Crazy, Too; Ten-Second Jailbreak; and contributions to Golf Illustrated, Newsweek, and New York Sunday Times. The collection also includes treatments and proposals for movies, teleplays, novels, and articles as well as manuscripts and notes for unpublished books, like Push Pull, Crash at Ndola, and Like Married.
The correspondence, notes, scrapbooks, and publicity and published material series illustrate Asinof’s relationship with different publishers, producers, and others involved with the making of his works in Hollywood and New York City. Furthermore, the publicity and published material series and the scrapbook series shed light on the publication process and reviews of his books and articles as well as the release and reviews of his films and teleplays. The personal documents series concerns his financial records, royalties, a lawsuit with David Susskind, his experiences as a young man during the 1930s and 1940s, and his military career during World War II. The final series, audiovisual material, includes videotapes from Asinof’s speaking engagements as well as audio reels and audiocassettes of interviews with Rod Laver, Billy Casper, Garry Merrill, Joel Kaplan, John Sayles, and other individuals involved in the true-life events that formed the basis for his non-fiction books People v. Blutcher, Craig and Joan, and Ten-Second Jailbreak.
This collection is open for research use.
Use of some audio and video material by appointment only; please contact sound archivist for more information.
The donor maintains copyright of the collection.
These papers are stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.
Eliot Asinof Papers, [ca. 1930s-2000s], Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection contains unprocessed materials.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers