Category Archives: writing

It’s All One Song


Last week was the second anniversary of this blog. I would like to thank all my readers; especially those who have taken time to comment like Craig, William, and Mattbert. The rest of you can feel free to jump in. The water’s fine!

I set up a Pandora station recently that is mainly 40 plus years old instrumental rock; stuff like Booker T and the MGs and a lot of surf guitar. Tuesday, I heard a song by The Blue Men called “Orbit Around The Moon.” It was off a concept album called I Hear A New World. That disc was the brainchild of the fascinatingly bizarre Joe Meek. The melody sounded hauntingly familiar. I believe that Neil Young used it for the verses of “Like A Hurricane.”

Neil’s father, Scott Young, was a sportswriter. According to WIkipedia, he wrote occasionnaly for Sports Illustrated. I went into their vault and couldn’t find any articles credited to him, but I believe that this is one. The cover to that issue came up when I searched for him. I was hoping for some Angellic prose, but it was nothing more than a game report. I was hoping for something more. Anyways, hockey is starting to grow on me. I may write some about the Bruins as the season goes ob. That kid Tyler Seguin seems to be coming on strong so far.

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Filed under hockey, what the puck?, writing

New(ish) Biographies


I’ve mentioned my work with SABR’s BioProject before. Recently two new bios were added. One was on umprire and league president Tom Lynch. The other was on Negro League pitcher Schoolboy Johnny Taylor. These were for a book that was supposed to be on Connecticut baseball personages. The book may come out some day, but in the meantime, SABR decided to release them. I thought that the one on Taylor was especially well done. I’ll probably write at least one more of these for SABR this year. My plan is to tackle Bowie Kuhn.

I was reading some Robert Caro a couple of years back and his subject wasn’t necessarily LBJ or Robert Moses. It was power. How to acquire it. How to use it. How to keep it. I was overly ambitious and thought about writing about Kuhn in the same vein and show how not to acquire, use, or keep power. I took copious notes but haven’t much to show for it. A few people asked “Who would buy such a book?” The queries I sent out weren’t promising. I did dash off a couple of pieces at THT that were fruits of my research. I don’t have enough for a book, but I should have enough for a shorter bio like these..

Anyways, enjoy my pieces Lynch and Taylor.

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Happy Birthday to Designated Sitter!


I started this blog a year ago. And I actually still update it fairly frequently. In the past, I’ve treated a blog like a baby treats a new toy. I love it it at first, then tire of it rather quickly. This is progress.

I have some good news. Yours truly has a piece in this book as well as a teaser on the THT website which should be up shortly. I’m also working on some more pieces. I’m just not sure where to send them to. They’re in the same vein of most of my recent writing (six degrees of separation and all that), but aren’t really about baseball.

Two good books I’ve read recently were by Steven Johnson. He isn’t as breezy as a James Burke, but there are a lot of connection that he writes about. In particular, Joseph Priestly stood at the crossroads of politics, science, and religion. James Burke liked to use him in his works, but he only scratched the surface. The Invention of Air is essentially of bio of Priestly. ANd, like all good bios, it does a good job of capturing his times.

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Writing Out Loud Hasn’t Worked For Me Like It Has For Craig Calcaterra


Craig said this two years ago:

Sullivan’s piece hits all of the big points about why I like blogging so much. The immediacy of publication and response.

I don’t mean to pick on Craig. I met him a couple of years ago and he is a nice guy. He’s right about the immediacy of publication, but he’s off the mark about the immediacy of response. Unless you’re lucky, it is very difficult to get a conversation going on Web 2.0. Seriously. The most lively online convos I’ve had lately are on email lists. Maybe it is because my subject matter isn’t necessarily current, but even when I tried to rate current players based on what I perceived as their Fidrychicity, I was met with stone silence. But I’ve come to accept that. Instead of getting an idea, then posting it here, lately I have been letting them ferment a bit, then emailing them to a few people for further ideas. In fact, my work will appear in book form once again. I sent a piece to Boss Studes over at The Hardball Times and he liked it so much, he decided to use it for the upcoming annual.

What’s my point? I’m not sure I have one, but the blogging model seems to work better for some than it does for others. I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a blogosphere darling like a Josh Wilker or Carson Cistulli. It’s been almost a year and Designated Sitter has yet to achieve critical mass. Fanhouse and Fangraphs haven’t come banging on my door asking me to write for them. But if you want to read how the circus, spies, ’60s football, and Deadball Era baseball are connected, I’ll write about it in some form or another. I’m just not sure you’ll find it in your RSS feed or on Google Reader.

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How Handwriting Boosts The Brain


Courtesy the WSJ.

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WSJ: The Genius Of The Tinkerer


This one is for me. I’d rather link it on my blog than bookmark it. I dug the article. Apparently, Johnson has a new book that sounds very reminiscent of James Burke. I read Everything That Is Bad Is Good For You about a year ago. I may have to check this and some of his other work out.

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Filed under books, writing

Bethlehem Speaks


A new, clearer, Free Darko Manifesto? This was an aside in an entry on Ray Lewis.

There’s a misconception floating around that FD likes underdogs. We don’t. We like star players, weird players, and players who aren’t afraid to be candid. We are also huge snobs who all cut our teeth in various realms of music snobbery. When players we jock, like Julian Wright, turn out to suck, it’s an embarrassment. We’re looking to catch the next big thing before you do, celebrate the unjustly ignored forces, or pick up on the glorious outliers who just might sneak in and transform the sport in small ways. We love potential. But potential, as it should be, is a burden — for players in real life, and in terms of the way this blog views them. We don’t root for lesser souls; we’re all about those who deserve to be, or become, something rare and cunning. A screw-up or drop-out isn’t FD, he’s the antithesis of it. This isn’t Slackerball, it’s about making sure we’re up on the best the league has to offer. J.R. Smith? He’s not a patron saint, he’s the prodigal son.

The bolded part was sort of where I was going with regards to Maranvillains. I guess I am not enough of a music snob to pull it off like these guys, though. Been reading more James Burke lately, though. He’s probably a better role model for me. Sports aestheticism is a tricky thing to write about.

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Filed under baseball, basketball, beisbol, Hoops, Maranvillains, writing

The Examined Life


Reggie Jackson, Cardboard Gods, and Satchel.

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game – and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams. – Jacques Barzun (I used to think this often abridged quote wasn’t really saying anything; that it was just empty words.)

Bios: I’ve read a couple of baseball biographies this year as well as a memoir. I like them as a method of learning or relearning or remembering a particular era. I’ve dabbled in the form myself on a much smaller scale than a book. You may notice on that list one that wasn’t completed; one on Bowie Kuhn. I was reading some Robert Caro a couple of years back and his subject wasn’t necessarily LBJ or Robert Moses. It was power. How to acquire it. How to use it. How to keep it. I was overly ambitious and thought about writing about Kuhn in the same vein and show how not to acquire, use, or keep power. I took copious notes but haven’t much to show for it. A few people asked “Who would buy such a book?” The queries I sent out weren’t promising. I did dash off a couple of pieces at THT that were fruits of my research. But enough about me for the moment.

Dayn Perry’s Reggie Jackson and Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods cover an era I wanted to tackle by writing about Bowie Kuhn. And Larry Tye’s Satchel was probably a better history lesson on the Negro Leagues than any book I read where that was the goal.

I was curious how a writer like Perry would tackle a bio. His background as a writer isn’t traditional, to say the least. He wrote for Baseball Prospectus and is sort of FOXsports answer to Rob Neyer.

Perry’s bio of Reggie Jackson was really good. I tried reading the recent bio of Willie Mays, but it didn’t capture my fancy. This one does. I liked it better than the Willie Mays bio by James Hirsch I tried to read earlier. Told Bethlehem Shoals that I found the Mays bio ponderous. 500 pages. I don’t need all that to learn that he might’ve been a good shooting guard or QB instead of a baseball player, but baseball was the only game in town when he was growing up. I didn’t need all that to tell me he could hit, run, field and throw. Or that when he ran, it was like gliding. And that’s the stuff I’m interested in.

Maybe being shorter helps, but Dayn’s book seems to flow well. I did find myself skimming over game accounts, but I usually do that in bios. Dayn was the guy who reminded me to user strong verbs and nouns but he also uses good adjectives. At one point, he said magma hot instead of hot. And his book is subtitled The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October. If you’re interested in baseball of the 70s, I recommend the book. It mainly covers his career up to 1981 or so then peters out when it gets around to his Angels career and second tour with the A’s. I learned a bit about Steinbrenner and Martin (and Bowie Kuhn) that I didn’t know. Dayn used Golenbock’s bio of Martin as a source and I never read that*. The book also portrays Jackson as some sort of racial opportunist. That really isn’t a subject I’m all that comfortable about but I’m getting a better understanding of it as time goes on. Oddly enough, I learn more about it from reading about sports than anywhere else.

I also read Cardboard Gods this summer. I’ve praised the blog before. The book had some material that wasn’t part of the blog and was more organized into an overarching story of Wilker’s childhood and other parts of his life. Josh is almost exactly the same age as me, so I relate to a lot of what he wrote. He’s also an inspiration for me, as I believe we’re both sort of late bloomers. Did I mention that he was a fellow Red Sox fan? I loved the chapter on Dewey Evans because Josh refers to this game. That was a crazy 12th inning. I called Doug DeCinces error before Joe Castiglione did. My brother can testify to that in a court of law if need be. That Sox-Angels tilt was one of my favorite games of all time. Amy Tan and Bill Nowlin put together a book of great Red Sox games in history. I nominated that one, but don’t think it got accepted.

Nowlin and I have different ideas about these bios. He’s more into relying an oral history than I am. I prefer to see what the journos have to say about someone at the time. Call it the Bill James influence, if you want. Also, I try to capture the times. I talk on occasion to a friend of mine and he also says that that’s one thing he looks for in a bio. That was a strength of Larry Tye’s book Satchel. It won SABR’s prestigious Seymour Award. I said earlier that I’ve read books specifically on Negro League history, but I think I got a better sense of that history through the prism of Satchel Paige. And a better sense of 20th Century American history to boot. Maybe Jacques Barzun was right after all.

* Golenbock isn’t much of a deep researcher from my experience. He just let’s the tape record stuff then writes it down. But he is one of the main reasons I am into sports history. His book about the Yankees from their Golden Age is probably the first adult baseball book I read,

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Filed under baseball, beisbol, Uncategorized, writing

Game Stories


This isn’t a Red Sox blog, but I am a Red Sox fan. Have been since 1975, so don’t hold the bandwagoneers against me. I don’t write about that that often, though. Enough ink and bits are already spilled about the Old Towne Team. What more can I add? I still watch and listen to the team, albeit not as much as I used to (I’m one of those folks responsible for NESN’s ratings dive.) When I don’t watch or listen, I still want to know what happened. I subscribe to a local suburban paper, but rarely read their game story or the boxscore. (I used to love the scoreboard page when I was 12. I’d absorb it like a sponge with all the boxscores, standings, and transactions. Oh, to find the time to do that today!) I usually read Craig Calcaterra’s “And That Happened.” It’s one or two lines per each major league game, usually, but it gets to the meat of it without the fluff.

Carson Cistulli (Hi, Carson) and other Fangraphers met in NYC over the weekend. I wanted to go, but it was too early in the day for me to make it worth it. I would have had to arise at dawn, drive to New Haven or Stamford, and MetroNorth it in by 9. I stayed up late on Friday and I need my beauty rest. [I was drawing diagrams and contemplating how Jim Bouton might be the center of the universe (more on that, some day.)]

Carson wrote today or last nite about how one of the guest speakers (Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald) has eschewed the traditional game story format. I rarely read the Herald, so I was not aware of this. Here is his story about last nite’s game. Contrast it with the AP report in the Hartford Courant. The Courant used to send a beat writer to Boston, but they don’t do it that often these days. Quite frankly, I find the weekly shopping newspapers more informative these days. Not much difference in style compared to the wire report, as far as I can detect, but Silverman’s piece reads better. It’s a stronger story about how four forgotten pieces of the roster contributed to Boston’s victory.

Yet, I find myself a mite confused. I thought one of the larger complaints by the blogosphere was how mainstream media types try and put storylines into their coverage. I’d be interested in your thoughts. (I’m blegging you!) I suppose I should read more Silverman to compare him and contrast him to other beat writers.

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A Question About EDSBS


Why is Spencer Hall sometimes Spencer Hall and sometimes Orson Swindle?

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