The best writer at Fangraphs (Carson Cistulli) has been doing a series called Why We Write. Here’s the latest entry. I’m no rock star of the sabersphere, so he’s not gonna ask me. But I’ll try to answer anyways.
In my high school entrance exam, I tested pretty high across the board and wound up thrown in an English class I wasn’t prepared for (it had the pretentious title of Literary Arts.) The experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. I still liked to read, but I gravitated towards non-fiction. I was into baseball as a high-schooler; a friend of mine and I would engage in a primitive form of rosterbaition and propose some interesting trades. Once I got a job, I bought a ton of baseball books. Bats, by Davey Johnson and The White Rat come to mind. As does Weaver On Strategy. Dynasty by Peter Golenbock might have been the first adult baseball book I bought. I seem to recall that. Eventually I stumbled upon Bill James and Pete Palmer.
Bored with school, I joined the Army, where they sent me to foreign language school. When people think of their college days, that was my equivalent. Afterwards, I did go to college for a year but it didn’t take hold. I wound up getting a job as a security guard (like Bill James!)
One day, I was sitting in the maternity ward of the hospital I was assigned to. We were supposed to carry a notebook with us at all times. Bored, I started writing down a story based on some hi-jinks I participated in at the Defense Language Institute. I think I lifted the first sentence or two from a Faulkner short story I once read. The story sat in that notebook for a few years. I eventually got a laptop from work and I started transcribing the story in to Word over the course of an evening or two and emailed it to some friends. The response was positive.
One friend who was an English teacher said the story was as good as some stuff that he read in the New Yorker. He also asked for permission to show it to his students. For all I know, it is on the syllabus in some California high school. But it never got published. I sent it out to the New Yorker, but it got rejected. I still have the letter somewhere. And I caught the bug. I started trying to write short mystery stories that usually petered out after about four pages.
In the spring of 2001 I joined SABR. I think what triggered it was an article in the Hartford Courant about Bill Ryczek. He’s a fellow Nutmegger who writes on sports history. I also decided to adapt the Kevin Bacon game to baseball and did a presentation on it at a regional SABR meeting. Jim Furtado was in attendance, asked me to write it up for Baseball Primer (as The Factory was called at the time) and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve written a few articles for others sites, blogged intermittently and have written a few biographies for SABR.
None of that long introductory explains why I write does it? I suppose one of the main reasons is the egorush I get seeing my name in print and hearing my work discussed at the virtual watercoolers of the sabersphere. But I do want to write a book at some point. It’s been a long journey; on and off for ten years, but I believe that I am getting closer. Since I started Designated Sitter, the best pieces IMO have been about the roundabout connections between ballplayers and others. Last week, I started to branch out a little bit and believe this may be the key. Maybe I can broaden my audience a bit. But even if I don’t write a book, I am enjoying writing this blog. I sometimes envy folks like Craig Calcaterra and the back and forth they have with their readership, but I am slowly accepting the fact that it takes time to build that audience and Shysterball wasn’t built in one day. And I have been getting some feedback lately.
Thanks guys and gals. You don’t have to read me, but you do.