For this edition of AGTRYB, I sit down with the man behind One More Dying Quail. From his love of Buck O’Neil to working at Cooperstown, he’s one of the most knowledgeable baseball guys out there in the blogosphere. We covered the sports landscape in our conversation (including Bonds and The Sports Guy) and he even managed to break some incredible, must be read to be believed news that may ruin the way you look at Adam Sandler… even though the story’s 5 years old.
We’ll start with three Pyle of List specialties:
Any suggestions for a future interview?
Just about anybody on my blogroll, with special emphasis on the esteemed (in our own eyes) Channel 4 News Team: Signal to Noise, Run Up The Score, Just Call Me Juice and Awful Announcing. Also, my man-crush on the genius behind Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Blog? is well-documented, Josh Q. Public is great and original, and Ted from A Price Above Bip Roberts is startlingly prolific.
And propose a fight for Fracas Friday.
Could there possibly be anything better than Pacman Jones vs. Chris Henry, with Tank Johnson as special guest referee?
That’s the best proposal so far. It would actually be a great fight. Who wins?
Henry controls the action early, but loses when he’s arrested midway through the fight. Pacman celebrates by making it rain.
3 best games you’ve ever watched (in person or on TV).
1) Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS: Probably the best baseball game I’ve ever seen.
2) The 2002 Snow Bowl, Raiders vs. Patriots: The Tuck Rule hurt the Raiders, but as Bill Simmons likes to point out, the Raiders had something like 2 nd and 1 and failed to convert. That defensive stand and the Vinatieri 45-yarder in the snow should be the defining moments for that game.
3) Game 3 of the 2003 Atlantic League North Division Final: The Nashua Pride, the team I worked for at the time, trailed Bridgeport 7-6 in the ninth inning of the third and deciding game of the series. The Bluefish had the best closer in the league on the mound (40 saves in 125 games). He got two quick outs on our guys, then hit a batter and allowed a two-run homerun on an 0-2 pitch while I proceeded to decimate the “no cheering in the press box” rule.
Give me your picks for the World Series, Super Bowl, and BCS Championship too.
Red Sox, Patriots, and Boise State.
What’s the best rivalry in sports?
A no-brainer: Red Sox-Braves. Did you know they both used to play in Boston?
I’ve noticed a big Boston lean. Do you sound anything like the Sports Guy?
There is definitely a big Boston lean on OMDQ – I live in New Hampshire, have followed the Red Sox since the late 1980s, jumped on the Patriots bandwagon during the first Super Bowl run, and am trying to enjoy the Celtics. I worry sometimes that I sound too much like Bill Simmons, in a bad way – I’m constantly mentioning my wife, for instance, although I’ve yet to give her a nickname. Favorable comparisons to someone like Simmons are always welcome, of course. I don’t want to be a total homer, but you’re supposed to write what you know, so…
Ironically, my Boston sports bias comes out in full force on the weekends, when I post at Awful Announcing, maybe because I’m writing more and those are usually the easiest things to write.
Bonds’ legacy in 1 sentence.
Steroids or not, the most feared hitter of his generation.
Switching gears a bit, what is your greatest athletic achievement?
In my last high school at-bat (also my last at-bat in organized baseball), I hit a homerun. Call me Ted Williams.
Splendid Splinter indeed. That’s incredibly impressive. You must feel like “The Natural.” What position did you play, etc? Any major leaguers you could compare yourself to?
It’s really not as impressive as it sounds. I was a bench player who got eight at-bats all season, three of them in the last game when the coach started all the seniors. If need be, you could call me a first baseman. The coolest thing about the homerun was that it was the only varsity hit my dad ever saw me get. I had one more (.250 batting average – WOO HOO!) earlier in the year, but it was in a makeup game I forgot to tell him about.
As for major leaguers, I definitely compare to Pedro Cerrano, only I can’t hit a fastball.
Thoughts on the present and the future for the blogosphere. How does it fit with the mainstream media?
There should be room for everybody, but there seems to be this sense in the mainstream that the blogs are trying to take over the world. Really, as long as talented, hard-working writers are doing the reporting, who cares about the nature of the outlet?
Why do you blog?
At the start, I was taking Stephen King’s advice and trying to improve my writing through practice, practice, and more practice. I hadn’t had much luck getting motivated to write on my own (although I did put together a reasonably good biography on Bill Veeck that later ended up on OMDQ), so the thought was that a blog would give me somewhere to write on a consistent basis.
Things are more complicated now. I still try to work on my writing (developing a unique voice, form, style, etc.) while taking into account what people will find interesting and developing good ideas. I post a lot more often now than I did in the beginning, however, so there isn’t always time to really dig into a topic and do a lot of research on it, which is where I need the most work.
What do you want your blog to be known for? What do you personally want to be known for?
Pretty much the same stuff The Extrapolater wants to be known for: finding those hidden nuggets that the mainstream media and top bloggers might miss and putting them out there for people to see. At this level of the blogosphere, I think that’s the best recipe for success.
Do you want to do this for a living?
Maybe not blogging, but I would definitely like to have a career writing about sports. My long-term goal has always been to find a niche in the sports biography genre. There’s still a lot of practicing to do before that is even close to feasible.
Who would you pick for your first sports biography?
I would seriously consider Bill Veeck or Larry Doby because I’m not sure that either has been covered satisfactorily by any previous author. Really, though, I want to write about anyone who hasn’t been done to death – you will never see a Michael Jordan biography with my name on it, for instance.
You worked for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Where did you work? How was the experience?
Thanks to a guy by the name of Eric Enders, I worked as an intern in the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Library at the Hall of Fame from June to August 2002. About halfway through my junior year at the University of New Hampshire, I became concerned about what I was going to do with the rest of my life (note: five years gone by, still haven’t figured it out). A little Internet research turned up Enders, a former HOF researcher who had started his own research and fact-checking company in Cooperstown. When I sent Eric an email asking if he might be looking for help anytime soon, he responded by suggesting the Hall’s internship program.
I contacted them about working there in some capacity, interviewed over the phone with the director of their Technical Services Department (I later found out that my resume caught her eye because we both studied Religion in college; hey, whatever works), and was hired (miraculous, considering my end of the interview was absolutely awful).
My experience at the Hall of Fame can pretty much be summed up thusly: every day on my way into work, I walked the length of the plaque gallery. Believe me, it was just as fucking awesome as it sounds.
Please tell us a great story from your time working there.
The best story I have from the Hall of Fame didn’t actually occur when I was working there. As part of the internship, I had to write a paper that had some bearing on my academic concentration, Religious Studies. Before settling on Hank Greenberg, my intention was to compile a history of the Jewish presence in Major League Baseball. The PR department was great about helping me put together contact information for potential interviews, which figured to be the basis of the paper.
I talked to two whole people before shifting directions and writing exclusively about Greenberg: Frank Lane, who was Rod Carew’s agent, and Arthur Richman, an executive VP with the Yankees. Lane helped my personal knowledge base by confirming that Carew had never actually converted to Judaism (although his wife was Jewish and their children were raised in the faith), but Richman’s interview was totally useless and completely awesome at the same time.
He called early one morning in late August 2002 and woke me up. We chatted for a minute or two (I was in my boxers, but sitting at my desk like it would make me feel more professional) about nothing substantial – I am a terrible interviewer – when he dropped the bombshell: he couldn’t talk long because the owners and players were announcing that they had reached an agreement on the new CBA. Remember, this was a year where many people were predicting another strike, one that would devastate the game, and here I was being told that it wasn’t going to happen. Too bad I had no one to tell. Well, except you, Jon – even if it is five years after the fact.
Too bad I didn’t know you 5 years ago. But the bombshell is that Rod Carew is not actually Jewish. What? Someone call Sandler. I feel amazing like I’m breaking a story.
Crazy, isn’t it? I busted that out on my Fox Sports blog last week and got the same reaction. The guy has had everyone fooled for all these years. Hopefully he hasn’t converted since 2002 – I like feeling like I actually know something.
How did this experience affect your blogging?
Working in the Research Library makes me more confident in writing about baseball-related stuff on the site – I like all sports, but this is the one that I really KNOW, and I think a lot of that is thanks to my time in Cooperstown.
Also, it’s been used on at least one occasion to end an argument with a friend who didn’t know as much as he thought he did.
After browsing your site, I noticed Buck O’Neil was the patron saint. Elaborate on the process of choosing a patron saint and why Buck O’Neil? (you can link to a story here if you like)
The patron saint thing started back in January, I believe, and did not initially include Buck O’Neil. The first five candidates, which were featured in a poll on the site that magically disappeared when I redid the layout last month, were Dick Cheney, the lawyer Cheney shot in the face last year, Rulon Gardner, Kevin Romine and Bill Virdon. Cheney was far and away the winner in the poll, but he didn’t seem like a good fit for the site, so I decided to reevaluate and ended up choosing O’Neil. My runner-up, which was never mentioned, was Larry Doby – I have a soft spot for guys who are important to the game but don’t get the recognition they deserve.
One More Dying Quail… please explain the origin of that name.
The name comes from a Kevin Costner speech in the movie “Bull Durham”:
“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gork… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.”
To me, “One More Dying Quail” represents that element of luck that exists in all walks of life, in everything we do.