Category Archives: Lessons Learned
Fantasy Sports writer and sports journalist Drew Farmer (Twitter: @DrewMFarmer) recently wrote a piece on my 1988 Dodgers book. Here’s the writeup:
K.P. Wee Hits Home Run with The 1988 Dodgers
By Drew Farmer, Fantasy Sports writer
Canadian author and baseball fanatic K.P. Wee had his latest book, The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season, published in August. Since it hit bookshelves all over the world courtesy of Rowman & Littlefield, Wee has received praise from all corners for his brilliant writing, insight, and stories about the legendary players that made up the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Throughout the book, Wee recalls an underdog Los Angeles Dodgers team that defied the odds to beat the superior New York Mets and Oakland A’s in one of the most unforgettable World Series.
The book doesn’t just recount memories from the Dodgers’ remarkable season, but it celebrates the 30th anniversary of the baseball club’s accomplishment. With the help of former Dodgers players, coaches, and general manager Fred Claire, Wee weaves a story that takes readers behind the scenes, into the locker rooms, and out onto the field.
Wee recently sat down to speak about The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season and its success.
K.P., let’s start at the beginning of your fantastic new book The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season. How did you come up with the idea to write a book recounting that great season 30 years ago?
Well, it a long story, actually. It goes back to 2010, when I was writing a biography about former Major League Baseball knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti. At that point, I reached out to many of Candiotti’s former teammates, coaches, managers, and general managers. One name that came up was Fred Claire, the ex-Los Angeles Dodgers general manager who signed Candiotti as a free agent back in the off-season in 1991. Fred spoke to me about Candiotti for the book – which ultimately was published in 2014 – and we exchanged some emails about Tom as well, and over the years we managed to stay in touch. Once in a while, Fred might email to ask how things were with me, how Candiotti was doing, and that kind of stuff. Fast forward to December of 2016, when Fred emailed me to wish me a Merry Christmas and also to find out if I was working on any new books. Long story short, I joked that books about the 1988 Dodgers – the World Series-winning team that Fred was responsible for building – had already been written. That 1988 season, of course, was the last time the Dodgers had made it to the World Series. I mean, obviously, they made it back in 2017, but this conversation with Fred took place in 2016. Fred, though, told me that 2018 would mark the 30th anniversary of that championship season, and a book might not be a bad idea – one in which I could focus on the unsung heroes, the lesser-known players who, essentially, weren’t household names but were part of that team. And that’s how it all began. It’s thanks to Fred Claire for taking the time to reach out and plant this idea in my head.
You have said that the Dodgers’ World Series appearance in 2017 forced you to re-write some of the original manuscript. Was that frustrating as a writer or was it just a case of continuing the story you had started?
For me, it was a challenge – because the manuscript was 99% done by the time the World Series rolled around. The funny thing was the publisher had set a deadline for me in terms of when my finished manuscript had to be sent in. This date was provided to me in advance, obviously. Now, as it turned out, that deadline was also the day after Game Seven of the World Series! So, during the playoffs, I had mixed feelings because it would benefit me if the Dodgers had been eliminated in early October by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series. It would have benefited me if the Dodgers were eliminated in the National League Championship Series. It’s because that would have given me enough time to meet the deadline. The former players whom I had interviewed made references to the Dodgers not even making it back to the World Series since 1988, and in several parts of the manuscript I had made that same reference. So, when the Dodgers made it to the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros, there was some massive re-writing to do. But then, I also had to see if the Dodgers actually won or lost that Series, because some parts had to be re-written again based on the 2017 World Series outcome! In the end, I asked the publisher for an extension, and of course it was granted. I had two extra weeks after Game Seven of the World Series, but I believe it took me two or three days and that was it. It was a challenge, but it was a good challenge.
The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season was published by Rowman & Littlefield. How did you initially make contact with them and what was their reaction to a baseball book based on a baseball team from 30 years ago?
It all started with a simple email that included a proposal with some sample chapters, my background, and my vision for the book. Rowman & Littlefield’s reaction was positive, but they wanted me to revamp the organization of the book completely. Basically, I started out with a chapter for every player – and I organized the list into things like “The Stuntmen,” “The Stars,” “The Rookies,” and I thought it was fine. The publisher, though, wanted the story to be told in chronological order, which I was fine with. It took extra work, but I realized that it was worth it!
On your blog, there is a really interesting story about you contacting former Dodgers’ general manager Fred Claire for a book you wrote in 2014 on Tom Candiotti. You stayed in contact with him over the years. What was it like to get so much first-hand information from the architect of that Dodgers’ team?
It was tremendous. Fred spent 30 years in the Dodgers organization and made many key moves in 1987 – his first year as the general manager – and in 1988, signings and acquisitions that helped turn that ballclub into a championship-caliber team. It was tremendous because when you interact with Fred, you know he cares about his players, coaches, manager, scouts… he has such a strong passion for the game and I felt like I learned something new every time I spoke with him. This book wouldn’t have happened if not for Fred Claire.
How important has Claire’s relationship been with you for the writing of The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season?
To be honest, it’s been crucial. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but Fred has been receiving cancer treatments every day and yet he made the time to correspond with me, to give me ideas about the book. And his players and coaches and scouts all still stay in touch with him. When Fred asks those guys to help out with something, they do it. For example, Fred began a celebrity golf event benefiting the City of Hope for cancer research in 2017 – and the second one just happened in August 2018 – many of those former players and coaches took the time to attend and be a part of the fundraising cause. So, in 2017 when I approached many of the players, coaches, and scouts for the book, and they knew Fred was supportive of this project, they were happy to chat with me about 1988.
Not long ago, you were invited to Claire’s celebrity golf tournament in California. What was it like to be a hot shot author rubbing elbows with baseball players and celebrities?
I wouldn’t call myself a ‘hot shot.’ But it was fun. I believe members of all Los Angeles Dodgers championship teams over the years – not just from 1988 – were all there for the event. Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers’ former long-time manager and the skipper of that 1988 club, was there. It was cool meeting him. Orel Hershiser was there – I had a chance to listen in as he was doing an interview with Dodgers Nation podcast. Like I said, players from other years were there. Charlie Hough, the knuckleballer, was there. I gave him a couple of my knuckleball books. He had good stories to tell. Jerry Reuss, a member of their 1981 championship team, was there and telling stories about rock and roll. It was awesome.
I’ve seen some of the praise you have received for the new book. What has it felt like to have so many baseball people and media members praise it?
I would say it’s gratifying. I’m not based in Los Angeles. I’m from Vancouver, Canada. So, for me, writing this book had its challenges. First off, being from Canada meant I conducted most – not all – of my interviews over the phone. Being an instructor – a full-time job – meant I didn’t have the luxury of taking time off and traveling to personally meet these players and scouts and coaches for those interviews. Even though Fred Claire gave me this idea in December 2016, I didn’t get started on it until April 2017. And you know, with the publishing side of things, traditional publishers normally take nine months – from the time they receive a complete manuscript – to have a book published. Basically, I knew I had less than a year to write it. Like I said before, the deadline was a day after the World Series – and that was early November. Not that much time to write this book – so to hear people praise me for the work, it’s absolutely gratifying. I’m proud of the work I did. There were some obstacles, for sure, but I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish.
In 2014, you authored a book on former Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Tom Candiotti. It opened the door for you to write your latest book. In terms of writing, where do you think you can go from here?
I think if I can have the passion and the time to do other books – just like the Candiotti book and the Dodgers book – I will do so. I also believe it can help open other doors. I do wish to give a little shout-out to Rob Fai, the play-by-play broadcaster for the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Club, as he’s given me opportunities to appear on his weekly radio show as an in-studio guest to chat baseball. I mean, I always appreciate these opportunities and I never take anything for granted. I think I can still do a few more books moving forward.
Sports has played a large part in your life and many of your books are about baseball and ice hockey. What led you to write your first sports book and what is the writing process like for you?
Every sports fan has an opinion. With the advent of the Internet and all these websites dedicated to statistics, history, and other things about virtually every sport and every team – and every player – out there, we have a great amount of resources to help us recreate or remember many events in sports. You add in some opinions about what happened, and with the research that you do… who as a baseball fan wouldn’t want to share their thoughts? You see it on Twitter these days. Every play is Tweeted about. For me, I’m a guy who doesn’t Tweet enough – I focus on writing stories and giving my thoughts about players and events and all that. To answer your question, I guess access was what led me to writing that first book. Access to statistics, stories, and all that… I love sports, and I love writing… so the writing process has all been fun.
As an author, you have had works published dating back to 2009. For the most part, many of your books have been published in recent years. What has been the reason, or secret, to releasing such a high volume of work?
I enjoy writing. I enjoy telling the stories that have been forgotten. I enjoy giving kudos to those, in my opinion anyway, who have been underappreciated and underrated. I think the secret, as far as a high volume of work as you call it, is that I don’t have children. I don’t have a family, so I do have more time to devote to writing than if I had kids. So, maybe that’s one of the secrets, I guess. I mean, I tend to think of myself as a “creator” and not a “consumer.” If I have time, I prefer to create things instead of consuming things. I do watch a lot of television, but I don’t play video games really. I just try to create more than to consume!
Not only have you written about baseball, but you have written non-fiction books as well. Which do you prefer to write and is there a chance for a non-fiction novel in the future?
I do really want to write fiction. But it’s tough. So many types of stories have been written already. You need compelling characters. You need antagonists that readers will hate. You need interesting dialogue. Years ago – I guess around 2009 or 2010 – I sat down and started working on something like that. I haven’t touched that for years now. It’s tough. Would I like to write fiction again? Yes. But it’s very difficult. And then there’s also the support of peers around you. For me, I write because I have passion for it. People around me might scoff at me and go, ‘How much money can you make from THAT?’ and kind of say negative things about what I might be doing. I tend to not let those things bother me, but there are all kinds of things I want to write. I talked to a buddy about writing a textbook together, and he was one of those guys who scoffed. I don’t know, I think for now I’ll stick to sports. But down the road, who knows?
A lot of writers today are using self-publishing to release their works and forgoing the use of a publisher. What is your advice to someone who has a great idea for a book or has written a manuscript and they are contemplating self-publishing?
I would say make sure that the finished product is as best as you can do. For me, I don’t have others read my work. My family isn’t too interested in my writing, which is sad to say but the reality. I know some authors who have their families or their moms or best friends, whomever, read their work to give feedback. I never ask anyone to read my work. But the advice I would have for aspiring writers is to make sure they have someone look over their work to give them feedback. And also, they should try to build a fan base by interacting on different forums, blogs, websites, etcetera, that are connected to their genre of writing. Be active in social media and have a strong online presence, so to speak.
As we wrap up, what do you hope to achieve with The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season? Will there be any more Dodger related work from you in the future?
I hope that all Dodgers fans, whether they were around in 1988 or not even born yet at that time, who read the book would feel like they have been inspired by some of the stories told by the players. Or that some of these stories bring back fond memories of following that team. Or even that some of these stories are things that the reader didn’t know about before. Of course, it’s not a book just for Dodgers fans, but for sports fans who love the underdog story. You have got to remember; the 1988 Dodgers were huge underdogs to the New York Mets and the Oakland A’s that October. So, basically it was a great underdog story. For younger athletes, I hope that they would be inspired from reading some of the things that some players shared. As far as future books, yes, I want to write more Dodgers books, and I do have some ideas, but for now, it’s too early to discuss any of them. But I would say I have some ideas on future Dodgers books.
The Dodgers are currently in the thick of things as the baseball season comes to an end. If they do make the MLB playoffs and go on to win the World Series, how special would that be to you after the book’s publication?
I think for the members of the 1988 team, it would be special, for sure. I mean, 30 years is significant. For me as an outside observer, it would be special, yes, but I’m not a player and was not a player and I was never a member of the team in any capacity, so I think it would be wonderful, but it probably means more to those who are and were actually on the field and in the dugout, and front office. Some people have said I should write about 2018 if the Dodgers win it this year, and that’s very flattering. I would be happy for the organization, but I guess for me as a writer, I want to be objective and neutral. But it would be special for sure.
K.P., I’m sure with your output, the gears in your head are already spinning. Have you started writing your next book? If so, what is it about and when can your fans expect it?
I am working on a few things. As mentioned, in 2014 the book about Tom Candiotti came out. His nickname is Candy, or Candy Man. I am writing a biography now of another former Major League Baseball player whose nickname, coincidentally, is also Candy Man. Or one of his nicknames, anyway. There’s one about a championship team in hockey that I’m working on. There are a few things. As far as when? Hard to say. But I would say sometime in 2019? We’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed!
I’ve had several people tell me that I did a fantastic job writing The 1988 Dodgers: Reliving the Championship Season. They tell me I should be proud of myself.
And I should be.
There were a lot of odds against me, but I persevered and “hit a home run,” just to use a baseball expression.
First of all, I am based in Vancouver, Canada, and I had full-time commitments to my teaching jobs. I conducted just one interview in person, and that was only because the ex-player (Franklin Stubbs) just happened to be in town as a coach for a series against Vancouver’s Single-A baseball team.
Second, there were so many negative people around me. I succeeded in blocking them out. With people whom I know, I tend to be friendly with them. Yet, quite a few get hostile if they disagree with the direction I’m taking in my own life. That’s life, I suppose. But having so much negativity around you can suck the energy out of you. I chose to block them out. Believe me, it’s hard. There were some who said “So what?” (ie. who the hell cares?) when I explained that I was writing this book because it was the 30th anniversary of the last Dodgers championship. There were others who scoffed, saying in a condescending manner, “How much money can you make from this?” All sorts of negativity…
Third, there’s also timing. With my full-time teaching life – and no vacation at all during that time – I had very little time to commit to writing. But I made it work. I also had a short time frame because I wanted to have this book published by 2018 – meaning I had to scramble for potential publishers, write up proposals to be sent out, and make sure that ultimately the finished product would be done by October 2017 just to have it ready to be published by 2018! There was also scrambling to get photos for the book, and so on.
Overall, I’m proud to have this book out. I hope that members of the 1988 Dodgers are proud too.
I’ve always been a kind and caring instructor – and those who have worked with me and know me well realize this. I’m caring toward fellow teachers and their classes.
However, there are always those who do not respect me. That’s life. That’s part of the dynamic in classroom settings. But I accept this and don’t pout about it. It is what it is.
I will still treat others around me with respect – in spite of the way others treat me. That’s the way I am.