Category Archives: Life

Life as a Writer – April 4-5, 2019

Yes, life as a writer is a daily grind and involves some regular routines that I follow.

Thursday, April 4. Well, late last night, I followed up on a task regarding the Hockey Hall of Fame that I had put off for a while – and this involves the photos I requested for use in my 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens book, whose manuscript is due June 30th.

A business associate who’s not part of this book project (S.M.) but knows the era in hockey this book relates to, joked that the Canadiens aren’t winning another Cup – but I said I wasn’t a Habs fan. I then pointed out to the 1988 Dodgers book from last August, which celebrated L.A.’s last title. And talk then switched to a future project that I have lined up, the 1989 Flames. We joked about my timing; the Flames are good this season, which would have made a book about Calgary seem like perfect timing.

I work fast and dedicated my time to my projects, and with the John Cangelosi book arriving my way for me to finalize the edits, I finished late Thursday night – and sent back my revisions.

At times, it is frustrating – and sad – that people misunderstand my intentions. When I requested time off in Winter 2014 to go to Dayton, Ohio, for a short break, my two bosses scoffed at me. They didn’t realize I had decided to go to Ohio because I wanted to give an inspirational speech in front of students at the University of Dayton. Instead, they were mocking me for going to a cold place.

Just like how I’ve written a book about John Cangelosi, a 5’8″ ballplayer from Brooklyn, New York, who went on to have a 10-year career. People scoffed when they heard what I was working on – just like how certain people scoffed when I was working on that 1988 Dodgers book. People don’t understand that I write to inspire. There are those who look down on me, diss me, or just conclude in their minds that all I do is try to piss people off.. Not true at all.

But as Cangelosi once told me, you don’t try to focus on what others do or say. If you do that, then you never accomplish your own goals. That’s a good point. Many folks know that but don’t follow that advice. I think when this book comes out and at least one person is inspired by it, then, as far as I’m concerned, I have done my job. I write to inspire.

Oh, and I made it into the Richmond News newspaper on Thursday… that was from the time I was at the mall and a journalist asked me for my thoughts on tattoos.

Friday – I’m supposed to talk to Rick White, president of the Atlantic League, and Ari Kaplan, baseball analytics expert, to pick their brains on the project I’m working on with Fred Claire.

Hopefully, what Megan Devlin (the journalist from Richmond News) said to me that day will help to inspire me and get me focused on what I need to do.

And, after that, back to the 1992-93 Canadiens book. I might not do another interview on that book… although it would be interesting to track down Mario Roberge. We shall see.

Oh yeah, I had opened the post by talking about regular routines. On Thursday, it involved doing research online and reviewing those materials that were found.

While I was finishing up the Cangelosi edits, Tom Candiotti – the other Candy Man whom I’ve written about – texted me with some cool videos. I’ll be sharing those when I have some time later on… Hours earlier, the Indians and Blue Jays – two of his former teams – played and Cleveland took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. I was hoping that the Indians wouldn’t finish it… because, well, Candiotti had two one-hitters in a Cleveland uniform and I didn’t want to see another pitcher (or group of pitchers, in this case) have a no-no with the Tribe.

Somehow, I was too busy with the edits when Candiotti texted, that I forgot about that Toronto-Cleveland game and so the no-hit bid didn’t come up. The 1991 Blue Jays, though, came up in conversation. Another topic for another time…

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Life as a Writer – April 1-3, 2019

April 2019. Baseball season has begun. Don’t get me started about how the Mariners-A’s started in Japan for “Opening Day” while the other teams were still in spring training.

Anyway, seeing that some books are already out for the new season, I contacted my publisher on Monday (April Fools’ Day) to follow up on when my John Cangelosi book will be out. The release date had been tentatively set for opening day, but it got pushed back.

The rest of the day went well, as I was then working on the manuscript for my 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens book, which is due to the publisher on June 30th. Not much time left! On this particular day, I was writing up something on Mario Roberge, one of the unsung heroes of that team.

I grew up a Boston Bruins fan, so initially I thought it would be difficult to write about this… but I was wrong. Because guys like Gilbert Dionne and Stephan Lebeau have been so gracious – along with Denis Savard – and have spent time discussing their memories with me, I have felt that once I sat down to do this, the story practically writes itself.

Later, having a video conversation with N.H.L. inspired me even further.

Tuesday. I got a reply from the publisher and I received plenty of praise for the Cangelosi story that I had written.

I also reached out to several people on a book I’m working on with Fred Claire. Have an interview lined up for Friday.

The day didn’t have its bad moments, though. At work, I have been working on a proposal with a “team” but that has gone awry.

Since this is confidential, I’m not going to get into the details, but the consultant working on this with us sent this via email, which rubbed me the wrong way.

Screenshot 2019-04-03 at 12.30.42 PM

Now, just because I don’t have white skin doesn’t mean I’m not a native English speaker. This sort of idiotic comment didn’t sit well with me, and I chose to respond:

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Anyway, I didn’t appreciate the comment.

Switching gears, as far as the Cangelosi publisher is concerned, we should consider getting quotes from a couple of current baseball players who also, like Cangelosi, have been underdogs but have persevered to perform at a high level.

Wednesday. I share this information with John Cangelosi, and we’ve decided to reach out to two players specifically, and see if we are able to give the publisher what they want.

In the meantime, it’s up to me to review the editor’s comments and edit the entire Cangelosi book now.

And, of course, continue working on the 1992-93 Canadiens book. I actually got a hold of another former Hab’s email and phone number – we’ll see if he responds.

Ahh… another person of interest for the Fred Claire book project responded back – we will be chatting on Friday, making that day a day with two interviews (so far).

Oh, as I am organizing myself writing out a plan for the rest of this week, a journalist from the Richmond News interrupted me to do an interview for a piece she’s writing. Her words of wisdom have inspired me for the rest of the week as far as what I need to do! See? You never know how a short sentence or comment can lift someone’s spirit and help point that person in the right direction – and this Richmond News journalist has inspired me by briefly chatting with me. You just never know the type of impact someone could make in your daily life.

It will be a busy week the rest of the week!

“A Life of Knuckleballs”: Just Missed the Cut, Part I

When I first wrote the manuscript for Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs, I had over 600,000 words, which, of course, made it unpublishable.

So, my publisher, McFarland & Co., requested me to cut the manuscript down, and because of that, many stories did not make the cut.

Over the next little while, I will be posting some of the original content that didn’t make it to the book. I call this, “Missed the Cut.”

***

This one is from Tom Candiotti’s first month in the majors, with the stories about Pete Vuckovich and the Milwaukee veterans not making it into the book:

Tom CandiottiThe Brewers were still in contention even with the struggles of veteran Don Sutton—who despite pitching nine shutout innings against California on August 24th, was 0-5 with a 6.49 ERA in his last seven starts.

Even though the veteran wasn’t getting it done, the rookies certainly were, up to that point. Including Candiotti, the Brewers had four rookie pitchers who each played a big role in the team’s success. The quartet had 19 wins and 10 saves, led by reliever Tom Tellmann (nine wins, eight saves), Chuck Porter (six wins), Bob Gibson (two wins, two saves), and of course, Candiotti (two complete-game wins in two starts).

As it turned out, Milwaukee wouldn’t win another game in which Tellmann, Porter, and Gibson appeared until the final three days of the season. Tellmann would pitch well down the stretch (2.31 ERA) but the Brewers would go 0-9 in his final nine appearances of the season. They would be 0-4 in Gibson’s appearances—he was 0-2—until he defeated Detroit 6-2 in a meaningless start on the final weekend. As for Porter, he would be 0-4 with a 7.16 ERA—the Brewers would lose all six of his starts—before beating the Tigers 7-4 on the final day of the season.

As for Vuckovich, he wouldn’t make a difference when he made his long-awaited season debut on August 31st. The reigning Cy Young winner would last only 14.2 innings in three starts, going 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA. Meanwhile, in a complete reversal of Sutton’s September 1982 performance, the veteran right-hander would be 1-3 with a 3.80 ERA in his final six starts of 1983.

As Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell noted in late August, “The core of the Brewers’ suspect rotation—Sutton, Mike Caldwell and Bob McClure—has a combined 25-26 record and an ERA over 4.40. When you have to give 27 starts in the pennant race to Chuck Porter, Tom Candiotti, Bob Gibson, Jerry Augustine and Rick Waits, you’re in line for baseball sympathy” (Thomas Boswell, “Mighty Brewers Have Gone From Muscle to Hustle Team,” Washington Post, August 22, 1983).

Though Vuckovich would go winless in 1983, Candiotti, to this day, marvels at the clubhouse presence he exhibited that season. “Vuckovich, like the veteran players, made sure the rookies were paying attention to what was going on,” says Candy. “I’d be on the bench. He’d walk by in the ninth inning and say, ‘What did this batter do in his second at-bat?’ So I’d have to recall the pitch count and things like that. He kept me in the game, kept me watching all the time. That’s how baseball was back then. The veterans kept the young players in the game. All those guys made sure the rookies were paying attention and knew what was going on. And boy, I tell ya, if Pete was asking you a question, you’d better get it right!”

Candiotti also credits Vuckovich with teaching him a lot about pitching, especially pitching around hitters. “He taught me an awful lot, being able to pick the outs you wanna get. I was never taught to walk guys intentionally, like intentionally ‘unintentionally.’ But he sat down with me and went through things with me that I never knew.” For instance, many times a pitcher would walk a hitter apparently unintentionally, when actually it was almost intentional. If, say, there was a runner on second base and a tough hitter up, the pitcher wouldn’t actually give him an intentional pass, but would pitch carefully to him. If the pitcher got the batter out to chase pitches out of the strike zone, that was great. If he walked the hitter, that was fine too—his main goal was to basically not give the batter anything to hit. Candiotti, who never liked to walk hitters, learned to appreciate such a pitching strategy. He was grateful for having Vuckovich as a mentor in teaching him how to pitch in the majors.

“He wore me out, though,” Candiotti laughs. “I had to buy him this and that. This was kind of like my ‘welcome’ to the big leagues. Of course, that Brewers team was a veteran club. [Catcher] Bill Schroeder and I were two of the few rookies that year, until the September call-ups came up to Milwaukee. For a while there, Pete really wore us out. I know he wore me out. He wouldn’t let me in the trainer’s room initially. I was tested as a rookie. But once I passed the test, he was awesome. He was a great teammate to be around.” And how did Candiotti pass the test?

“Well, what happened was I was making my first major-league start. I went into the trainer’s room and Vuckovich was there. He goes, ‘What are you doing here, rookie?’

“I go, ‘I’m just gonna get some heat.’

“Pete says, ‘Get the hell outta here, rookie.’”

Candiotti didn’t let Vuckovich’s abuse bother him. He left the room, pitched Milwaukee into first place, and kept his distance from the veteran pitcher. Soon enough, Vuckovich approached the rookie to welcome him. “A few days later,” Candiotti says, “he comes up to me and goes, ‘You’re doing pretty well. You can come into the trainer’s room now.’ So after that, he was great. But if I’d fought him on it, he would’ve made my life miserable that rookie season.”

He still laughs at how Vuckovich walked 102 batters with 105 strikeouts during the 1982 season and still won the AL Cy Young Award*. While Vuckovich was second in the league in wins—finishing 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA—he was also second in bases on balls. “Now, I think back and I wonder—and I’d joke about it with him—‘How did you win the Cy Young with those numbers?’” Candiotti says with a grin. “He had over a hundred walks! I’d joke about it with Pete, like, ‘That’s one of the strangest things how you won that award!’”

Another veteran who helped Candiotti along that first season was catcher Ted Simmons, who’d assign him homework. “Ted once got me to do a report about the ball-strike counts on which most baserunners ran,” he says. “You know, which counts runners go the most. Or he’d quiz me on pitch selections during a game. It was great. And of course, he called a knuckleball for the first big-league pitch I ever threw. He knew how to help me out as a young player. It was a huge thing for me.”

*One could make the argument that Toronto’s Dave Stieb was robbed of the Cy Young in 1982. Vuckovich, who made 30 starts, pitched 223.2 innings with nine complete games, including one shutout. Stieb, meanwhile, started 38 games, completed 19 of them, tossed five shutouts, and threw 288.1 innings. He led the AL in innings, complete games, and shutouts, and was tied for third in games started. He was 17-14 with a 3.25 ERA, walking 75 and fanning 141.

 

People 101: From A(J) to (C)Z…

A lot of people around us are mean. Inconsiderate. Rude. They’re all around us. Since they are like that, well, then it’s fair game that I criticize them. Right here, right now.


Anyway, the other day (it was Wednesday), I was dropped off near the school where I work. I started walking toward the building, and I saw a colleague walking away from the building toward me. She might have been on her way to grab a coffee or some food. I don’t know.

Anyway, I said “Hello,” but she just walked past me without a word. And yes, she saw me.

Now, being an instructor, I don’t work with my fellow teachers, but since we do work in the same school and we do teach some of the same students, it’s professional courtesy to greet each other. I mean, that’s a colleague, regardless of whether or not we interact during the actual work times. (We don’t, since we would be in class teaching, obviously.)

Since I have nothing to hide, I’ll just call this person by her initials, C.Z. I would guess her actions are what people call “passive aggressive”? Look, if I had unknowingly offended her in the past, then talk to me about it. But this type of treatment tells me just the type of person she is. No, she’s not shy. In between classes when I’m in my classroom prepping, I can often hear her yapping away with others. I don’t join in during those instances because I’m not one who likes to engage in gossip or meaningless chit-chat – and I’m not part of that particular clique. (So, no, she’s not shy, and nor is she a child or teenager. But perhaps her behaviour suggests that she belongs to high school still? Or kindergarten? It’s certainly high-schoolish behaviour.)

But to ignore me when I said “Hello”? That’s not even the first time. The other times were in the school, where I might have said “Hi” and C.Z. just walked past me with her head down. Or head buried in her phone. But what can I say? I’ve not knowingly done anything to her. I’ve not even interacted with this person. I mean, I don’t let such people bother me. But I won’t say nothing about it right here, on this blog, either. Of course, it would be easy to just walk up to her when there are others around and say, “Hey, by the way, you ignored me earlier….” I don’t embarrass people like that, though. At the same time, if someone’s clearly made the point to ignore me, I’m not going to go out of my way to approach that person and say, “Hey, I don’t know if we got off on the wrong foot, but I just wanted to talk to you about…”

Nothing more to say, but since I use this blog/website to discuss rude people, I will have to mention this one too. Perhaps that’s how people in her culture act. I don’t know. All I will say is… gutless. 

I have another story about an “A.J.,” from a different school where I used to work, but that’s for another time.

 

 

People 101: The Unprofessional McDonald’s Employee

A lot of people around us are mean. Inconsiderate. Rude. They’re all around us. Since they are like that, well, then it’s fair game that I criticize them. Starting now – right here and right now.


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So, the other day (last Sunday at 7 p.m., in fact… according to the time stamp on the photo that I took), I visited the local McDonald’s. Not wanting to endure receiving poor service and/or dealing with unfriendly cashiers yet again (my experience has often been cashiers not smiling and/or not even bothering to greet the customer), I used the mobile app to order the meal and requested McDonald’s “table service.” It’s simple. You just enter the table #, and they’re supposed to bring it to your table.

Soon after I ordered through the app, a McDonald’s employee – a young lady – brought a tray out with items that looked like what I had ordered. She walked right past my table and took it to another table where two guys were seated. She said to them in a very cheerful voice, “Did you guys order this?”

I waved at her and said, “I did.” She brought the tray over and placed it at my table, and left without a word. No “Can I get you anything else?” or “Is that everything?” No, she put the tray down and walked away WITHOUT A WORD. And no, she didn’t re-join the kitchen or the counter, or wherever she was supposed to go. She went BACK to that table with the two guys and said something to them before leaving.

I was having my meal, sipping on the hot tea, and I would say about 25 minutes later, that same young lady came back into the customer area. She re-joined that same table and sat down with the two guys. Apparently, she was off-duty at that point, and they were discussing college classes, etc., and in their conversation they were – including she – using swear words. I was still in the middle of my hot tea, and that’s why I was still there. And since the area was pretty empty – but not without customers (such as myself) – I could hear their conversation. It wasn’t that I wanted to.

Her actions were highly unprofessional. I have a contact at the head office, so I discussed this incident with that person. I didn’t mention the swear words, though. I stuck to the lack of service with this so-called “table service.” What that lady does in her free time – swearing at her place of work – is none of my business. But being unprofessional while still on duty… when I’m the customer… well, it’s definitely my business. The tables have numbers on there, and I input my table number, yet this McDonald’s employee was unprofessional in carrying the tray to where her friends were sitting – sure, cater to your friends first, right? – instead of doing her job. The worst part was this dropping off the tray and not saying a word to me while returning to her friends. Unprofessional. Gutless.