Category Archives: Sports
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.
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:
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!
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:
The 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.
Again, over the years I’ve written various books, and it’s good to look back today and “pat myself on the back,” so to speak.
This time, I specifically want to look back at my “Don’t Blame the Knuckleballer” series, from 2015-2017:
The first one was Don’t Blame the Knuckleballer! Baseball Legends, Myths, and Stories, available on Amazon.com.
Here’s some information on that book:
In Don’t Blame the Knuckleballer! Baseball Legends, Myths, and Stories, K.P. Wee looks at more than 30 obscure and forgotten tales told by ballplayers, coaches, and broadcasters throughout baseball history – and repeated by historians and bloggers – while mixing in a knuckleballing theme. For each tale, Wee asks, “Did this really happen?” or “Did they blame the right person?”
Among the tales:
* Did Joe Niekro really strike out the first five batters of a game in the very first inning?
* Did Phil Niekro really make Floyd Robinson silly on a strikeout?
* Did “Sunday Teddy” Lyons really pitch only on Sundays?
* How did Tom Candiotti “botch” the Jeff Kent fantasy baseball story?
* Did Pedro Martinez actually forget the details of his first big-league start and blame the wrong guy?
* Did you know that Ted Williams had to face a knuckleballer on the next-to-last day of his historic 1941 season?
* Was Mark Grace really on deck when Glenallen Hill hit his mammoth home run at Wrigley?
Then, in 2017, there was also Don’t Blame the Knuckleballer II, again available on Amazon.
In the second book, titled Don’t Blame the Knuckleballer II: More Baseball Legends, Myths, Stories, and Trivia, some stories are featured in the form of trivia questions, including:
* Who was the last starting pitcher ever in the majors to pitch only two innings in a game – and leave because of an injury – and then receive credit for an “injury win”?
* Which knuckleballer once threw a shutout to beat Greg Maddux?
* Which knuckleballer was the second pitcher ever in big-league history to have two consecutive starts of eight-plus innings and zero runs to begin his postseason career?
* Which knuckleballer was said to have had “one of the most courageous pitching performances” of the 1939 major-league season – and why?
* Which future Hall of Famer who was teammates with Bobby Witt made his pitching debut with his new club by entering in relief in a bases-loaded situation?
In Don’t Blame the Knuckleballer II, I look at more than 20 additional obscure and forgotten tales told by ballplayers, coaches, and broadcasters throughout baseball history – and repeated by fans, historians, and bloggers – while mixing in a knuckleballing theme.
Thank you for picking up a copy of each book – I really appreciate your support!
I’m not one who toots his own horn. I rarely do that. But, in the era of social media and getting your name out there, I suppose it’s become a necessity to do so. After all, if you’ve written a book, you want people to know about it — and these days, it’s essential to use social media and the Internet to promote your works.
So, this brings me to this post today: I can’t believe how fast time has flown, but it’s been nearly five years now since my book about underrated knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti, A Life of Knuckleballs, was published by McFarland & Co.
I’m still blown away to see people buying a copy here and there. I mean, I’ve always thought that Candiotti didn’t get the accolades that he deserved in his career. So, to have a book about him published — albeit it a little too late, in my opinion, as it came out 15 years after his retirement — is an amazing thing.
It wasn’t an easy process, to be sure. Having a book published isn’t a simple matter of the writing part. It’s also listening to what the publisher wants. There were many stories that Candiotti told me which I originally included in the manuscript, but the publisher has a word limit and all that, and wanted a lot of those stories excluded in the book.
Perhaps some day I will post those stories that didn’t make it into the book on this website. We shall see.
But it’s been nearly five years since the book came out. Time to pat myself on the back.