Category Archives: Teaching

Life as a Writer – May 10, 2019

Friday. I had a couple of things added to my itinerary last-minute. Well, sort of.

On Thursday afternoon, I was asked by my boss to go in on Friday morning and work some OT – some course planning that suddenly fell on my lap. I accepted.

I also received a text from Charles Harris, a former sports executive now teaching sports management courses at the university level in Southern California. I had previously reached out to him to see if he could be an interview subject for my next book. He texted me Thursday afternoon to set up a time for Friday at 9 a.m.

So, I used the local Blenz as my “home office” to call Mr. Harris – and then after that, I showed up for work. Turned out to be a long, exhausting Friday indeed. But – that’s the life of a writer. … well, a part-time writer anyway.

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Life as a Writer – April 15-16, 2019

Wow… another week has gone by…

Well, sometimes things work out schedule-wise, without me having to make any adjustments.

I was involved in a work project which began in late February and just ended on Friday the 12th. This project involved me going into the “office” regularly to collaborate / brainstorm / write / edit… but it all ended on Friday.

That same afternoon, I received a message from my other company and they wanted me to go in to be trained on some online educational program that I’ll be using and I’m needed for the second half of April to fill in and do some work there – beginning Monday the 15th.

So, the timing worked out fine. I didn’t have to say no to either side. And on Monday I went there to get that training. Then, during lunch, I was able to step out for some time to take a call from Pat Gallagher, a sports executive who used to work for the San Francisco Giants. Mr. Gallagher and I had made plans to speak on the phone on Monday – as I’m working on a book and had requested to speak with him about his tips for readers.

It was great, because I learned a lot from Mr. Gallagher, and this information will be included in the book. I was able to get trained on the online program. I didn’t have the February to April proposal (with the first company) to deal with anymore. It’s good timing.

And later today, I’m going to be speaking to another gentleman, Jake Hirshman, who has his own impressive background in the sports business world.

As a writer, it’s about managing time and so far in April, things have been great.

I mean, during this process of writing this book, I had a chance to speak to a writer from Los Angeles (back in late January), and he’s right. He told me that to pull off a project like this, you need to be honest with yourself in terms of the time you can set aside for it. So far so good. I do have that time to spare for this project. And I’m glad that I am working on something that will inspire those who will be reading it. That’s the motto – inspire others. Give people practical advice and let them know they actually can succeed if they are persistent. That’s the message I want to be spreading.

At the same time, it’s rewarding to be talking about important life lessons with these executives and writers, those who help out and mentor others. I’ve experienced situations where people just have these poker faces on them and be petty, and then they like to gossip and do unproductive things – eg. talk trash about others and engage in name-calling. All very negative. I’m glad I’m not stuck in that path with those individuals but am working on something more meaningful with my time.

Life as a Writer – April 8-9, 2019

Monday and Tuesday. It’s been a productive first half of the week so far, as I managed to squeeze in an interview with Steve Brener from BZA and schedule two more (with two other leaders in sports business) for next week.

This is part of my exciting project with Fred Claire, and it’s cool to discuss topics that will inspire young people.

The thing is, there’s so much negativity in the world, so much negativity around us, that it’s important to think about why we do things. I do things to inspire. I write to inspire. I teach to inspire. Some question my methods, but at the end of the day, I do my best to inspire others, and that’s important to me.

With work piling up, I’m glad that I was able to get some research and writing done. Nothing happened for me the last two days in terms of the 1992-93 book that I’ve been working on, but I’ll have to find time to continue working on it.

There are a few other projects that are “on hold” at the moment – mainly because I’m waiting for others to get back to me on certain things.

Let’s see what the rest of the week brings.

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…

“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.