Interview with Dale Tafoya

I got an email last Saturday from Dale Tafoya, the author of Bash Brothers, which I reviewed here on December 23. I got a little nervous when I first saw Tafoya’s name in my email inbox, as my review of his work was, at times, less than flattering.  Tafoya was cool, though, saying that he thought I was objective.  He also said some of the writing and editing of his book got compromised because his publisher, Potomac Books rushed it out after the Mitchell Report.  This struck my interest, and I offered to append his email to my review.  He said that wasn’t necessary but offered instead to do an email interview.

I got some questions off to Tafoya on Sunday evening, and he emailed me back today.  The interview is as follows:

Baseball Past and Present: You’ve mentioned about pouring your heart and soul into this book.  A year and a half past your book’s publication, have you fully detoxed off of all things Bash Brothers?

Dale Tafoya: Yes. When you invest almost four years on a project and finish promoting it, you kind of want to take a breather from it.  When I completed my book, it felt good to return to my daily routine. But when you’re in the thick of writing a book and immersed in your subject, it sucks you in. You’re having an affair with it. People always ask me for advice on starting a book, and I tell them they must have an unwavering passion for their subject; a romance that’s going to push them through the many obstacles of finding a literary agent, a publisher and staying focused enough to finish a book. The challenges are worth it.  What made this journey so worth it for me was that so many of my interviews––former teammates, coaches, broadcasters, and executives––loved talking about Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. They rambled on and on. Even so, the book still had obstacles. I first pitched the book back in 2004, and many book agents said a story on the Bash Brothers was only an article-–not book worthy. One, in fact, said a publisher would only acquire it if Canseco and McGwire participated. But I pressed on and googled my ass off to locate people who knew them. After interviewing about 50 of them, the book began taking shape. I ended up interviewing over 100. On my desk are hundreds of cassette tapes of my interviews that remind me of my hard work. But to answer your question, Graham, I’m not writing a Bash Brothers II; I’ve had enough with everything Canseco and McGwire.

BPAP: You interviewed a lot of people for your book, but not Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Tony LaRussa or Reggie Jackson.  Did you attempt to contact them?

DT: Of course. I contacted reps for everyone you mentioned and they all declined. Well, actually, Canseco wanted to be paid, but we weren’t going pay him because the book would lose its objectivity. And we didn’t want the book to be a spin-off of his first book, Juiced. Predictably, McGwire didn’t bother to respond. But surprisingly, Dave Mckay, one of La Russa’s guys and the A’s former weightlifting coach, cooperated and was very helpful. He gave me the direct number to the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse and really showed interest in the book. Even though he was clearly biased toward McGwire, I was shocked he participated.

BPAP: Who was your favorite interview?

DT: This has to be Eck, Dennis Eckersley. This guy is daring, bold, funny, and isn’t afraid to speak the truth. I was surprised how much he opened up to me about Tony La Russa, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Canseco and McGwire. He wasn’t afraid to make some less than flattering comments about either of my subjects. He was real.

BPAP: Are you proud of your work?

DT: Definitely. I mean, as a first-time author, I’m proud of how it generated a buzz and garnered some media coverage across the country.
I didn’t hit a home run sales-wise, but it was a labor of love. I’m also pleased with how it drew participants. Hell, I interviewed Sandy Alderson for over an hour. He was a hard interview to land. On a side note, I did feel sort of rushed with the project. At the time, the Mitchell Report had just come out and my publisher, Potomac Books, wanted to capitalize on the buzz and rush it to stores, which, of course, will compromise some things (not accuracy, though). That’s just the politics of the publishing business. Overall, though, I’m excited for the lingering impact that Bash Brothers will have decades down the line because when fans reflect on the history of baseball, they’ll always point toward Canseco and McGwire as two sluggers who helped trigger Baseball’s Steroid Era. So I have a long-term vision for the book, too. I’m also proud of how none of my interviews emailed or phoned me to cuss me out for misquoting or misrepresented them. It proves my book wasn’t a witch hunt, but an honest glimpse inside the Bash Brothers. Having former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent write the foreword for the book was also a boost for me.

BPAP: What’s one thing you wish could be different about it?

DT: Personally, I wish I would’ve been more prepared for the critics.  As an author, you could have ten reviewers praise your work, but also have ten reviewers bash it. It’s just the nature of the business. When you write a book, you really put yourself out there and expose yourself to criticism. That’s why you need thick skin in this business. Not many, after all, have your best interest in mind.

BPAP: Do you feel you’ve written the definitive book on the Bash Brothers?

DT: I think so. With all of my research and interviews, It’s hard to imagine another author would chase everyone down again. I also doubt they would get the same cooperation. The only other idea is for Canseco and McGwire to join forces on a book, but that won’t happen.

BPAP: Overall, do you feel the publication of the Mitchell Report helped or hurt your book?

DT: If anything, it hurt it. When the Mitchell Report came out, I believe fans started growing tired of the steroid issue. If my book would have been released around 2005, there would have definitely been more interest, but so many top-tier players were being exposed, it lost its shock value.
By 2008, fans accepted that steroids were a part of the game.

BPAP: Got any new projects?

DT: Yes, and it’s not even about sports. I’m collaborating with Hip-Hop legend Too Short for his upcoming memoir. Since my first book was about baseball, many consider me a sportswriter, but I’m free and write about whatever the hell I want to write about.

BPAP: For the record, do you personally think Canseco or McGwire used steroids?

DT: Absolutely. No doubt. Lots of them. But so did everyone else.

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