Why few African-Americans play baseball– and the people working to change this

With Jackie Robinson Day a week from tomorrow, I have a cover story out today for the Sacramento News & Review about why few African-Americans are playing baseball– and what’s being done to change this.
(On a semi-related note, I forgot to share my Sporting News column here this week. It’s about why Buck O’Neil still isn’t a Hall of Famer.)

I spent a month reporting my cover story, doing more than 30 interviews from Little League coaches to former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent. I focused on people like former MLB manager Jerry Manuel, who’s founded a free baseball academy in the Sacramento to get more blacks playing.

I believe this is an important story, worthy of a national audience. Please give it a read if you have a chance. Any help getting the word out would be appreciated as well.

An interview with Dwight Evans

This is about a week late. Chances are, some of you have already seen the following piece on Twitter or elsewhere online. For the rest of you just seeing this, my apologies. But I figure better late than never.

I’ve taken this week off from my column for Sporting News, partly because I have some other work pressing. Last week however, I released an interview with Boston Red Sox great Dwight Evans, one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame who is no longer on the writers’ ballot.

I’ve enjoyed every interview I’ve done so far, but I will say that Evans, like Bobby Grich or Alan Trammell, was in the inner circle of players I’ve wanted to talk to. It was very cool to get some time with him, and he said a lot of interesting things.

Again, my apologies for the lateness here. Hope you all enjoy the piece and are enjoying this series. That said, I’d welcome more feedback, positive or negative. I want to know what’s working and moreover, what isn’t working, so that I can continue to get better at this.

Thanks for reading.

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Other people I’ve talked to: Steve Garvey | Jeff IdelsonTommy John | Jim Kaat  | Tony La RussaDale Murphy | Alan Trammell | Fay VincentBilly Wagner

I talked to Tony La Russa about Jim Edmonds

My latest is out for Sporting News. I got two minutes with Tony La Russa at an event in Phoenix this past week. Because my mind quickly goes to the Hall of Fame, I asked him about the case of one of his former players, Jim Edmonds.

Edmonds got just 2.5 percent of the BBWAA vote for Cooperstown in January, disqualifying him from future writers’ ballots. But La Russa thinks he belongs.

As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Talking to Alan Trammell

The latest edition of “Cooperstown Chances” came out for Sporting News yesterday. I’m at spring training in Arizona so I haven’t had a ton of time to promote this, but I hope this gets some reads. I interviewed Alan Trammell about his Hall of Fame case.

Trammell, who completed his eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballot in January, gave a good interview, worth a read for anyone who cares about Cooperstown.

Let me know what you guys think.

Celebrating the greatest baseball writers of all-time

I have two related articles out at Sporting News today that might be of interest:

As always, feedback’s appreciated. Thanks for reading.

I went on MLB Network with Brian Kenny

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Last August, I pitched Sporting News on doing a column about the Hall of Fame. In emailing with an editor, I mentioned the Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? column that I (and a number of other writers) did here a few years ago. I wrote to the editor,  “I found even on my modestly-trafficked site that the column drew readers back each week and stimulated discussion. I can only imagine how it would resonate on a major site like yours.”

What I promised seems to finally be coming true. Brian Kenny had me as a guest on his MLB Network show “MLB Now” earlier today. He had me on, via satellite from a studio in Sacramento where I live, to discuss the “Cooperstown Chances” column I’ve been doing for Sporting News for six months now. Brian and I talked for five minutes about the recent interviews I’ve been doing through my column of Tommy John, Bobby Grich, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy, Jim Kaat, and Billy Wagner.

I’m still amazed as I write this that I got to go on MLB Network or that I didn’t totally go to pieces on live, national television. I could feel my heart thumping as I sat in the chair in the dark, windowless studio waiting to be patched in– I worried that the microphone on my tie would pick up the noise. Thankfully, Brian Kenny regularly brings writers onto his show who’ve done little or no television, and he’s great at putting people at ease. My friend Adam Darowski, who went on the show two weeks ago, had a similar experience.

So we’re clear: Without Sporting News (or the support of the woman I love), I doubt any of this happens. I don’t know if I’d have interviewed half the players I’ve talked to. I know how to cold call and send query emails, and old ballplayers love to talk; but I also have this golden ticket every time I call a player, being able to name drop a publication that’s existed since 1888 and still has a solid presence online, even if it no longer has a print edition. I also don’t know if someone like Brian Kenny would have seen my work had it not run on Sporting News. It’s a tough world these days for independent sportswriters.

I’m on the ride of my life right now as a writer. Every week seems to bring some new awesome experience that I never would have bet on five years ago and still seems utterly ridiculous as I write about it. (I haven’t mentioned this, but I’ve been fully self-employed as a freelance writer and editor since mid-October. It’s a post for another time, but I’m actually solvent four months in. It’s almost as surreal to me as seeing myself on television.)

If anyone is in the position I was in not long ago, working hard in obscurity, I say: Keep at it. Keep doing what you love, even if it very reasonably seems like no one’s reading. Keep working hard. Results will come, in ways you wouldn’t predict.

That said, I hope this is only the beginning. I’m going to keep working to see what unfolds. I want to talk to more players, many more. I want to have articles in places like Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and the New York Times. I want to write a book.

It goes almost without saying, but thanks to everyone who’s read my work since I launched this site in May 2009. I wouldn’t be doing any of the things I’m doing without a lot of help and support.

Talking to Tommy John

My latest is out for Sporting News. For the fifth straight week, I interviewed the player I wrote about. In weeks past, I’ve spoken to Bobby Grich, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy, and Jim Kaat. This week, I scored another great interview with Tommy John, who’s got a good shot of going in eventually but, like every player I’ve spoken to, is in long-term limbo.

As always feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading.

Bobby Grich knows he's underrated

My latest for Sporting News dropped a little while ago. Continuing my recent spate of interviews, I scored an hour-long talk with one of my favorite candidates, Orioles and Angels second baseman Bobby Grich.

If you’re into sabemetrics or 1970s baseball, you might love this interview. Grich is a good storyteller, as well as a rare former player who understands how his value breaks down in terms of sabemetrics. He was a pleasure to talk to.

Expect more of these interviews, by the way. I feel momentum building.

The Second Coming of Joe DiMaggio

I posted yesterday about a chat I will be doing at 11:30 a.m. PST today to promote a new article. The article’s live this morning, and if you enjoy my writing, this one might especially be of interest.

I wrote about how Joe Marty got hyped as the second coming of Joe DiMaggio, his teammate from the Pacific Coast League and why he failed to live up to it. This was a fun one to research and write. Marty’s near to my heart, as I grew up and live in Sacramento, where he’s from.

Please let me know what you guys think of my piece, good or bad. No one’s been commenting lately, and I want to make sure I’m writing things that are of interest. If not, maybe it’s time for me to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to create better articles. I don’t want to waste my life churning things out that no one reads.

Join me for a live chat about baseball history

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to have a new freelance piece dropping at The National Pastime Museum entitled “The Second Coming of Joe DiMaggio.” It’s about how DiMaggio’s teammate in the Pacific Coast League, Joe Marty drew comparisons to him when he debuted in the majors in 1937. In general, I’m intrigued with players who get heavily hyped or compared to all-time greats and then don’t live up to it. Marty was also from my hometown of Sacramento.

The National Pastime Museum has started doing something interesting recently whenever new articles appear. It’s having its authors host live chats to promote them. I’d like to invite anyone interested to take part in my chat tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. PST.  The National Pastime Museum publishes a lot of good writing about baseball history and offers fair pay for professional writers, so I’d like to see it succeed. I also think this chat should be a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys baseball history.

To sign up for the chat, simply go to this page and RSVP. You’ll get an email reminder 15 minutes before the chat.

The chat will last for one hour and primarily be about Joe DiMaggio and my article. That said, I invite people to take part regardless of if they’ve read my piece and also to ask me any question under the sun. If people would prefer to spend an hour talking about the Hall of Fame, I’m cool with that. I’m happy to talk about anything people want, as long as we’re talking baseball history.

Please feel free to email me at thewomack@gmail.com with comments or questions about how to sign up or anything else related to the chat. That being said, I look forward to chatting with as many of you as possible tomorrow.