News on the baseball writing front

A couple of cool things happened for me baseball writing-wise this week.

First, as regular readers may know, I joined the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America on Wednesday. Since then, I have been talking with the head of the group, and he has invited me to write for a Where Are They Now section on his Web site. It sounds perfect for me, since I love talking to old ballplayers. I have a tentative first assignment to interview Gino Cimoli, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and was the first man to come to bat on the West Coast, after the Giants and Dodgers moved west.

While perusing the “Where Are They Now” section to see what the articles look like and who’s already been written about, I noticed a feature on one of the three former teammates of Joe Marty that are still living. As faithful readers here will know, I began research in January for a book on Marty, who played in the majors from 1937-41, and I interviewed another of the ex-teammates in February. I haven’t had any luck getting the other two men on the phone, but seeing the “Where Are They Now” feature gave me some hope to try again.

Thus, I called and spoke with this man’s son, asked about arranging a phone interview, and offered to send questions for preparation as I did with the other player. I wouldn’t normally do this as a journalist, but I’m willing to make exceptions if my interview subject is over 90, as all three of these players are. The son was fine with this and said he and his dad would do what they could for me. I put a list of 30 questions in the mail yesterday along with my callback number and am keeping my fingers crossed that this comes off.

I am deliberately not posting the names of these players for search engine purposes, but this particular player is somewhat well-known and is the last living person to have played in a game with a man who hit 714 home runs (again, I word it that way for search engine purposes, please don’t leave an “Aha” type comment.) Basically, it would be awesome if I get this interview.

As I’ve said before here, I feel like I’m getting to take part in something greater than myself with this project. I’m also starting to feel it has historical importance. I typically use a 90-minute digital recorder for interviews and wind up having to delete old interviews when I need space for new ones. It’s unfortunate– in the last couple of years, some of the interviews I’ve deleted include Oliver Stone and Jose Canseco (a full transcript of my Canseco interview, though, can be found here.) I want to keep a record of everyone I talk to for this project, especially if the book gets published. Thus, I bought a tape recorder, batteries and a ten-pack of tapes yesterday and spent over an hour in the evening getting the interview from February transferred over.

To say the least, I’m excited about what lies ahead.

Another week, another group: I join the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America

With less than a week having passed since I joined the Society for American Baseball Research, I signed up online today to be a member of another group I’ve been eying, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America.

Launched July 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, the IBWAA is an alternative to the old-guard Baseball Writers Association of America. That group celebrated its 100-anniversary in 2008, votes each year on who gets into the Hall of Fame, and only recently started letting online writers be part of its member body. Before that, the group was restricted to newspaper and magazine sportswriters, and members still must pay dues for ten years before getting a Hall of Fame vote.

I may or may not eventually get into the BBWAA depending on if I attempt another foray into sportswriting (I briefly clerked on the sports desk of the Sacramento Bee a few years ago.) However, the IBWAA allows any baseball writer on the Internet to join for a yearly fee of $20 and accepts PayPal. As I mentioned in my entry about joining SABR, I have recovered financially in the past couple of months and I’m looking for ways to promote this blog and meet other baseball followers. Thus, it was an easy decision and simple two-minute process to join, no rigorous application or vetting process. It goes without saying that I know I joined the right group for me.

I first read of the IBWAA through a fellow blogger, Devon Young, when he wrote in late December about filling out his Hall of Fame ballot as a group member. Devon and I are both small, independent operations, near as I can tell (unless My First Cards is actually a ghost blog by Monsanto.) I enjoy Devon’s writing, as fun and informative as a blog about baseball cards should be, and I like to think I keep some people entertained. Still, neither of us commands vast legions of followers. The IBWAA is seemingly designed for guys like us. We get a symbolic voice in baseball awards, as well as great exposure and a chance to build credentials.

That being said, there are some names in the group. The founding IBWAA class included David Pinto of Baseball Musings, one of the most-read baseball blogs, as well as journalists from the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among others. A senior writer at Sports Illustrated and baseball author named Peter Golenbock also joined recently. And with the blogosphere continuing to evolve and become more legitimized, the IBWAA should only keep growing and attracting big names. As it stands, I think the IBWAA is already more to date with the times than the BBWAA.

I’m happy to be getting in early and look forward to the many benefits like getting to cast the symbolic Hall of Fame ballot in about eight months. The group’s stated purpose is to eventually get a real Hall of Fame vote. It’d be pretty awesome if that happens while I’m a member.