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Tag: tom boswell

More Bounce to the Ounce

The Yankees were down 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning and Robinson Cano was at the plate, a man on base, two outs. Jerome Williams, in his first start since coming off the disabled list, threw a 2-2 fastball that tailed away from Cano.

It was what they call a pitcher’s pitch. Not only did Cano swing at it and make solid contact, he drove the ball deep to left field. As fortune would have it, the ball landed on the top of the fence and bounced over the bullpen into the bleachers.

I don’t know how many left-handed hitters could drive a pitch like that out of the park to the opposite field–Joey Votto, of couse; who else?

I was reminded of something I once read by Tom Boswell about Don Mattingly in his book Heart of the Order:

For historical reference, the Musial analogy works [with Mattingly]. Left-handed hitter. Eccentric closed and coiled stance. Sprays the ball. Tons of doubles. Not too many walks. Hard to strike out.

“He doesn’t look like Musial, but he hits like him,” says Orioles manager Earl Weaver. “Musial was the best at adjusting once the ball left the pitcher’s hand. He’d hit the pitcher’s pitch. Williams was the best at making them throw his pitch. He didn’t believe in adjusting. If it wasn’t what he wanted, he knew enough to walk to first base. That’s why he hit .406.Once every coupla games, a Musial or Mattingly is going to adjust and put that tough pitch in play instead of walking and you’re going to get some extra outs. But he’s also going to drive you crazy by popping a perfect fastball on the fists down the left-field line for a double.”

Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer later on, Cano singled home Alex Rodriguez in the sixth (more good luck as his ground ball up the middle knocked off second base), Freddy Garcia was decent and the bullpen was even better. Rafael Soriano struck out Mike Trout (three hits) in the ninth and got Albert Pujols on a check-swing strike zone to end the game.

Final Score: Yanks 5, Angels 3.

From Ali to Xena: 17

Friends and Connections

By John Schulian

When I became a sportswriter, it was as though I was inducted into a special lodge filled with lots of guys and a few women who shared my interests, my passions, my problems. I didn’t have to explain to them who Red Smith and Larry Merchant were. They thought it was cool if I slipped an obscure cultural reference into a game story, and they sympathized if an editor boned me on deadline. They even knew when I was looking for a job, sometimes before I did.

I never experienced anything like it during my five years on the city desk in Baltimore, and I say that even though I loved the Evening Sun and still consider many of the people I worked with as friends.  But when I started there, I was a rarity–a single person. Everybody else seemed to be married, with children, and dead-set on becoming middle-aged before they hit 30. Only later did more single people start showing up, bringing with them their passion for rock-and-roll and sports and carrying-on.

With sportswriting, on the other hand, I knew instantly that I belonged. And by the time I left newspapering, I was part of a band of ink-stained gypsies that seemed to turn up at every major event: Red Smith, Jim Murray, Dave Anderson, Blackie Sherrod, Eddie Pope, Furman Bisher, David Israel, Mike Lupica, Bill Nack, Dave Kindred, Leigh Montville, Ray Fitzgerald, Diane Shah, Stan Hochman, Joe Gergen, Pete Axthelm, George Vecsey, Jerry Izenberg. Unfortunately, Tony Kornheiser didn’t fly much, which cut into his traveling, but on those rare occasions when he did go airborne, he had to drink his courage first, which only made his legendary neuroses more fun than ever. Anyway, they were, and are, good folks one and all, and if I forgot to name anybody, the same description applies to them. I was proud to be in their number.

My best friend at the Post was Tom Boswell, even though he had made his peace with those rat bastards on the copy desk. He had better diplomatic skills than I did, for one thing, and he also loved what he was doing. Where I looked at things strictly as a writer, he maintained a fan’s sensibility. He was, and is, very much an enthusiast. I didn’t have a name for it until a year or two ago when I heard Robert Hilburn, the L.A. Times pop music writer for 40-odd years, speak. Here was a guy who was absolutely in love with the music and the artists and the world they lived in, a guy who was as excited by U2 as he had been by Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon. Totally unjaded. Just like Boz. Boz is as fired up about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as he was about his first Roy Sievers baseball card. He writes like a dream for readers who are on the same wave length as he is. That’s why he’s the biggest sportswriting institution in D.C. since Shirley Povich.

Boz and I were both single and about the same age when we met at the Post. He was finishing up a tour as the prep writer-–you’ve never read better or more imaginative high school coverage-– and he was moving onto the baseball beat, with golf as a sideline. If we were working late, we’d walk across the street to get dinner at the Madison Hotel. This is the same hotel where a Style section writer canoodled with Kathleen Turner when she was the hot-tomato femme fatale in “Body Heat.”  All I remember Boz and me getting there was Reuben sandwiches and an English trifle for dessert. There’s a reason why sportswriters are seldom lean.

Boz was great company, not just full of baseball stats and theories but an endless source of quotes from French philosophers and Emily Dickinson. The only knock on him was his threads–no natural fibers, colors unknown to civilized man. The kindest thing that could be said about his wardrobe was that it didn’t contain white shoes. Then, when I was working in Philly, he shows up wearing a blue blazer, a pink polo shirt, khakis and nice loafers. I knew instantly that he was in love. Only a woman who truly cared about him would have taken the time to dress him at Brooks Brothers. He married her, too.

The other great friend I made in Washington was David Israel, who was then the enfant terrible sports columnist at the Star, the city’s No. 2 paper. He was 23 or 24 and as different from Boz as Mick Jagger is from Tony Bennett. David was all hair and opinions and hot babes and finding out where the party was. I was dating the woman I would marry, so I wasn’t doing any night crawling with him. What we bonded over was writing.

I was looking for a way out of Baltimore when he hit Washington, and I remember my friend Phil Hersh, who was covering the Orioles for the Evening Sun, saying that David had liked a feature I’d written about a stolen pool cue. (My hustler friends again.) David asked if this guy Schulian was a city columnist, and when Phil told him I was a rewrite man, David threw the paper in the air. That’s when I knew he might be a kindred spirit.

He’s six years younger than I am, but he’s always been the best-connected guy I know. Back then he was already friendly with Breslin and Dick Schaap. He’d met them when he was a summer intern at Sport magazine. If I’m not mistaken, it was Breslin who helped him get the column at the Star. David had the chops to handle it, too. He was smart and outrageous and fearless -– he’d knock anybody and anything, and he did it with more style than whoever passes for a newspaper hell-raiser today.

I remember one time in Dallas, after a big Redskins-Cowboys game, the first thing he said to me as we were leaving was, “Did you use the tape?” The Redskins had lost and the tape they’d peeled off littered their dressing-room floor. It was forlorn and bedraggled, perfect for evoking the mood.

“Yeah,” I said. “You?”


Just a little thing, but also the kind of thing someone with a writer’s eye looks for.

Anyway, David and I talked a lot about writing, and he went with my girl friend and me to see some concerts, and I hung out with him on the road. Before I knew it, there was talk he might become the Star’s city columnist. He couldn’t have been there much more than a year, but in those days, dying No. 2 newspapers were always taking chances like that. That’s why they were so much fun to read.

David had this plan that if he became the Breslin of D.C., he’d lobby for me to succeed him as the Star’s sports columnist. I would have done it in a heartbeat. But the city column didn’t work out, so David stayed in sports and I stayed at the Post. I wasn’t beside-myself unhappy there or anything, but I knew I could be happier somewhere else. I just wasn’t sure where that was, or if I would ever get a chance to get there.

Then, later that year, David told me his old paper, the Chicago Daily News, was looking for a new sports columnist. The Daily News had been at death’s door since before I read it in grad school, and now its new editor, Jim Hoge, who was already running the Sun-Times, was importing talent for a last stand. David had covered college sports for the News before he became the Star’s columnist, and predictably he had stayed tight with Hoge.

“Tell him I’m his guy,” I said.

“You mean it?” David said.

“Damn right I do.”

Not long afterward, just before the NFL playoffs are about to start, Hoge comes to D.C. on business. He doesn’t have time for a sit-down  with me, but he wants to know if I’ll share a taxi out to National Airport with him. Hell, yes, I will. I don’t know what I said to impress him, but he asked to see my clips. And then I got a call to meet with the Daily News’ sports editor, a folksy, easy-going guy named Ray Sons. And then, wonder of wonders, I was the new sports columnist at the Chicago Daily News.

My first day on the job was Jan. 31, 1977. It was my 32nd birthday. Best one I ever had.

Click here for the full “From Ali to Xena” archives.

The Joys of Jeter

Jeter, from day one, became the Yankees’ “Everyman”–everybody’s son, everybody’s brother, everybody’s dream boyfriend. Without even trying, he tapped into every chord of the Yankee mythos like no player since Mantle. He would add a few unmistakable new notes of his own, heralding in a new age for the franchise. Jeter had it all, and from his first day he became the best shortstop in club history. The Yankees couldn’t have invented him had they tried.

Glenn Stout, Yankee Century

When we talk about Derek Jeter we talk about class and dignity and tradition.  Those buzz words that sound cliche. We talk about how he is overrated, but maybe underrated too. About how cool and calm he is, how calculatedly dull but dutiful he is with the press. But what I’ll always remember about Jeter is how much fun he has playing baseball. It is his defining quality for me and one that is virtually ignored in the sea of commentary about Jeter.

Have you ever seen him in a big game not smiling and generally enjoying the s*** out of himself? It is as if he’s impervious to the nerves of the moment.


Baseball has a name for the player who, in the eyes of his peers, is well attuned to the demands of his discipline; he is called “a gamer.” The gamer does not drool, or pant, before the cry of “Play ball.” Quite the opposite. He is the player, like George Brett or Pete Rose, who is neither too intense, nor too lax, neither lulled into carelessness in a dull August doubleheader nor wired too tight in an October playoff game. The gamer may scream and curse when his mates show the first hints of laziness, but he makes jokes and laughs naturally in the seventh game of the Series.

Tom Boswell, How Life Imitates the World Series

Jeter is a man defined and consumed by his work, an ideal we’d all love to have ourselves but only few share. It’s part of what draws us to him. But Jeter reminds us that work can be play too. Who wouldn’t like to think of themselves handling themselves like Jeter in tough situations?

Pete Rose may have enjoyed himself as much as Jeter but not more.  And it wasn’t easy to share those feelings with Rose. Perhaps the best thing you can say about Jeter is that he’s competitive and has class and dates gorgeous women and he’s not Pete Rose.  Jeter does not let us get too close–we don’t know him away from the field–but the beauty part is that he lets us see all we need to know of him on the field.

The play is the thing, after all.

In an e-mail, Stout added:

I’ve always thought that with Jeter it’s actually really, really simple. You know when he was a little, little boy, he decided he wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees – that’s all he ever wanted, and for as long as he can remember that’s all he has ever imagined doing. He’s about the only person on the planet who has never had to scale down his dream, and since he has imagined himself doing what he is doing his entire life, it feels completely normal, the most natural thing in the world – on the field he is completely at home with himself, completely relaxed and happy. Why not smile?

And that’s why he was there to make the tag on Gomez, and the flip to Posada to get Giambi out way back when, and the home runs he hits right after the other team scores and all those other plays he makes – he’s been living these moments in his head his whole life, from the days he laid on his bed and tossed the ball up toward the ceiling. It’s not natural, but it is natural to him – he’s been playing shortstop for more than thirty years.

And what about the Nick Punto play last night? Stout continues:

I loved the Jeter just calmly explained that he saw Punto out of the corner of his eye then waited for him to commit and made sure he threw a ball to Jorge that he could handle, ho hum, on the fly, instant decision that all took place in about 1/2 a second. He’s like the guy that has learned to solve the Rubik’s cube.

It’s the smirk, the enjoying the moment, that I’ll always remember about Jeter. Not every great player allows you to see them having fun–heck even Mariano doesn’t exude that same vibe. But with Jeter you know he’s loving it. And he loves it when his teammates do well. Did you catch the little kid enthusiasm from Jeter after Alex Rodriguez hit that dinger off of Joe Nathan on Friday night?


After the game last night, Mariano Rivera talked about Rodriguez to reporters. “He’s feeling great and he trusts himself,” said Rivera. “He’s having fun, having fun, having fun and that’s the most important thing. Before, he was trying so hard and you can’t have fun like that. Now, he’s just enjoying it.”

Just like Jeter.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver