I can never remember a time in my childhood when my family didn't get the New York Times on Sunday morning. One time, when I was about nine and my dad was still living with us he sent me on my bike to get the paper. I had a heavy-framed, second-hand dirt bike that Kevin O'Conner was kind enough to dump on me for $25. I peddled over a mile to the local grocery store and then struggled to balance the bulky paper on the handle bars of the bike as I wobbled back home. I was so pleased with myself when I made it back that I brought the paper straight into my parents' bedroom. My father was sleeping on his back. I carefully placed the paper on his swollen belly like Indiana Jones replacing a gold headstone in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I thought it would be the best way he could ever get the paper--just wake up and have it there waiting for him. He jolted up and yelled at me to get the damn paper off of him.
I always had to wait until dad was finished with a section--the sports section, in most cases--before I had a chance to read it. Or if I read a section before him, I had to make sure that I returned it to the state it was in when I found it. During those final years when my father lived with us not only did I read the stat leaders on Sunday (the one that was available just once a week) but I cut out the full-page movie ads in the Arts and Leisure section. I still remember the print ads for Altered States, The Competition, Fame, The Shinning, Times Square, Popeye, All Night Long, So Fine. I learned how to become sharp at finding the "Nina's" in Hirsfield's masterful drawings.
The oldest name I know in print is Murray Chass. The Yankees, Times and Chass. I never knew exactly how to pronounce his name but I always remember seeing it. My dad pronounced it CHHHUH'ass, with a thick Semetic, CHHUH. I always said Chase in my head even though I knew it was wrong.
I have a great deal of admiration for all that Chass has accomplished during the course of his career. He's one of the outstanding newspapermen of the free agency era, specializing in covering the business side of the sport. I haven't enjoyed his column for several years now but I still have a certain amount of affection for him because he's the baseball writer I associate with the Times of my childhood. Hey, Ray Negron told me that Chass was the best ball playing sportswriter of his day. Said that Chass really ripped it up in the annual sportswriter's game back in the seventies. I know that Chass has become a favorite whipping boy on-line these days, and why not? he's an easy target who is forever adding fuel to the fire. But I sometimes cringe when I see the abuse he takes. It's his own fault but it doesn't mean it's fun to watch.
Chass doesn't like blogs, though he doesn't seem to know much about them. He has simply dismissed the genre outright. That's fine, but I think he sounds foolish. Jon Weisman wrote a terrific post about Chass, the mainstream press and the blogosphere this past week:
My roots are in sports journalism. I had my first story published in the Los Angeles Times in 1986, covered my first major league baseball game in 1987 and was full-time in the profession by the end of 1989, nearly 13 years before I began blogging. I value how hard it is to be a sportswriter, and I emphasized to Steiner today how that many bloggers rely upon the work of mainstream sportswriters to launch their posts. For that matter, I understand job insecurity. I was the hot new prodigy on staff in '89 - by '92, there was a hotter, newer prodigy, and I was on my way to being marginalized at the ripe old age of 24.
But I expect reciprocity. If I've done a good job as an outsider looking in, I expect respect, not dismissal. First, some of the analysis done by bloggers is flat-out better than anything you'll see from a major paper - and it's done without the support system of a major paper, often without any renumeration whatsoever. In some ways, it's harder work.
Second, while there's value in interacting with the players and management of a baseball team, I can testify that there's often value in not interacting with them. It can give you a level of objectivity that is often missing from mainstream reporting. And at a minimum, many kinds of analysis don't require a locker-room presence, yet can be of tremendous value when done right.
...If there's one thing I could live without ever hearing again, it's that stereotype of bloggers working in their underwear from their parents' basements. I mean, I've had it. I'm not going to sit here and let mainstream baseball writers, who spend, God love 'em, 2,000 hours a year inside a ballpark, tell me that I or my blogger colleagues need to get a life. We have lives, thank you very much. Many of us have day jobs - many of us need day jobs - and many of us spend our weekends with our families and friends rather than with A-Rod and Jeter, and we see a world beyond the baseball field. Not saying that the mainstreamers don't - just that we do. Our passion for baseball drives us to write about the game, but hardly monopolizes our existence. If anything, we might have the perspective that insiders lack.
But don't let me dictate to you who's good and who isn't. Judge for yourself. Just judge after you've read an individual's work, not before.
It is overcast and flat-out cold today in New York. What to cook? A stew, a soup, shepherd's pie, a lasagna, a risotto? Mmmm. While I ponder what to make, let me repeat that I think the Yankees will score a bunch of runs this afternoon. Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees' stopper, is on the hill.