No Magic interview, no problem: Pearlman’s ‘Showtime’ shows access isn’t essential to telling complete story

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center is on Jeff Pearlman and his approach to writing his new book on the ’80s Lakers, Showtime.


Today’s journalism lesson comes from Jeff Pearlman.

Subject: How to write a 482-page book without ever getting access to the three main characters in the story.

Pearlman’s latest, “Showtime,” is a detailed and entertaining account of the great Lakers teams during the ‘80s. He chronicles the wild ride as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the crew piled up victories on the court and in the bedroom. The Lakers were at the center of ‘80s flash and excess.

Pearlman conducted nearly 300 interviews for the book, but he never was able to land a one-on-one with Johnson and coach Pat Riley. He also didn’t have a sit-down with

Abdul-Jabbar, although he was able … Continue Reading

Neat discovery: Finding an eyewitness to Babe Ruth’s Called Shot in my neighborhood; John Kass column on my book

While doing research for my new book, Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run, I obviously wanted to talk to eyewitnesses who attended Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field.

Unfortunately, the great moment occurred more than 80 years ago, limiting my ability to get first-hand testimony on whether the Babe really pointed. Fortunately, I did talk to two people who were at the game: Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and Lincoln Landis, the nephew of baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered there is a Called Shot eyewitness living only a few blocks from me.

Wednesday, Jamie Bradley of the Highland Park Landmark did a nice story about me and the book. That prompted a call from Marv Freeman.

“You don’t … Continue Reading

Author Q/A: Book on Merion carries weight of history of iconic club

Augusta National is front and center this week, but a book about another iconic club also is receiving attention.

Jeff Silverman won the Herbert Warren Wind Award from the United States Golf Association for the best golf book, Merion: The Championship Story.

Silverman chronicles the vast history of the Philadelphia club that has been a vital part of American golf. This is the place where Bob Jones completed his grand slam in 1930 and Ben Hogan won his famous U.S. Open in 1950. Last year, Justin Rose won the Open at Merion, as the USGA went back to the course after a long layoff.

There’s much more in Silverman’s coffee-table style book that is 500 pages and weighs six pounds. Here is my Q/A:

Six pounds? Did you have any discussions about charging by the pound, not the page?Continue Reading

Book excerpt: Did Babe Ruth waffle about Called Shot? Slugger wasn’t as definitive as family

Note: Taking off for a few days over spring break. Will return next Monday just in time for that “tradition unlike any other,” The Masters.

While I’m out, I hope you will take a look at an excerpt from my book, Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery Behind Baseball’s Greatest Home Run. I examine at all the angles of that famous clout, including what Ruth said. His comments added to the intrigue.


“Well, the good Lord and good luck must have been with me because I did exactly what I said I was going to do.”

—Babe Ruth

Nearly a century has passed since a young kid named George Ruth played his first professional game for the Baltimore Orioles, but the woman on the other end of the line is referring to him as “Daddy.” The … Continue Reading

Reviews, write-ups about my Babe Ruth Called Shot book: ‘Home run will live in baseball history forever’

Many thanks to the folks for the mentions about my book, Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery about Baseball’s Great Home Run.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel included Called Shot among its top 9 baseball books for the new season. Writes Chris Foran:

In the third game of the 1932 World Series between the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate against Cubs pitcher Charlie Root and, after making a gesture or two, hit a home run to center field. Whether Ruth “called” his home run has been debated for the 82 years since — and even the emergence of home movies taken at the game haven’t yielded a definitive answer.

Ed Sherman, a longtime Chicago Tribune reporter, gives the correct answer: It doesn’t matter. It’s a great story either way.

Continue Reading

A first: Illinois Governor is my lead-in on PBS’ Chicago Tonight

I encountered one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” situations yesterday.

Chicago Tonight, the outstanding news show on WTTW, invited me on as a guest to discuss my book, Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run. (Here is the link from Amazon)

The first guest on the show was Pat Quinn, the Illinois governor who is running for re-election. So I’m sitting in one part of the studio getting ready for my interview, while at the other desk, Eddie Arruza is grilling Quinn. I think the governor would have had more fun talking about the Called Shot.

I said to the show’s host, Phil Ponce, “This is the first time I’ve ever followed a governor on a show.”

Ponce was quick to clarify my statement. “No, this is the first time a … Continue Reading

Coming in May: ‘Most definitive’ Michael Jordan biography on the good, the bad and in between

This is being billed as the first definitive biography on Michael Jordan.

Roland Lazenby’s “Michael Jordan: The Life” is due out in early May. It is a whopping 720 pages.

Surely, his incredible feats will be celebrated. However, if you are an avid Jordan fan looking for a valentine, this probably isn’t the book for you.

According to the release, Lazenby gets into all facets of his rather complicated life. They include sexual abuse allegations by his sister, Deloris, toward their father, James. In 2009, she wrote a book accusing James of raping her.

From the release:

“Provides a startling new context for Jordan’s life, especially with regards to the largely unreported inner conflicts of his family (who have offered up inaccurate narratives of being the perfect American family), driven by Jordan’s older sister’s allegations of sex abuse against their … Continue Reading

Q/A with John Feinstein: Latest on life in Triple A; His process and why he continues to write books

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism at Indiana is on John Feinstein and his latest book.

Here are some excerpts:


When John Feinstein arrived at the Indiana campus in 1985, he merely was an ambitious young Washington Post sportswriter looking to do an interesting behind-the-scenes book on Bob Knight. After struggling to find a publisher (“Who wants to read a book about a Midwest college basketball coach?”), he was thrilled to land an advance of $17,500.

Little did Feinstein or anyone else know that “A Season on the Brink” would zoom to No. 1. It set the stage for him to become the bestselling sports author of all time, with more than 10 million books sold.

“The Franchise” is out with his 23rd non-fiction book: “Where Nobody Knows Your Name.” It is a terrific read about life … Continue Reading

Talking to Babe Ruth’s daughter: ‘Daddy’ surely called his shot

One of the true thrills of doing my book, Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball’s Greatest Home Run, was getting a chance to talk to his daughter, Julia Stevens.

At 97, she remains sharp and proud to be a living connection to her father’s legacy. Earlier this week, Julia attended ceremonies marking Babe Ruth’s Centennial in St. Petersburg at Al Lang Field, where he played in spring training. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s pro debut in 1914. Julia is shown here with St. Petersburg historian Will Michaels (Photo courtesy of Mollie Schrieber).

The event was organized by Tim Reid, who heads the Committee to Commemorate Babe Ruth. This gives me the opportunity to credit Reid for his work on a great site, BabeRuth1932. Reid conceived the site with research from Ruth … Continue Reading

Sam Fuld reviews John Feinstein’s new book on minor league baseball for Wall Street Journal

After writing 32 books, there isn’t much John Feinstein hasn’t done on the publishing front. But he got a first the other day: A review from a current MLB player.

Oakland A’s outfielder Sam Fuld critiqued Feinstein’s latest, Where Nobody Knows Your Name, for the Wall Street Journal. The book chronicles the difficult, frustrating and even heartbreaking life for several players, managers and even an umpire at Triple A in 2012. Veterans like Scott Podsednik and Brett Tomko are just trying to hang on, while others still are seeking to take that ultimate step to the big leagues.

Fuld actually is in Feinstein’s book. Feinstein talked to the outfielder while he was on rehab assignment.

Just imagine if Bob Knight was asked to write a review of Feinstein’s first book, Season on the Brink. Now that would … Continue Reading