On March 8, 2002,
privileged to interview
renowned baseball historian
and best selling author
Name the definitive celebratory book about a particular baseball team or town and odds are that Peter Golenbock wrote it. New York? See Golenbock's "Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-1964" or "BUMS: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers." Boston? Golenbock did "Fenway: The Players and the Fans Remember." Chicago? He wrote "Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs." St. Louis? Try "The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns."
Additionally, Peter Golenbock has co-authored prominent books with Sparky Lyle (The Bronx Zoo), Bill Martin (Number 1), Graig Nettles (Balls), Ron Guidry (Guidry), and Davey Johnson (Bats) among others.
It is significant to note that these lists are not all inclusive. Peter Golenbock has written over 20 books which cover baseball, football, basketball and car racing. In addition to his books, Peter Golenbock has been a frequent guest on A&E Biography, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and ESPN.
In April this year, Golenbock's next sure to be classic book "Amazin' : The Miraculous History of New York's Most Beloved Baseball Team" will be released.
NetShrine recommends that you look into all of Peter Golenbock's books. And, if you're already read them, read them again! Oh, but first, check out our interview............
When you were young, who was your favorite big league
Peter Golenbock: When I was young, there was only one major league baseball player, and that was Mickey Mantle. The sun rose and set on the Mick, and my mental health that day was determined by whether he got any hits the day before and whether the Yankees won.
Which baseball movie do you enjoy best?
Peter Golenbock: There are about ten baseball movies that I can watch over and over. In no particular order, I love Major League, Major League II, Major League - Back to the Minors, Bull Durham, The Natural, The Babe Ruth Story, The Pride of the Yankees, The Kid from Cleveland, Fear Strikes Out, the Pride of St. Louis, and The Winning Team, starring Ronald Reagan, who was a better actor than a President. By the way, I have original movie posters on my walls of all the above movies.
Where's your favorite ballpark?
Peter Golenbock: My favorite ballpark is Yankee Stadium, though it was thoroughly bastardized in the 1973-74 renovation. Yes, there are no pillars, but they changed the wonderful dimensions of the outfield, and they removed the beautiful copper filigree from the top deck. My second favorite ballpark is Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. It is clean, bright, homey, and I am familiar with every wonderful inch of it.
If "Dynasty" had not been a best seller,
would you have written another book?
Peter Golenbock: Dynasty was going to be my only book even though it was a best seller. After I wrote it, I went to work for the Bergen Record as a news editor. I was crazy about my job, and I suspect I would be an editor at the New York Times today had Billy Martin's agent not called me and told me that Billy wanted me to write his autobiography with him. And when Billy had to postpone writing that book, the agent said he had another client who wanted to write a book, Yankee pitcher Sparky Lyle. Sparky's book became The Bronx Zoo and Billy's book became Number 1, and both of those were best sellers as well, and all of a sudden I had a career.
Describe playing ball in an "Over 50"
Peter Golenbock: I am 55 years old and have been playing in an over-50 league since I turned 49. There are six teams in the league, and we play three mornings a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I live for my softball games. It is modified softball, not that shitty slow-pitch, and most of the players are talented, so it's competitive and great fun. I've been thinking about writing a book about the league. I've interviewed nine players so far. Two have died, and three have quit because of injuries. As you know, baseball mirrors life, and for me, the over-50 league especially so.
What is your favorite baseball book (written by
someone else) and why?
Peter Golenbock: My favorite baseball book written by someone else is The Glory of Their Times, by Larry Ritter. It was the second book that gave me an insight into the lives of the great baseball players, and I will always cherish. I have been a friend of Larry's for years and have always admired his intellect and his modesty. No one has ever acknowledged Larry's contribution, and that has always bothered me.
The other book that made a difference in my life was The Yankees, by Frank Graham. The edition I read was published in 1954, and I read it when I was 12, in 1960. The idea for Dynasty was that it was to be the sequel to Frank Graham's Yankees. And basically, that's why I did, except that Graham knew all the players, and I didn't, so I had to go see each one of them at their homes or offices in order to interview them.
FILL IN THE BLANK: "I'll never forget where I was when
Peter Golenbock: "I'll never forget where I was when that rat bastard Bill Mazeroski hit the home run off Ralph Terry to win the 1960 World Series." It was perhaps the worst day of my life. I didn't eat for three days. I hate Bill Mazeroski to this day for it.
Have you ever wished you could "go back"
and change a book which you've already authored and why?
Peter Golenbock: I have never wanted to change any book I have ever written. I have two small regrets: that I was not able to interview Ernie Banks for my Cubs book, Wrigleyville, and that I was not able to interview Ozzie Smith for my Cardinals book, The Spirit of St. Louis. But they are only minor regrets.
Which non-baseball person would you most like to
work with - and why?
Peter Golenbock: I would love to write a book with Dick Button, the ice skating commentator. I have always felt that there is an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes shenanigans and gossip related to Olympic figure skating. Once I tried contacting him, but I got nowhere. Why, I have no idea? Perhaps, one day I will try again.
Who in baseball would you most like to do a book
with - and why?
Peter Golenbock: The person in baseball I'd most like to do a book with is Bobby Valentine. Bobby and I grew up together in Stamford, Connecticut. My new book, Amazin', An Oral History of the New York Mets, is coming out this month, and I intend to bring him a book and talk to him about doing a book together.
Intermission Lightning Round:
Fitted or One Size All?
DH or no DH?
Mountains or Beach?
Night game or day game?
HBO or PBS?
Golenbock: Either, especially when PBS puts on the Doo Wop concerts.
Box seats or bleachers?
Golenbock: Box seats. I want to sit in the dugout.
Back to the bigger questions......
Why do you enjoy baseball?
Peter Golenbock: Why do I breathe?
Who is the best player in the Major Leagues today?
Peter Golenbock: Barry Bonds is the best player, but he is one son of a bitch. Sammy Sosa is right behind him, and Junior is third.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about
rotisserie baseball and why?
Peter Golenbock: The best thing about Rotisserie baseball is that I have such a wonderful life, and Rotisserie baseball reminds me that you can't be competent in all walks of life -- it keeps me humble.
Related to the last question, what is the worst
thing about rotisserie baseball and why?
Peter Golenbock: The worst thing? Same as the best thing.
If you could change one thing in baseball, what
would it be?
Peter Golenbock: If I could change just one thing, I would get rid of Bud Selig, and in his place I would substitute a rhesis monkey. The monkey would make smarter decisions.
What was going through your mind the first time
you met a professional baseball player in person?
Peter Golenbock: The first professional baseball player I met was Jackie Robinson. I was ten years old, and my uncle, who was his lawyer, took me to meet him after the fourth game of the 1956 World Series. All I could think of was how large and powerful he was. I have since written Bums, which is mostly about him, and Teammates, a children's book that memorializes his relationship with Pee Wee Reese.
If Danny Devito was a baseball player, what
position would he play?
Peter Golenbock: Danny Devito would play Phil Rizzuto in a movie about Jerry Priddy, who once threatened to blow up the Queen Mary if he wasn't paid $100,000.
What can you share about your latest
Peter Golenbock: My latest Met project is a comprehensive look at the history of the Mets, told primarily by former and current Mets players. I interviewed everyone from Rod Kanehl and Ron Hunt, Ron Swoboda and Gary Carter, Jerry Koosman and Wally Backman, Davey Johnson...the list goes on and on. I loved writing it, and I'm sure baseball fans, and especially Mets fans, will get a kick out of spending book time with some of their favorite players and listening to them talk about their lives, teammates, and managers, especially Casey Stengel, was is still the greatest manager who ever lived.
Do you have plans for another book that you can
Peter Golenbock: In the fall I am publishing a book called Go Gators! An Oral History of Florida's Pursuit of Gridiron Glory. I interviewed almost fifty former University of Florida football stars, and they talk at great length about their lives, their careers in both college and professional football, their coaches, the great moments, etc., etc.
That's it. Once again, our thanks to Mr. Golenbock for granting NetShrine this interview!
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