On April 11, 2001,
NetShrine was
privileged to interview
USA Today Baseball Weekly
senior writer and columnist
Bob Nightengale.

In the past, sports writing told you things which you would not know unless you were at the game.  This was due to the fact that, most times, actual physical attendance was the sole way to know about the game. Quite often today, sports writing is patterned in this historical style - - the score was 4 to 2, Joe Brittle was injured and will go on the D.L., etc.  Yet, due to increased access to game information (via such vehicles as Radio, TV, the Internet, etc.), this type of sports writing is merely a confirmation of what you may already know.

Luckily, among all the ordinary (traditional) sports writing, pockets of exceptional sports writing exists.  What is it?  Exemplary sports writing enlightens - - it informs you, sharing knowledge which is not readily attainable (even in this Age of Information Overflow).  However, extraordinary sports writing does not exist everywhere.  

One place that it does exist is Bob Nightengale's Major League Report in USA Today Baseball Weekly.

NetShrine recommends both the hard copy and on-line versions of Bob Nightengale's column in USA Today's Baseball Weekly - without reservation.   So, what are you waiting for?  Get USA Today's Baseball Weekly and read Bob Nightengale!  Oh, but first, check out our interview............

When you were young, who was your favorite big league baseball player?
Bob Nightengale:  Mickey Mantle.

What's your favorite 1960's TV show?
Bob Nightengale:  Brady Bunch/Good Times.
 

Which baseball movie do you enjoy best?
Bob Nightengale:  The Babe Ruth Story.

When was the last time you had goose bumps at a ballpark?
Bob Nightengale:  I actually get them even now during player introductions at the home park during every postseason and Opening Day.  But, the last memorable goose bumps occurred when Mark McGwire hit his 70th home run. I think those lasted for about an hour, and I actually cried when McGwire hit No. 62.

What's the most interesting piece of sports memorabilia that you own?
Bob Nightengale: 
An autographed picture sequence of Willie Mays making The Catch in the 1954 World Series.

Where's your favorite ballpark?
Bob Nightengale:  Fenway Park.

In your opinion, who will be the first player to break Aaron's lifetime HR record?
Bob Nightengale:  I used to think it would be Mark McGwire. Now I believe it will be Ken Griffey Jr.

FILL IN THE BLANK: "I'll never forget where I was when ________________ happened."
Bob Nightengale:  The New York Mets made their miracle comeback against the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Would you rather win a Pulitzer Prize or an MVP Award, and why?
Bob Nightengale:  
An MVP. Come on, that's every kid's dream isn't it? Can anyone name a soul who wins any year's Pulitzer?

How did you get started in sports writing?
Bob Nightengale:  When my dad was in Vietnam, a family friend mentioned the idea that it might be fun career to be a sportswriter since he knew that I had a passion for sports. I immediately started writing for my high school newspaper and loved it ever since.

Intermission Lightning Round:

Rock or Disco?
Nightengale:  Disco.
DH or no DH?
Nightengale:  No DH.
Knapsack or Briefcase?
Nightengale:  Briefcase.
Night game or day game?
Nightengale:  Day game.
Springer or Koppel?
Nightengale:  Springer.
Box seats or bleachers?
Nightengale:  Box seats.

Back to the bigger questions......

How important is it for a sportswriter to have the respect (or be "liked") by the person they are attempting to interview?
Bob Nightengale:  Very, very important. You don't have to be liked, but respect can certainly help you draw out provocative answers.

You picked Arizona to win it all in 2001.  Why?
Bob Nightengale:  It would have been too easy to pick the Yankees, too many people were picking the A's, and I picked the Cardinals last year. So, I wanted to be different. Besides, there are about eight teams in the NL that have a shot at the playoffs, and if the Diamondbacks get in, I'll take Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling over any other team's 1-2 starters in postseason.

Who is the smartest baseball player that you've ever met?
Bob Nightengale:  Gary Sheffield. The guy has more baseball acumen than anyone I've ever met. If he wanted to be a manager, he'd be great.

In reporting, how difficult is it when you find out that a "truth" subsequently turns out to only be a "rumor"?
Bob Nightengale:  You run into that so often. There are so many rumors that fly out there, and so few are really substantiated. It's almost a shock when a rumor turns out to be the truth.

Who is the best player in the Major Leagues today?
Bob Nightengale:  I think it has to be Pedro Martinez. Let's put it this way, A-Rod and Griffey and Pudge can have great games, and their team can still lose. If Pedro has a great game, most likely his team will win.

If you could change one thing in baseball, what would it be?
Bob Nightengale:  I really would like to see the DH abolished. It takes away from so much strategy. That's why the NL is so much more popular than the AL.

How much difference is there between the physical condition of athletes today as opposed to 20 years ago?
Bob Nightengale:  It's night and day. These guys are so much bigger and stronger and faster, but unfortunately, a lot of them are on steroids and illegal muscle enhancers. They're the size of NFL players. They don't even look like baseball players from even 15 years ago.

Which position is the most important on the baseball field?
Bob Nightengale:  The pitcher is easily the most important position. Otherwise, I'd go with shortstop or catcher. And if you can get some offense to go along with defense from those spots, you've got an All-Star player.

If Jesse Ventura was a baseball player, what position would he play?
Bob Nightengale:  He would definitely be a utility player, a guy who can play all positions, but master of none. And yes, he would be the ultimate trash talker.

You have been with (among others) The Sporting News, MSNBC, SportsWritersDirect    and now USA Today Baseball Weekly.  What's left on your wish list?
Bob Nightengale:  I don't have an answer. I may stay put. I've worked at several daily newspapers as well, such as the Arizona Republic, Kansas City Star and Los Angeles Times, but my job right now is the best one I've ever had. I love what I'm doing, and how often do you ever hear an employee say, "I've got no complaints."  If anything, I may start working on writing some books in the future with a few ideas I have.

That's it.  Once again, our thanks to Mr. Nightengale for granting NetShrine this interview!

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