On March 24, 2003,
privileged to interview
best-selling baseball author
Richard Lally is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, four of which best sellers. These books include "The Wrong Stuff" (with Bill Lee) which was named to Total Baseballís Ultimate Baseball Library, "Bombers - An Oral History of the New York Yankees" which was named to Princeton University's Dixon Collection, and "Long Balls, No Strikes: What Baseball Must Do to Keep the Good Times Rolling" (with Joe Morgan).
NetShrine suggests that you read Mr. Lally's books. Each one read by the NetShrine Curator (including "The Wrong Stuff," "Pinstriped Summers" and "Bombers") comes highly recommended. You will find them entertaining and enlightening! Oh, but first, check out our interview............
Who is the person, living or dead, that you would
most like to meet?
Richard Lally: Henry Miller is my favorite writer, the closest person I have to a hero because he had the courage to question the status quo while mocking society's mores and morals. Like Miller, I regard society as a conspiracy of organized dysfunctionalism and find its restrictions and obsessions as bewildering as they are amusing. I would have loved to meet him and Anais Nin and share a bottle of wine at Harry's Bar in Paris. A close second, by the way, would be the maverick filmmaker John Cassavetes. I admired his integrity. He had the guts to follow his muse and to disregard the demands of pop culture and materialism. His kind is rare.
When you were young, who was your favorite big
league baseball player?
Richard Lally: Bob Gibson and Dick Allen, because they were so talented and such determined individualists. Allen was always telling the baseball establishment to stuff it, which Is how I have responded throughout my life to most paternalistic, authoritarian institutions. Gibson revealed the game for what it was, a hardscrabble endeavor played by graceful men. I also admired his commitment to excellence as well as the way he unabashedly wore his pitcher's arrogance on and off the mound.
How did you start your career as a writer?
Richard Lally: In school, an English teacher, Dr. William Shanker, thought I had a way with a phrase. Encouraged me to go further with it.
Who was your most influential mentor?
Richard Lally: My ex-wife Barbara Bauer is a great writer who taught me to love the written word and to expand my cultural interests.
Which baseball movie do you enjoy best?
Richard Lally: None of them. I don't think anyone has ever made a baseball movie that has stuck with me, though the real life of Babe Ruth has the potential to be a great one. Ruth was a primitive, a walking, unapologetic Id and I don't believe anyone has ever gotten his story right on film. If young Orson Welles were alive, he'd be terrific in the title part. And anyone who wants to know what Babe was like should read Robert Creamer's bio of him, a masterful work.
FILL IN THE BLANK: "I'll never forget where I
was when ______________."
Richard Lally: I'll never forget where I was when Malcolm X was assassinated.
Where's your favorite ballpark?
Richard Lally: No sports venue has the mystique of Yankee Stadium.
What was the greatest baseball game you ever saw?
Richard Lally: Sixth game, 1975 World Series, Reds vs. Red Sox. The 1978 playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox is a close second.
Who do you consider to be the greatest baseball
writer - and why?
Richard Lally: Let me name two whose work I most enjoy: Rob Neyer of ESPN.com writes the most thoughtful analyses of teams, players, and the game itself of any writer you can name. He just did a series of interviews with major league G.M.'s that should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand how the modern game operates. Billy Altman, who covers the New York Mets for the Village Voice, has a style as lean as Hemingway and his passion for the game comes though with every word. Plus, he's funny, always a plus. My favorite baseball writer of all time, however, was Dick Young. He asked all the hard questions and, more importantly, usually got the answers. And his writing, resonating with all those New York City street passions and cadences, can stand with Walt Whitman's.
You have worked with Bill Lee and Joe Morgan on
books. You have also interviewed many former players for other
projects. How are these contacts established?
Richard Lally: Through hard work, usually. You make the phone calls, track down leads, refuse to give up until you land your subject. However, Joe and I were brought together by our agency, International Management Group. My agent there, the fabulous Mark Reiter, thought we would work well together.
Intermission Lightning Round:
Dogs or Cats?
Lally: Dogs, cats are all over you and I don't like anything that clings.
DH or no DH?
Lally: No DH, I like the drama of the pinch-hitter in crucial situations.
Leather or cotton?
Lally: Cotton. Cooler, comes off quicker.
Night game or day game?
Lally: Day game everywhere else but Shea. Something about Flushing at night, perhaps because I saw so many night games there during the miracle runs of '69 and '73, that still feels magical.
Picasso or Warhol?
Lally: I don't believe you can qualify any work of art, be it a painting, book, film, whatever, as good or bad, better or worse. There are no general standards, no such thing as good taste or bad taste. You either respond to a piece or you do not. For me, Picasso, hands down. Warhol isn't even in the debate. Like comparing Babe Dahlgren to Babe Ruth. But if you like Warhol more, I can understand that. I never argue individual taste.
Box seats or bleachers?
Lally: The bleachers in Yankee Stadium. In October. With a crew of great friends.
Back to the bigger questions......
If you could change one thing in pro-baseball,
what would it be?
Richard Lally: I would contract to improve competitive balance.
Who is the best player in the Major Leagues today?
Richard Lally: All around: Barry Bonds, even though his fielding skills have dramatically diminished, followed by Alex Rodriguez and Vladmir Guererro. The best hitters are Bonds, who is on another planet, and Jason Giambi. Factor in the ballpark and Giambi was the top run producer in the American League last season. I would have named him the AL MVP.
How important is baseball to society?
Richard Lally: Not important at all, just a great diversion from what ails society.
Why do you write about baseball?
Richard Lally: Like asking me why I fall in love. It is an inexplicable passion. If we could explain it, the game would lose some of its mystery and much of its lure.
Of all the books you have authored or co-authored,
does one standout to you among the others - and why?
Richard Lally: "Bombers" because I wrote it in a style that was completely different, edgier, than my other books. I took a risk there and I like to think that it worked. When Princeton University named Bombers to the Dixon Collection, its collection of books that "reflect contemporary life and thought," well, that was a big day in my house.
Do you think your life would have been different
if you had not written "The Bartender's Guide to Baseball"? If
Richard Lally: Sure, that book gave me credibility and earned me an agent, which in turn launched all my other works including my non-baseball books such as "Going for It" with Victor Kiam.
Last year, you were quoted mentioning a sequel to
"The Wrong Stuff." Is there news on that effort that you can
Richard Lally: We will definitely have an announcement around the first or second week of April. By the way, you will be able to catch Bill on "The Best Damned Sports Show" for an entire week in early April.
Are there other projects - baseball related or not
- that you have in mind for the future?
Richard Lally: Several, but I don't like to talk about a project until I finish working on it. Don't want to give away the few good ideas I might have.
If readers took away only one thing from
"Bombers," what would you want them to take away?
Richard Lally: An insight into how extraordinary talents perform under extraordinary circumstances and how even the more successful players can suffer lapses of confidence, just as we do.
If Steve Martin was a baseball player, what
position would he had played?
Richard Lally: A pitcher. Steve has all the creativity, and control of Greg Maddux, as well as the calm of a Zen sage.
That's it. Once again, our thanks to Mr. Lally for granting NetShrine this interview!
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