My all-time favorite sports writer is Lisa Winston.
Is Lisa the most talented scribe I’ve ever worked with? Probably not.
Is she the most successful scribe I’ve ever worked with? Also probably not.
Does she have more swag than Tom Verducci? More bylines than Tyler Kepner? More name recognition than Ken Rosenthal? More front-office contacts than Joel Sherman? More TV experience than Buster Olney?
No, no, no, no and no. But what Lisa, my longtime colleague and wonderfully regarded former Baseball Weekly scribe, leads the world in is goodness. She’s simply a nice person with tremendous talent who learned—early on—the power of relating with players. That’s why, during my time covering baseball at Sports Illustrated, Lisa served as both a friend and role model. And it’s also why her website, Who The Fuck Is This Guy?, is a must-stop spot for information on every person making his Major League debut in 2018.
One can follow Lisa on Twitter here. She’s both an absolute gem, and the 358th Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN: So Lisa, we first met when you were writing for USA Today’s Baseball Weekly, mainly covering minor league baseball. And I wanna go big and broad here: What’s your absolute money story from the minors? The craziest, weirdest, scariest, oddest thing you ever experienced?
LISA WINSTON: It was 2005, my last full season at Baseball Weekly (I am going to refer to it as Baseball Weekly instead of Sports Weekly for sentiment’s sake!), and we were right in the midst of minor league All-Star season. I would usually go on the road to at least one or two Class A games, which were all held in late June, and then hit Double-A and/or Triple-A which coincided with the MLB game in July.
For a few years, the two “high-level Class A” leagues, Carolina and California, would play against each other, trading coasts. This year, I got “lucky” because the game was being played in Frederick, Md., literally a 20-minute drive from my house.
While the Triple-A game would be a multi-day bonanza with a home run derby and gala one night and the game itself the next, the Class A events crammed everything into one night.
I’d done a few interviews with players I wanted to write features on from both leagues, and we (players and some media) were clustered in front of the two dugouts to watch the pre-game home run derby. I’d done this for years and had never come even close to having a foul ball hit anywhere near me. But there I was, standing with a few folks right by the dugout on the first base side when Miguel Montero hit a screaming line drive foul ball down the line. I didn’t even have time to react or jump or duck before it hit me smack on the lower shinbone of my right leg.
You could hear the ooooooohs from the crowd and you could hear the crack it made hitting me before it just kind of trickled into the dugout where a photographer grabbed it and gave it to me as a souvenir, LOL. I didn’t even wince. (I believe there is a recording of the on-deck batter, Howie Kendrick, saying something like “Wow, she didn’t even go down!” I’m super-proud of that!)
To be honest, my leg went so numb it didn’t hurt (yet) … I just gingerly walked into the dugout and sat down, where one of the trainers immediately put a huge ice pack on it … you could already see that there was a teeny tiny boo boo (I’d had childhood playground spills with worse results) and a huge goose egg on the shin.
Because I still wasn’t in pain (yet) and I lived so close, the trainer told me to get my ass in my car and get home while I could still drive, which I did (the only All-Star game I actually missed!) … When I got home, I took off the bandages, cleaned up the boo-boo, and rebandaged the leg.
I went to the doctor the next day who did some X-rays so make sure there was no fracture, and she put some antibiotic on the teeny tiny boo boo and put a light bandage on that, and then I kept it wrapped because the bruise was so bad, it was definitely tough to walk.
Important note here: A day or two before the incident, I had scraped myself on some rocks and the abrasion was kind of ugly so my doctor had put me on a two-week course of antibiotics to play it safe.
So over the course of the next 10 days-to-two weeks, my bruise was healing pretty well and the next round of All-Star games came up, with the Triple-A game being held in Sacramento. I think I finished my antibiotics the day before I left.
By the time I got to the gala the night before the game, I noticed that my lower leg and foot were really swollen but I thought it might be due to compression after a five-hour flight. A few players mentioned my leg looked like someone’s grandma’s leg. Funny stuff.
The next day, before heading out to the park, I finally decided to take a peek under the bandage at the “boo boo.” At this point I was maybe 24-to-48 hours off of antibiotics. I saw that the tiny boo boo was now about an inch or two in diameter and had turned … well, black. I didn’t think this was normal but I wasn’t totally freaked out (again, yet).
When I got out to the ballpark, though, just to be safe, I approached the Sacramento trainer and asked him if he’d be willing to take a look at my leg. He gave me one of these, “Oh, man, are you serious?” but agreed to look at it.
Basically the moment he saw my leg, in one movement, he had pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and was on the phone to the team doctor, saying “I’m sending someone over to you right now and you have to see her immediately.”
Turned out that I had necrotizing fasciitis (more commonly referred to as “flesh-eating disease”). The doctor put me on massive amounts of new antibiotics … he wanted to put me in the hospital right then and there but I begged him to let me see if it started to heal in 24 hours (thinking, stupidly, of how much it would cost for me to be hospitalized out of network and not knowing that what I had was potentially fatal) … It did start to heal almost immediately. But if I hadn’t shown the leg to the trainer and he hadn’t sent me to the doctor … well, I don’t think I’d be Quazing or if I was, it would be with one leg.
So in a nutshell, Miguel Montero almost killed me. But … a few years later I got him to autograph the baseball. This is the only time in my life as a working journalist that I asked a player for his autograph. I think I can be forgiven for that professional lapse in this situation, yes?
I guess that’s my money story.
First headshot, for a summer class at Circle in the Square, summer 1978
J.P.: In 2002 you served as the ESPN2 dugout correspondent for the Triple A All-Star Game. Don’t hate me for this, but that sounds sorta simultaneously awful and amazing. What do you recall?
L.W.: This may fall under the “it sounded like a good idea at the time” category but my recollection of it is definitely more amazing than awful.
Just to give a little context, I was not then, nor did I ever claim (or even aspire) to be, an “on-air type.” I had been an occasional “talking head” when they needed someone to talk baseball on outlets like CNN and a now-defunct channel called “America’s Talking” or something along those lines.
Some of the AT folks migrated over to the not-yet-launched Fox News Channel (Don’t judge! I didn’t know!) and their original program lineup featured a three-hour live sports talk show that aired every Sunday morning from 6-to-9 am east coast. They recruited me to be the lead co-host and so I did that for several months in 1996 and 1997 (still working full-time at Baseball Weekly). I’d head up to New York every Saturday to go over the topics and guests, do the show Sunday morning, and be on my way back home Sunday afternoon.
I quit the job in the spring of 1997 for a variety of reasons, but the main one was it was just really negatively affecting my quality of life (I’ll give them credit, though … they would foot the bill for me to bring my then-6-year-old daughter with me every other weekend or I would never have taken it to start with).
But my stint there, I guess, is what put me on the radar for the few occasions that there was a need for someone who could talk minor league baseball on the air and if I recall correctly that’s why ESPN reached out to me for the Triple-A All-Star Game (which I covered every year as a writer anyway).
I always did all my homework on the players and was familiar enough with most of them to know their backstories, their quirks, their hobbies—I had a famous/infamous survey I’d send out to every minor league team each spring (with SASEs) and a reasonable percentage of players would send them back so I had a nice little collection of fun anecdotes.
The good part about that gig for them was that I gave them a few great ideas for fun personal-side clips they could shoot … for example, I knew that Michael Cuddyer did amazing card tricks, including one that no matter how many times I saw him do it (and I’d always ask him to keep showing me), I could not for the life of me spot how he did it. So they got him to do it in front of a bunch of the players and they all just fell out laughing in amazement. So that was maybe the best moment of the broadcast.
But I had not done this kind of live no-room-for-retakes work before and there were a few cringeworthy moments (let’s put it this way … I do have a tape of this somewhere but I have never had the stomach to watch it. I’ll save it for the grandkids). The crew had somehow not noticed that I am “fun-sized” and I think the first “live on air” interview they had me do was with a pitcher who was about 6-foot-6. They just stuck me out there with him holding a mic and we were on air … and I looked like the freaking Statue of Liberty holding up that mic. It just looked, I’m sure, really amateurish. After that, a production assistant carried around a milk crate for me to stand on.
I also have very weirdly-shaped inner ears and have never been able to wear in-ear buds—they actually had one pair custom-made for me at Fox—but they handed me some stock earpiece for this broadcast and I could not hear any of the cues so I did have a dreaded “Is this thing on?” moment live for all of America to see before one of the back-from-commercial in-dugout interviews. Fortunately, I’m guessing “all of America” watching were the families of the players who hadn’t been able to make it to Oklahoma City and my husband who was taping it from home.
Oh, also? It was July in Oklahoma City and on the field it was about eleventy-mazillion degrees. Of course, professional women broadcasters would tough it out with great hairspray and makeup and look awesome. I had no hair person, no makeup artist, and hated wearing makeup anyway … so IIRC I had my hair in a messy sweaty ponytail and maybe some lip gloss. I did not look like any of the on-air broadcasters you see these days.
So, of course, those are the only things I remember … the screw-ups. I was told later that it went really well. Maybe someday I’ll watch the tape and decide for myself.
Interviewing Bruce Aven at the 1997 Triple-A All-Star Game.
J.P.: You attended the Major League Scouting Bureau Scout School, graduating in 2009. I literally have no idea what this is. Please explain …
L.W.: This actually still exists, though it is under new leadership and I’m not sure how the current iteration compares to the “good old days.” The MLSB is (or was) basically a group of veteran scouts who work for MLB rather than for a given organization, and their scouting reports can be accessed by any organization through a database. There is no bias, and everyone has access to the same reports.
“Scout school,” as we referred to it, was a two-week program where basically you’re taught all the ropes of scouting, from learning how to recognize pitches, batting stances, etc., to how to grade players to how to write a scouting report … it’s almost like learning a language because everyone needs to know the terminology. Everything is addressed, from proper etiquette to proper attire (I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to wear a tie-dyed dress when I went out to scout).
Each organization could send one or two students, either people they hoped to train to be scouts or individuals in other areas of their front office such as player development who would really benefit from the information.
They would also generally allow a few individuals who were not affiliated or sponsored by an organization … international scouting hopefuls, occasionally journalists, etc. I actually attended scout school twice, in fact. I went in 2002 to write an in-depth feature about it for Baseball Weekly. That time, there would be occasional programs that I could not participate in, and while I was an active student for most of it, I did not get graded (all of the participants get graded and ranked at the end).
In 2009, I had left MLB.com and was really interested in getting a job in a front office in scouting or player development, so the folks at the MLSB, who already knew me, were kind enough to allow me to return as a full-on participant “independently” without being sponsored by a team.
While I never saw the rankings my roommate did (she worked for a front office and every scouting department received the full rankings at the end of the session) and I’ll just say that she told me that I finished ranked pretty well. That said, I never did get a front office job. Sad face.
It was a fantastic experience both times, though. I really did make some “friends for life,” and it’s been a lot of fun to see some of my classmates land in some very prominent front office positions. Whenever we see each other, there’s something about having been “scout school classmates” that is a lot like being fraternity brothers (and yes, I can say that because I happened to be in a fraternity in college … not a sorority, but a fraternity, because when my college went co-ed the year before I started they told all the fraternities that the only way they could remain open is if they went co-ed. But that’s a question you didn’t ask!)
Portrait of a fledgling Minor League beat writer in Summer Woodbridge Virginia
J.P.: OK, you’re not only a new Quaz—you’re actually married to Quaz alum. So you met Wayne when you worked as tour publicist for Skyy. Two questions: A. How, exactly, did you meet? B. What was it like being a tour publicist for a band?
L.W.: As for A, We “met cute,” I think. My first “real” job after college was working for a music PR firm in New York. I manned the front desk, handled all the incoming calls, typed up the press releases, did the receptionist/administrative stuff, and finally got my first “assignment” which was doing the “tour” PR for Skyy, an eight-person R&B band from Brooklyn that was pretty hot stuff at the time with their hit song “Call Me” (“… here’s my number and a dime, call me any time!”)
As “tour publicist,” I assisted the main publicist (an amazing woman named Jeffi who is a friend to this day) and handled sending out press releases, following up on them and trying to set up interviews and press coverage for all of the band’s shows all over America except in New York City or Los Angeles (those two cities were always handled by the main publicist). (This also pretty much answers B).
The band was playing Radio City Music Hall, opening for Kool and the Gang, and so there were some New York media gigs they set up for them, including appearing on a kids show on then-fledgling Nickelodeon called “Livewire.” The show filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theatre.
Although it was a New York gig, which meant I was not handling any of the press there, Jeffi thought it would be a good idea for me to actually meet the band members, so she brought me over to the theatre for the taping. I remember that it was April 6, Passover, and it was snowing.
I went up to the dressing room and was chatting with the band members who I recognized, and we were all eating New York deli sandwiches. There was one guy that I thought was their manager and I don’t remember how it happened but for some reason we both started singing all of “Springtime for Hitler” together (not just the chorus but right from the intro … “Germany was having trouble, what a sad, sad story …”)
It turned out he was their keyboard player (I can be forgiven for this lapse, because he had just replaced their original keyboard player and most of the photos I had of them were of the first guy, who was also a nice Jewish boy from New York).
I won’t get into the details of how/when we finally started dating/got married (which wasn’t for another two years) but that’s how we met.
Just to follow up on B, though … being a tour publicist could be fantastic when you had a band like Skyy, with several great, funny members who were wonderful about doing interviews and who had a fabulous road manager who was always reliable about accommodating what we needed.
It wasn’t as fantastic when you had a douchebag client whose bigger douchebag road manager had such a high opinion of himself and his client (who would go on to be a huge star) that even though said client was the opening act for a much bigger name, he actually got livid when said client was not greeted at some airport in South Dakota by all three major TV networks (do they even have all three major TV networks in South Dakota?) … and since one of my administrative jobs had been transcribing said client’s “information interview” and had to listen to his ranting obnoxious sexist racist redneck comments, I really didn’t want to deal with this manager calling me at home over a holiday weekend to tear me a new one (I still don’t know how he got my home number). I did, however, learn the term “dingleberry” and its meaning from the taped interview. Gross. The guy is a superstar now and has this whole “America’s homeland hero” image and all I can think of is his talking about feeling some girl up and finding a dingleberry.
With the great Paul Blair.
J.P.: You once took a sports media summer class at Pace University with the legendary Bob Wolff. I, sadly, never met Bob—but he’s larger than larger than larger than life. What did you learn from the man? What impression did he make?
L.W.: I hate to admit that I was not as familiar with Bob Wolff when I took the class as I would become later. But I can say that, truly, I can thank him (and everyone else can blame him) for my career. He was an amazing teacher and communicator who so clearly really cared about every student. This sounds like a cliché but it’s true. His passion and enthusiasm every class just made you want to work harder, try harder, be what he thought you could be.
He was simply one of the kindest, nicest, most inspiring and most humble men I have ever met in the business. Just awesome. I am so lucky that, for whatever reason, he saw something in me that I definitely didn’t see and went to bat for me (no pun intended).
I was working in college administration at the time (at Manhattanville, in fact) and my weekly class was the highlight of my week … no matter how tired I was after work, I couldn’t wait to go to class! He brought in some great speakers from all walks of sports media (beat writers, broadcasters, etc.)
The culmination of the class was a sports talk show we produced together where every class member was either interviewed or did an interview with someone, and everyone got to shine. I was actually the anchor for it (this is another tape I need to rewatch someday … I generally hate seeing myself on tape but it would be a lot of fun 30 years later!)
At the end of the semester, he sat down with every student privately to talk about where he thought they could go in the business. The funny thing is that he really wanted me to pursue the broadcast side of the business, as an anchor or sportscaster and was willing to hook me up with his agent, etc., but honestly, it was 1986, I think, and I knew I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with being a “trailblazer” as a woman on that side of the business.
As it happened, he also had brought in one of the baseball editors from Westchester-Rockland newspapers for one of our assignments (doing stories on a Yankee game) and he had said he’d like to hire me there, so I ended up stringing high school football games for them that fall and then that winter went to work full time in the Northern bureau (how I got to know Mahopac!) for the next two years covering high school and local amateur sports, before spending a year down in the county bureau and then finally getting the job covering the Prince William Cannons and moving to Virginia.
Sometimes I do wonder how my life would have been different if I’d followed his original advice and pursued broadcasting but I’m happy with how things worked out overall in the long run.
With Ron Gant.
J.P.: You started doing this right around the time when women were becoming a little more ubiquitous on the sports scene. So how did ballplayers react to you when you first started entering clubhouses? Did you have any awful experiences? Ever have anyone stand up for you? Etc.
L.W.: You’re right in terms of the timeline that when I started in the business, it was still kind of unusual for a woman to be covering baseball. But since I was covering the minor leagues for a good chunk of that time, I actually very rarely needed to deal with “clubhouse issues.”
For my first three years, when I covered the Prince William Cannons (the Yankees’ Class A club in the Carolina League), they actually had a “No reporters in the clubhouse” rule (I believe they may have instituted that rule before I got there because there was a beat writer that was, shall we say, not very popular but they couldn’t ban one person so they just made it a NO REPORTERS AT ALL rule and it stuck). The manager (there were three in my three different years) had an office at the very front of the clubhouse and we would go there (or I would go there, because often as not I was the only reporter covering the game) right after the game and talk to him there.
I would know which player I wanted to talk to, hop the gate onto the field immediately after the final out, and just grab (figuratively, not literally) the player and talk to him on the field or in the dugout right then and there. I was incredibly lucky that in three years covering the team, I NEVER had a problem with a single Cannons player and they were always cooperative. I made sure to get to know them all from the get-go, and meet new players as they joined the team, and I had a good reputation among the crew as being a fair, honest writer who didn’t stir shit but told their stories and knew my stuff. I knew which players didn’t really LIKE to talk, and which ones could always be counted on for a good quote.
Because I wrote for a local daily (well, six days a week), the Cannons PR people would apparently (I say this because I never saw it but was told) post my game stories and features above the urinals in the men’s room (I guess to give guys something to read while they peed). The minor league writer at newly-formed Baseball Weekly lived in Alexandria, and would come to lots of Cannons games just as a fan. When we met in the pressbox (I always sat in the stands but would go to the pressbox for notes or if it was raining), he said “Oh, I know who you are—I see your name on the men’s room walls all the time.”
Anyway, long story short (too late for that?), I wound up at Baseball Weekly about a month into the 1992 season and was there for 14 years, I guess? (Math class is hard, said Teen Barbie), becoming Minor League Editor in 1994 (the day the strike started).
Where am I going with this? Just to say that for the most part in the minors, the situation was very much like at Prince William … you hop the fence and interview the players you need to talk to after the game if it’s gamer quotes. For features, which is mostly what I did, I’d get to every game, wherever it might be (I traveled a lot), while they were still laying down the baselines and watering the grass … I’d be the first one in the dugout before they started trickling out for BP (in fact, there’s an educational video in a series that is about me and it’s called “First One At The Ballpark.”) It was comfortable and casual and hard to escape me, LOL.
The fact is, I am no more comfortable being the person who is dressed in a roomful of naked people than they are. I’m probably less comfortable because they’re used to it. But on the occasions that I did have to do the clubhouse thing (during my 2009 season doing back-up beat writer work for MLB.com), I’d always have a clipboard that I kept at a good level and I knew the color of every player’s eyes.
I’d say offhand I only had one unpleasant clubhouse experience, and while it was veiled (so, loud creepy gross comments that weren’t specifically directed AT me but obviously meant to be heard by me), the player I was actually there to interview was absolutely mortified and hugely apologetic (it was not his fault at all, and he’s one of the nicest players ever in the game so I almost felt worse for how mortified he was than I was offended by the jerky comments). Did that make any sense?
J.P.: You worked for MLB.com for a few years. So, with your journalism background, I ask this: Can MLB.com and MLB Network reporters actually be journalists? What I mean is, can you freely cover your employer? Are the complications that can’t be avoided, looked past?
L.W.: This is a really interesting question and I’m not 100 percent sure of the answer. But if it helps, I think in this day and age of social media and electronic media and all sorts of self-started blogs and websites etc., there might actually be sort of a blurred line between “journalists” and “reporters.”
I think MLB.com and the Network have the luxury of being able to hire some of the best reporters and writers and broadcasters around. They pay well, the benefits are great, the exposure can’t be beat. Those are jobs that people would be crazy not to want.
I’m going to hazard a guess that their beat writers (who are, almost without exception, outstanding) have the most leeway to report the news accurately without bias because it’s essential they be seen and trusted as the most reliable source about their given teams.
I’m not as sure when it comes to the “on air personalities.” I think they probably have a little more wiggle room in terms of “kicking a hot potato” elsewhere if they’re not comfortable telling it like it is.
I may be the wrong person to ask … my nickname was “Puff Mommy.” I hated writing about controversial topics, whereas other writers thrived on it. I hated writing negative stories, while others loved it. So maybe there are people who fit both roles within MLB and they know who to give what.
J.P.: I struggle with aging. You don’t seem to. I wonder why. I mean, you and I were both once hotshots. You’re 20-something, on the rise, ambitious and excited. Then, one day, you see wrinkles and your kids are bored by you. How do you handle this? How should I?
L.W.: I don’t even know how to answer this, but I’ll try.
For starters, I don’t think I was every really an ambitious 20-something, believe it or not, and I DEFINITELY never saw myself as a hotshot (if you saw me as that, thank you, I think). I kind of fell into doing something for a living that I really loved, and I hadn’t sought it out. It’s almost like it fell into my lap and I never took that for granted. Excited, yes. Always. But not really ambitious.
Part of me was always still a geeky 16-year-old inside and I often forgot I wasn’t still that geeky 16-year-old on the outside. I didn’t worry too much about “aging” per se because I always looked pretty young, and I always felt young. (Clairol helped, since I started going gray when I was 18, but the wrinkles have mostly stayed at bay).
I’ve ended up, for better or worse, kind of being forced to deal with the aging process unexpectedly due to some medical issues (which could be a lot worse, I know). They’ve hit me in an ironic way, affecting my one true “superpower” that went a long way toward making me … well, better at my job than I had any right to be. So I’ve come to terms with it and accepted it as “the new ab-normal” and pretty much gone into retirement.
I still write my longtime “debuts” column which is fun because I can enjoy seeing all these “kids” starting the next phase of their careers in the majors, something I’ve always loved. But I’m doing the column (which you can find at WhoTheFuckIsThisGuy.org) for fun and to give me something to do while I wait for Wayne to finally retire so we can move to California and I can play bingo and do arts and crafts and learn to line dance or something.
I think that last line is a good example of how I am actually embracing the aging process rather than resisting it. The only bad part is my short-term memory retention is so non-existent (the medical issue) that how on earth am I going to be able to learn how to play bridge and mah jongg?
So, I guess my advice would be to not worry about your kids finding you boring (I can’t imagine you boring, anyway), but to pick a few things that you consider to be “old people-ish” and try them out and you may find they’re really a lot of fun and that being “old” is just the new “young.” No worries, no pressures, no deadlines. Now hand over the glitter glue and no one gets hurt.
At the finish line of the Avon Walk
J.P.: What’s your take on the PED Era? Do you put Bonds and Clemens in the Hall? Sosa? McGwire? Is there a line? A rule that we should abide by?
L.W.: Oooooh. Welcome to My Unpopular Opinion. I abide by the “we may know who DID in some cases but we’ll never know for sure who DIDN’T” line of thinking. I don’t know how many people were juicing or whatever during that era, but I’m guessing that the percentage was reasonably higher than just a handful.
Bonds and Clemens tend to be the “poster boys” partly, I think, because a lot of people think of them as dickheads. But I wouldn’t be surprised if other players who have “better reputations,” who put up big numbers, hold big records, etc., may also have had a little “help” but you don’t hear them mentioned … they weren’t tested or whatever.
So my feeling is that with that in mind, I’d still have to hold the career numbers up against their contemporaries and go by that. Bonds and Clemens, yes. McGwire, no (one-trick power pony). Sosa borderline.
I’d be much more in mind to revisit people who were inducted when they weren’t playing against their true contemporaries (say, pre-1947) and question whether THEIR credentials make them Hall-worthy.
J.P.: OK, from 1989-to-1991 you were the beat writer at the Potomac News for the Class A Prince William Cannons. I can’t even imagine what that was like. Exciting? Boring? Both? What do you recall? What did you learn?
L.W.: So, I know I’ve already referenced my time covering the Cannons several times in above answers. I will say that was one of the greatest three years of my life. It was so much fun. Never boring. Often exciting (their winning the 1989 Carolina League championship as the Cinderella team to the big bad Durham Bulls). I loved being able to follow a team and its individual players from spring training through the end of the season. I was incredibly lucky that, no joke, in three seasons I worked with amazingly nice, fun, cooperative players, managers and coaches as well as a great front office.
In 1990, my second season, I found out I was pregnant during spring training. I had a few “returning players” from 1989 and wasn’t going to say anything until I got a little further into the season, but one of them noticed that I had gained some weight and actually figured out I was pregnant so there went that “secret.” The guys were amazing about it … they’d always bring me cups of water or cold wet towels when it was hot. Several of them had wives who were also pregnant that summer so we’d talk a lot about raising kids, etc. They were very solicitous.
My due date was in mid-October but after they got back from every road trip, Brad Ausmus would look me over and say “you’re definitely having that baby before October.” And she was born September 18. I joked with him for a while that if the baseball thing didn’t work out for him, he should consider a career in obstetrics.
Also, these were the days when I worked for a newspaper that was actually printed ONLY on paper with ink. There was an 11 p.m. deadline every night. If we didn’t make deadline, it went in the next day’s paper. There was no 24-hour cycle. And I had no competition. So I could just be the best possible beat writer I could be … AND I could have a real life, which I think is a very rare thing for a baseball writer in this day and age.
Plus I had great bosses who gave me tons of room above the fold. I don’t think there has ever been or will ever be a daily paper that gave that kind of space to a Class A team. I expanded the beat to not only include gamers every day but columns, stats and other features. When the team was on the road, because I couldn’t hear the radio broadcasts from my house (the station broadcast on two tin cans and a piece of string), I’d actually set up a folding chair and picnic basket in my newspaper office’s parking lot and listen to the game there (nearer the station so we picked it up) with a scorebook and a pad.
I’ve had a lot of great jobs, and while my “best” job was being the minor league editor at Baseball Weekly, if I could go BACK to one job now, it would be this one (but with the caveat of the 11 p.m. deadline, no 24-hour news cycle, etc.).
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH LISA WINSTON:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): baby-cut carrots, Nick Van Exel, Frank Seminara, Taco Bell’s new $5 cravings meal, Carole King, green T-shirts, peeling an orange, Amherst Magazine, the slider: Frank Seminara (along with being one of “my” Cannons in both 1989 and 1990, he is also our investment banker/financial advisor so how can I not rank him at the top of this list?); Amherst Magazine because along with being a big proponent of my alma mater, they also published my first non-essay piece of journalism, a feature on fellow alum (and great person), the late John Cerutti; Carole King, because my mom was her biggest fan to the point that the organist at her funeral played the entire score of “Tapestry.” You have not lived until you’ve heard “Smackwater Jack” played as a dirge at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home; I LOVE SLIDERS. Who wouldn’t love yummy little greasy burgers with cheese and onions? I might even like them more than Carole King but I want to honor my mommy; Baby-cut carrots are excellent when I’m dieting but want something crunchy and sweet; I think I would love Taco Bell’s $5 cravings meal if I ever allowed myself to go to Taco Bell but I don’t so I don’t; I look like shit in green so green T-shirts are near the bottom; I DO NOT like peeling an orange. The pulp gets stuck in my thumbnail. I do, however, love peeling tangerines but they’re not the same thing; I am asterisking Nick Van Exel because I vaguely remember liking him when he played but I can’t really recall so I don’t want to rank him unfairly low. He’s sort of showing up in my “Error 404: File Not Found” part of my brain.
• The world needs to know: What did Barry Zito’s hat smell like?: I have never met Barry Zito, much less smelled his hat but I would imagine a cross of sweat, hair product and patchouli.
• Three memories from the Triple A World Series: I am going to share just one memory of the TAWS because it’s such an awesome memory it deserves to stand alone. In 2000, someone in the TAWS department had the brilliant idea of having a noon game in Vegas … in the middle of September. In Vegas. Did I mention noon in Vegas in September? It was, approximately, eleventy-mazillion degrees. I was at the game with my daughter, who was celebrating her 10th birthday, and my husband. They were smart and sitting in the shade. I, however, was with the only other reporter at the TAWS, this cool kinda quirky guy who was, if memory serves me, wearing a maroon beret.
He knew the game was being televised, so he got on his cell phone with his dad back in New York (I think it was New York but you, I mean he, can correct me if I’m wrong) and went down to the very first row behind home plate (there were like maybe 10 people at this game) and started waving his hands and asking his dad “Can you see me now? Can you see my hand? How about now?” PS Did your dad ever see us?
Oh, okay. One more TAWS memory, though again it has nothing to do with the game itself. During the 1998 TAWS, the host hotel was Caesar’s Palace. At night, most of the players would be off enjoying the Vegas nightlife but there was a little open-area bar where I’d end up every night with then-Buffalo Bisons beat writer Mike Harrington (one of my best friends in the world to this day) and Buffalo veteran and all-around great person Jeff Manto drinking strawberry margaritas and just talking baseball for hours. If you ever want the best person to talk baseball for hours with, it’s Jeff Manto. He deserves his very own Hall of Fame.
• Four things we need to know about your house: 1. It is the ONLY single-family house I have ever lived in or ever will live in (five apartments and two townhouses, not including dorm rooms). Once we move to California, it will be rental apartments from there on out. Hubby doesn’t ever want to be a homeowner again; 2. I fell in love with this house the first time we saw it, the last day it was on the market, and the sellers sold it to us over two other equal bidders because they knew I TRULY loved it and wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it (plus, their son was my husband’s piano protégé); 3. We have the biggest yard in the town and it’s super-garden friendly because it’s totally flat and gets sun and shade, but hubby and I are both city kids and don’t know from gardening beyond trying to grow sunflowers in coffee cans on our windowsills. That said, we have awesome lilacs; 4. The house looks quite small from the outside but is surprisingly spacious inside and manages somehow to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. What more can you ask for?
• Who are your five all-time favorite Menudo members?: The little one. The big one. The other one. The one who joined that other group. Okay, I give up. I can’t even name a Menudo song.
• One question you would ask Othella Harrington were he here right now?: Who are you and why are you here right now?
• What are the keys to the perfect gas station bathroom?: On that wooden paddle next to the guy in the bulletproof booth with the gum display. Oh, WHAT? I thought you asked WHERE. No pee on the floor. Toilet paper that is not ON THE FLOOR getting stuck to my shoe. Running water a plus, ditto paper towels.
• Do you think the Rockets made a mistake trading Ralph Sampson?: The Rockets traded Ralph Sampson??? How did I miss this?
• Three athletes who were complete dicks to you: Josh Beckett (he literally hadn’t even played his first pro game yet and he was already being a dick). David Segui (see answer about awful experiences). Raul Mondesi, Sr. (I would say the latter was more of a jerk than a full-on dick, but he deliberately wasted my time which was a shame because I had a very cool package that he would have been a great addition to … his son seems like a cool kid though.)
• What happens when we die?: I get to hug my mommy again. Do not tell me if this is the wrong answer.