This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.
The baseball press box has become more like Harry Nilsson’s 1969 hit “Everybody’s Talkin.” Through the eyes of this very observant Only One, let’s take a look inside the Twins’ press box.
My normal routine when covering a game is to arrive at the ballpark at least two hours before game time. This allows me time to settle into my assigned second-row seat and hopefully get some work done before the noisy crowd — I mean the working media — arrives.
Then, more often than not, the press box turns into a coffee shop: “Chatty Cathy” reporters talk endlessly about everything but baseball. Others chuckle at their own unfunny remarks they think are witty comments. Occasionally sportswriters younger than Sid Hartman take naps — no joking during the game like Uncle Joe in Petticoat Junction.
Reporters watch movies or surf the net on laptops. I once sat behind a reporter who was emailing prospective singles on a dating website. One reporter earlier this season set up a “master control center” like Scotty’s on Star Trek — one computer on his left, a smaller one on his right, and a tablet and his phone in the middle.
Some reporters feel compelled to give voice to loud commentary like they are auditioning for the Bob Uecker role in Major League. Still others are constantly up and down getting food and stuffing their faces like they’ve been on a 40-day fast.
The Twins press box isn’t alone — the same things often happen in the smaller St. Paul Saints press box as well. And even though press boxes are majority White, we have also seen some Blacks act in similar fashion.
I thought it was only the Only One who noticed and was disturbed by this. However, last week at a baseball book signing at a South Minneapolis book store we found a kindred soul in Peter Schelling, Jr., who also observed this when he covered the Twins for City Pages.
“One guy was on eBay,” recalled Schelling of a local columnist shopping on his computer. He later told me, “The columnists for the major newspapers in town were getting up getting something to eat and talking away. They were acting like a causal fan would act.”
The freelance writer said these writers act more like “mercenaries” only at games to get paid. “These guys are paid to watch baseball. [They] should pay attention to the game,” said Schelling. He and I share the same conviction that many local writers lack imagination and passion for baseball, and their work often shows this as a result.
Although it is unrealistic that the baseball press box be like a monastery, which would be nice, it shouldn’t be a Laugh-In party either. Perhaps the Twins should erect a “talking” section like those airport smoking rooms for chatty media folks. This would allow those of us who are there to watch games to do so without the unnecessary distractions.
However, I’m daydreaming. These days, being in the baseball press box is a Marvin Gaye experience. It makes you want to holler and put up both hands.
It’s about time
John Donaldson, who won over 400 games and amassed over 5,000 strikeouts during a 25-year career, mostly in the Negro Leagues, will be inducted Thursday into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“I have been working on this project daily for the past 17 years,” said Peter Gorton, who is spearheading the induction effort, to the MSR. Donaldson’s importance in the history of Negro Leagues baseball has been long overlooked.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.