I’ve been reading Craig Calcaterra’s posts on Hardball Talk for several years now and I am constantly checking the site throughout the day. I’ve found that I am usually in agreement with most of what he writes. I figured if I could get an interview with him, I could expose our readers to his work as well. Well, it happened.
Where are you from?
I was born in Flint, Michigan and lived there until I was 11 when my family moved to West Virginia, ultimately winding up in a town called Beckely which, for idiosyncratic reasons, I consider my hometown. I’ve lived almost all of my adult life in Columbus, Ohio, however.
What are your favorite teams?
I’m a Braves fan and have been since I moved to West Virginia in the mid-80s and they were the only team I could see. I learned about baseball, however, watching the late-70s through mid-80s Detroit Tigers and still have a lot of love for those teams, even if it didn’t carry over to being a fan of Tigers teams since then.
You cover baseball for Hardball Talk, but do you follow other sports as much? If so, what sports and teams?
Not really. I used to follow and even obsess on everything. But I dropped the NFL in the mid-90s. I was mostly a Lions fan but just ceased to be interested by the NFL soon after the 49ers beat the Chargers in whatever Super Bowl that was. I stuck with the NBA much longer and still watch some games from time to time, but it’s gone away for the most part. I went to Ohio State and still consider myself a Buckeyes fan, but I’ve even let that lapse quite a bit. Baseball takes up most of my time and energy these days.
What did you do professionally before you became a sports writer?
I was a lawyer for 11 years before sports writing became a full time job. Civil litigation, working for law firms mostly.
How did you get into sports writing?
I was getting burnt out on the law. I needed something positive to fill my time, so I just started up a blog about baseball. No one read it for a while. Then people read it. Within about two and a half years of starting it up, I was able to land a full time job with NBC. It was really random and lucky, but it changed my life.
What are the aspects of sports writing you like the most? The least?
The most: just spending my day talking about and writing things I’d be talking about anyway.
The least: it’s really hard for me to think of something about it I don’t like. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I like to do.
Are there any sports writers you read more than others? If so, why do you like them over other sports writers?
Joe Posnanski. Tyler Kepner. Rob Neyer. There are a lot of different ones, too many to mention. The common denominator are writers who are open to new information and talk about the game as it is, not how they wish it was or presume it to be.
What does MLB need to do to get back to being “America’s Pastime?”
I don’t think it ever will be the way it used to be. Back in the golden age it was basically baseball and … nothing else. Maybe boxing and horse racing. Now there are just too many other sports and pastimes for people to choose from and nothing will ever dominate the national consciousness the way baseball used to.
I’ve read your articles on-line for years now, but for those that haven’t, what are your thoughts on the following subjects:
– the Baseball Hall of Fame: it risks irrelevance if the voters continue to keep out the best players.
– the “Steroid Era”: unfortunate to some degree, but ultimately it was just a different era like the deadball era, the 50s, or about five or six different eras baseball has seen.
– Instant Replay: Inevitable. Needed. Millions of people can see the right calls within seconds of the plays happening. Why not the umpires?
– “homer” sports writers: Also inevitable. And thankfully rare. None of them, however, can keep people from enjoying and assessing the game they love.
– Pete Rose: He should be in the Hall of Fame. He should also remain barred from any position of responsibility in baseball. He broke serious rules and still represents a risk to the game. But his playing career happened and we should stop pretending it didn’t.
Do you have any predictions for the upcoming season?
Not yet, hahaha. Still waiting for all the free agents to sign. Here’s a bold one: most of the teams that were good last year will be good this year and the ones that were bad last year will be bad this year. That prediction actually holds pretty true most years.
Do you have any tips for aspiring sports writers?
Write regularly. No matter where it is, write regularly. Forming good habits is just as important as knowing the game.
I know in many of your articles for Hardball Talk, you use many movie references. What are your favorite movies of all-time? What are your favorite sports movies?
Favorite movies ever: “Miller’s Crossing,” “Blade Runner,” “The Godfather,” “The Conversation.”
Favorite sports movies: “Bull Durham,” “Major League,” “Eight Men Out.”
I just want to take a minute to thank Craig once again for taking the time to do this interview. If you visited the Hardball Talk website between Tuesday and after the MLB Hall of Fame announcement on Wednesday, you would have seen just how busy he has been writing many articles for that site. I am honored that he took the time out of his very busy schedule to answer these questions in what is the first interview I’ve ever done in my seven years as a sports writer.