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Friday, October 1, 2010

Twists and Turns and New Directions

Every so often my wife gives me that look. It comes most often when I go into some long and interesting (to me) explanation of how something happened or something went down, then get to the point or the kicker and the payoff hasn't been worth the journey getting there.

I have that in mind with this post, about how I got to a couple recent profiles, including tonight's of 1990 Indianapolis Indians manager Tim Johnson. And, my wife's actually involved in this explanation, at least of Johnson's post.

I've been meaning to do a post about some of the recent players I've featured and how their stories came to be researched. There's been some interesting ones. They've also been ones that, at first, I didn't think would be that interesting, because I just couldn't find anything interesting. But, after a couple extra searches and twists and turns, I found, what I thought, was some interesting stuff.

My favorite recent example of a last-ditch search making a profile interesting was a couple days ago, the one about Tim Sherrill. In my Google and Google News Archive searches I'd found references to him as a pro fisherman. But I didn't have the link confirming for me that it was the same one. One last search uncovered a Podcast of a Missouri fishing radio show with a great interview of Sherrill that was basically the backbone of the profile.

Then there was yesterday's profile of Chris Padget. The same problem. I'd found the stories about him as a high school coach, but didn't have that link confirming it was the same guy. Some searches related to his college gave me that link. Then I searched at his hometown paper directly and found the cool story about him stepping down that confirmed everything and also was the backbone of his story.

Ryan over at The Great Orioles Autograph Project, commented on my recent Vic Rodriguez post. I was actually kind of disappointed in that one, as I had to go with a quote from Rodriguez about another manager. This guy spent nearly two decades in the minors with only two short trips to the majors, and there were absolutely no (free and linkable) stories where he talked about that trek.

That gets me to Tim Johnson. With Johnson, I didn't start with Google or Google News. I started right with the diary book from one of his players, Steve Fireovid. Fireovid is in the CMC set and his profile will come when the randomizer picks him. But early on in this blog, I discovered his book, The 26th Man. It's literally his diary of the 1990 Indianapolis season. Perfect for this blog. I've gotten to reference it a couple times before. It even changed the Randy Braun profile into an interesting one, chronicling Braun's release from the Indians.

So, that's where I started with Johnson. And there were plenty of references, three great ones. There were accounts of two clubhouse tirades, the Indians were having a bad year. Johnson threw french fries in one and a laundry cart in another, both I'll reference tonight. There was also an account of a motivational speech about baseball and about pressure. Pressure, Johnson told his team, was not on the baseball field. Real pressure was in Vietnam, when Johnson depended on the guy next to him. I took a mental note reading that: He was a veteran.

I read all three passages to my wife. She suggested somehow emphasizing these two areas of his managing style: tirades and motivational speeches. That was sort of the direction I was going, too. Throw in a couple game results and maybe a quote from somewhere else and I had a profile.

Then I started the actual research. It was Johnson's write-up in Baseball-Reference's Bullpen that shot me back to that Vietnam quote. I quickly did other research to confirm. Bullpen is kind of like Wikipedia. It has good information and can point you in the right direction, but I don't like to rely on it.

A quick search confirmed it: Johnson never was in Vietnam. It was a story that was apparently all over back in 1998 and 1999, but it was something I'd never heard about. Johnson became manager of the Blue Jays for 1998, using the same motivational stories about his combat in Southeast Asia. But the stories were lies. He was found out and it cost him his job and his credibility.

I read that to my wife, too. And gave the obvious comment, "well that kind of takes this one in a different direction." She agreed.

So Tim Johnson is up for tonight. In the meantime, check out those other profiles if you haven't already:

317 - Chris Padget, Miss the Players, 9/30/10
122 - Tim Sherrill, Fishing and Baseball, 9/28/10
564 - Vic Rodriguez, Position to Know, 9/22/10

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