SSTN Interviews Author David Russell
SSTN: Today, in the interest of some fun and fair play, we are giving some time to a writer who chronicles New York’s other team, the Mets. We are here with author David Russell who recently published Fabulous to Futile in Flushing: A Year-by-Year History of the Mets.
David, it is great to have this discussion with you. Thanks for coming to Start Spreading The News.
Thanks for having me and giving equal time to the enemy.
Please begin by telling us a little about your book.
The book is a season-by-season recap of Mets history with little quizzes and trivia thrown in. In nearly 60 seasons they’ve had highs and lows but they’ve rarely been dull.
Please share with us the publishing process. After you wrote the first draft, what took place? Did you hire a proofreader or editor? How difficult was it for you to secure a publisher? In short, take us behind the scenes in your publishing journey.
I had co-written two autobiographies before — Tom Gamboa: My Life In Baseball and Rod Gaspar: Miracle Met — and wanted to do a book on Mets history. Originally it was going to be about Opening Day games but that’s a little too narrow and anyone can go on baseballreference.com and see what happened. I reached out to Summer Game Books and we kicked around ideas, which involved expanding upon each season. I sent a few sample chapters to the publisher and he liked what he saw.
Do you have other works in process? Please tell us about them.
I don’t have any books I’m working on at the moment. There was so much research I did for this book that I want to take a break for a bit.
When we write and research, we learn. What was the biggest lesson you learned in writing this book?
I learned how much time and effort really goes into a project like this. And how much is really online. Baseball reference is a godsend and there were so many old news articles that really helped, in addition to so many games being on YouTube, which only started in recent years because MLB used to be very strict.
I also knew the Mets were always a pitching-first team but it doesn’t totally sink in until I’m writing that Cleon Jones led the team with 52 RBI or that the 1972 Mets didn’t have a single player with 100 hits or that Daniel Murphy led the 2009 team with 12 home runs.
The Mets are often seen as New York’s second baseball team – most often playing in the shadow of the Yankees. What can the Mets do to break away from that and have a big presence in New York like the Yankees. The city is certainly big enough for two teams, no?
It’s big enough for two — it used to be big enough for three. The problem for the Mets is the team they share a city with is the arguably the most recognizable team in the world. A lot of Mets fans have the small brother complex but what team can really compare themselves to one that hasn’t had a losing season since 1992?
Maybe the momentum shifts a little if Steve Cohen buys the team and spends more but it’s not enough to spend. You have to spend smart.
What do you think, outside of the 2000 World Series was the greatest Yankees vs Mets story? Was it a game, a inter-league series, or maybe a time when both teams sought the same player?
I might have to go with 1997, just the fact that the Mets and Yankees were playing games that meant something for the first time instead of spring training or the Mayors Trophy Game. Dave Mlicki tossing a shutout and Tino Martinez beating the Mets with a walk-off single off John Franco made it memorable.
I’d also throw 2015 in the mix because they met in late September when the Mets were closing in on the NL East title and the Yankees were fighting for a playoff spot. It’s rare for both teams to be good at the same time and the fact that they met so late in the season made it better.
What did you learn about the Yankees by studying the Mets?
I have an even greater appreciation for all the championships the Yankees have won. I started following baseball in the late 1990s and the Yankees won every year and it was just how it was. It was taken for granted. They were the Yankees. And then you realize how difficult it is to win, how everything has to come together. Those Mets from 1984-1990 only won once but that’s better than the stacked Indians teams from 1995-2001 never winning.
The Mets have won twice in their history. Houston started playing the same year and have only won once. The Angels began the year before the Mets and have only won once. The Padres have been around since 1969 and have never won. You just appreciate how much has to go right for a team to win one title, let alone becoming a dynasty.
In looking at the history of baseball, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
I think Steve Garvey would make for a fascinating read between his on-field and off-field life. He was one of the faces of baseball in the 1970s and really should be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe the tabloid fodder kept him out.
I would have named a Yankee for you but there’s a book about almost all of them already.
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?
Barry Bonds was on another level from everybody else. He made opposing managers do things they never would have considered otherwise. There was Buck Showalter walking him intentionally with the bases loaded and Jim Tracy walking him to load the bases in a one-run game in the ninth to bring up Jeff Kent, the reigning MVP. Not to mention all the intentional walks when nobody was on base because it was better to let the Giants start a rally than let Bonds hit. He won seven MVPs and probably could have won nine. And the consistency. He only hit 50 homers in a season once, which is what happens when you draw 2,500 walks.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
I was one of those kids that liked the Mets and Yankees. Total front runner.
Who was your favorite player?
So many to choose from but Mike Piazza, Derek Jeter, Mark McGwire and Cal Ripken Jr. come to mind first. I guess that’s my Mount Rushmore.
What is your most prized collectible?
Another tough one. I never caught a ball during a game but I do have a home run ball Piazza hit into the Shea Stadium bleachers in batting practice.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
Nothing beats a cheeseburger and fries.
David, this has been great. I did find something we definitely agree on, I also love the Beatles.
Good luck with your book. Thanks for taking the time with us.