SSTN Interviews Author Ed Odeven
SSTN: Today we are here with Ed Odeven, author of “Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg: A Collection Of Interviews With The Legendary Columnist.”
Ed, it is great to have this discussion with you. Thanks for coming to Start Spreading The News.
Thanks for inviting me to discuss my new ebook, “Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg: A Collection of Interviews With The Legendary Columnist.“
Please tell us a little more about yourself. How did you get your start in journalism?
I’m a veteran sports journalist who got his start as a radio correspondent for Sahuaro High School football home games in Tucson, Arizona, during my junior and senior years. My family moved from New Jersey to Tucson before my sophomore year, and while watching a ton of sporting events on TV and attending spring training games and Pacific Coast League games that first year in the desert, I had an urge to get some experience as a broadcaster. So, on one hot summer day in 1990, I walked into the KTUC 1400 AM radio station offices downtown and asked if there were any opportunities for aspiring sports broadcasters. Fortunately, the station’s sports director, Mike Gabrielson, was both polite and eager to help. He recommended that I help out on the Friday night football highlights show. So I went to Sahuaro High games with a small notebook and an eagerness to speak to players and coaches after games, hurriedly jotted down stats from the press box staff, and went to a local Dunkin’ Donuts or Taco Bell, blocks away from the school, and called in my three-to-five minute live report on a payphone. (I guess that seems like the Middle Ages now, doesn’t it?)
Please begin by telling us a little about your book and where it can be purchased.
Jerry Izenberg’s longevity, sustained excellence, and impressive storytelling (and writing skills) piqued my interest in interviewing him. Back in 2015, he agreed to an interview with me. We spoke for about three hours on the phone. It was a great start. Follow-up shorter interview sessions and email exchanges filled in the blanks for some of my questions. I initially thought about just writing a series of stories, which did appear on my blog site, edodevenreporting.com, but I eventually expanded the idea into a book, and added a Part II with dozens of journalists sharing their thoughts on Jerry’s career and legacy.
I choose to self-publish as an ebook in order to get the product out without the hassle of rejection letters and constant searching for a publisher. I used the site Draft2Digital, and published on September 10, 2020, Izenberg’s 90th birthday.
Among the online sites that sell the book are:
Apple Books – https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1531372004
Rakuten Kobo (in Japan) – http://store.kobobooks.com/Search/Query?fcmedia=Book&query=9781393599937
Vivlio (in France) – https://www.vivlio.fr/rechercher/result/?q=9781393599937
Please share with us the publishing process. After you wrote the first draft, what took place? Did you hire a proofreader or editor? In short, take us behind the scenes in your publishing journey.
I had a first draft of the 15 chapters that comprise “Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg” in 2017, but they were revised many times within the next few years, and the addition of an Introduction, Foreword, along with a chapter titled “An Appraisal,” and more fine-tuning took some time, what with my work as a full-time editor/reporter at The Japan Times through March 2020, and now for the English-language website JAPAN Forward since May.
Part II of the book was a big undertaking, too, asking for, setting up, and conducting phone interviews and many others by email. The key chapters of Part II feature a who’s who of some of sports media’s biggest names: the late Dave Anderson, John Schulian, Ira Berkow, Wallace Matthews, Jeremy Schaap, as well as longtime NFL PR man Joe Browne, et al.
Right now the book is available digitally. How did you make that decision and are you planning on a paper copy or any other formats in the future?
I wanted a product that is available to people everywhere, and something that teachers and students can also use to study and refer to when the topics of sports history, newspaper history, and biographical studies come up.
I am interested in releasing audiobook and paperback copies in the future, and I am planning to investigate the costs for producing these versions of the book, which is now about 52,000 words.
Please tell us a little about Jerry Izenberg and why you chose him as the subject of your book.
Jerry Izenberg is a sportswriter whose career began a few years after World War II (1951) and extends well into the 21st century. From attending the first 53 Super Bowls to dozens of Triple Crown horse races, prize fights, World Series, Olympics, obscure events, you name it, he’s seen it.
I chose him because of his willingness to grant me interviews and because of the fact that I grew up as a kid in New Jersey reading his columns from time to time, and when I had some nostalgia for my youth – before moving to Arizona – I had the luxury in later years of finding his columns on the Internet, which I found myself reading religiously during Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl, or big-fight week. He knows how to spin a tale, has a great eye for detail, and a moral compass that I admire. He’s always fighting for the little guy and for causes of racial and social justice.
Do you have other works in process? Please tell us about them.
Right now, I do not. For now, I want to focus on promoting “Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg.” I think it’s a book that people will enjoy, especially for the variety of topics.
I think it’s fair to say that it can be labeled as an anecdotal biography for Part I.
Part II is a more insider’s look at Jerry’s career, as I mentioned above.
When we write and research, we learn. What was the biggest lesson you learned in writing this book?
I learned that there are lots and lots of people aware of the breadth and depth of Jerry’s career, but there are also nearly just as many people I reached out to who never heard of him. It seems that there is however, universal respect and admiration for Izenberg’s close frienship with Muhammad Ali across the decades.
Do you have any great baseball stories in this book you can share (in brief) with our audience?
Impressions of how baseball and the media culture of baseball changed as TV money altered the landscape of sports is cited. Reporters taking trains everywhere with teams, for example, before baseball moved west.
A real insider’s story of getting to know Roger Maris during his career and in his dying days is included. Jerry talked about how Maris agreed to take an experimental drug to treat lung cancer, even though the doctor told him it wouldn’t help him, but could help others after the doctors learned about how it affected him.
Izenberg talked about his befriending a wife of one of the Newark Bears players (George Stirnweiss) when he was a young kid in the late 1930s. At first Stirnweiss had refused to sign an autograph for Jerry. His wife found out and later presented him a ball with autographs from every player on the team.
He also told a tale about Fidel Castro pitching for the Havana Sugar Kings, a pro ball team, in the late 1950s.
He spoke about an African-American sportswriter coping with racism while being forced to sit on the roof of a press box in the late 1940s.
It is all quality stuff that I am proud to bring to my readers.
Jerry Izenberg also wrote a lot about boxing. Are you a boxing fan? Who is your favorite boxer? What’s your favorite boxing movie?
I am a big boxing fan. In the 1980s, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Robert Duran were favorites that I saw live on TV. I was a big fan of Bernard Hopkins in later years.
Rocky I is still at the top, though “When We Were Kings” is a favorite documentary, capturing the essence of Ali-Foreman in Africa.
I am a big fan of the Rocky movies. I’m glad Rocky is high on your list!
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
Has anybody written a really definitive book on pinch runners?
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?
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
New York Yankees
Who was your favorite player?
Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield (tie)
What is your most prized collectible?
A baseball autographed by Bob Gibson
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
Spaghetti and meatballs, though really good pizza and stuffed shells would top the list any day of the week, too.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience –
Thank you for considering purchasing this book, reading it, gaining an understanding of Jerry Izenberg’s life and times and sharing it with family and friends.
Ed, it was great having you here. I wish you only the best with the eBook. Keep up the great work and please keep in touch!