SSTN Interviews Sal Maiorana
SSTN: Today we are here with Sal Maiorana, Sports Columnist, Author, Radio Personality, and Sports Historian. Sal has enjoyed an award-winning career at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle for over thirty years. He is a radio personality in the Rochester market, and has authored 22 sports books.
Sal was a 2009 inductee into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame, and has earned the Rochester Press-Radio Club Sports Writer of the Year Award three times. He is here to talk baseball with us.
Sal, thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News. It is great to have this discussion with you.
Thanks a lot Paul. As a Yankee fan, I think you’re doing a great job on the blog.
Sal, you have been writing for decades. You first decided that you wanted to be a writer when you were a child, I believe in sixth grade. How did you know early on that this would be your passion and future occupation?
Yeah, I was one of the lucky ones who found my passion very early in life and remained focused on it throughout. I’ve always loved sports, played a little of everything growing up, but I also loved watching sports on television and once I came to know what a newspaper was all about, and realized that there were people who actually got paid to write about sports, well, that was it for me.
What a great story.
You know that I am a principal. If you could talk to the students in my school about how to set a career path and follow it, what would you tell them?
I would say that they should do something that interests them, not something that others tell them might be interesting. And there’s nothing wrong with false starts. If you think you might like something but realize it isn’t what you thought, then pivot. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself to one thing. Explore, and then once you find something they may want to do, be passionate about it. Try to be the best at whatever it is you want to do, and never short change a day. Obviously there are days that won’t be great, but you push through it and make the next day better.
Indeed. Successful people do that consistently – they seek to make each day the best it can be.
You are a big football fan, but you are also a sports historian who writes, often, about the Yankees. Please tell us about your Yankees book A Lifetime of Yankee Octobers.
Yes, probably my favorite book project of the 22 I’ve written. In that book, I wrote it as historical fiction, meaning the names, places and events were real life. I then injected a fictional character into the story and attached him, in some way, to every World Series championship the Yankees enjoyed through 2000. So, Joseph Kimmerle (the fictional character) began as a bat boy for the 1923 Yankees of Babe Ruth, later he became a clubhouse attendant, then he went on to a career in sports writing and covered the Yankees for decades, and finally, in his old age, he became a confidant of Joe Torre during the last Yankees dynasty. I recreated the history of the team with Kimmerle being there every step of the way. It was a great way to recap the history of the championships, and the hook was that it was done in a creative way.
I love that!
You have written and published across the sports landscape with books about football, basketball, hockey, golf, and baseball. Which sport, if any, is your favorite? Is there a sport you enjoyed playing more than writing about, or writing about more than playing?
Baseball is far and away my favorite sport, both when I played as a kid and then as a fan. My job is covering the Buffalo Bills and the NFL, and even though I was a Bills fan growing up, I’ve had to give up fandom because of my job in order to be unbiased in my reporting. With baseball, I’ve been a Yankee fan since I was old enough to throw a ball, and I have never had the occasion to cover the major leagues in my career, so that has allowed me to remain a fan of the Yankees.
The Bills are my job, the Yankees are my passion.
Another of your books, The Ultimate Season, discussed the great Yankees and Red Sox pennant race in 1978. Please share with us some of your memories of that epic 1978 season…
That was another project where I went with a historical fiction approach. In that one, I chronicled the 1978 season and the great Yankees comeback and ultimate World Series championship through the eyes of three fictional characters: a sports writer who covered the games, a female concessionaire at Yankee Stadium who was a huge Yankees fan, and a Boston bartender who, along with his regular patrons, were passionate about the Sox. Just a lot of fun to make up ways to involve my characters in what was happening in real life that season.
What current writing projects are you working on?
I just wrapped up a project that is entitled Dynasty: Yankees 1996-2000.
On my sports history website, salmaiorana.com, I’ve been writing posts for the past year that relive the biggest moments throughout the run to those four championships in five seasons. Now that I have wrapped it up, I’m pulling them all together into a book that I will self-publish on Amazon in the next month or so, and it will be available in ebook or paperback. I think Yankees fans will really enjoy the trip back to that glorious era.
A lot of Yankees fans are eager, very eager, for the next great era. That book should do very well.
There’s a lot of talk about baseball needing to be “fixed.” Is baseball broken? If you were the Commissioner of Baseball what change(s), if any, would you make to the current game?
Baseball is terribly broken and anyone who follows me on Twitter knows just how disgusted I am with what has happened to my favorite sport.
There are so many things wrong, but the biggest problems to me are as follows:
(1) The pace of play and (2) the ridiculous amount of time it takes to play these games.
I primarily blame the players for this with all their mental coaches, and process coaches, and all the routines they feel they need to perform in order to throw a pitch or stand in the batters box. It’s maddening. The lack of fundamentals we see every night, from every team, is just appalling. The game has never been played more poorly. Things that were once elemental are now completely ignored.
All of the statcast nonsense also drives me nuts. Honestly, I don’t care how hard a ball is hit – was it a base hit or was it an out? I’ll take a soft single over a scorched line drive out any day of the week. Launch angle, spin rates, three outcomes – all of it makes my head explode. I could go on for 20 paragraphs here, but I won’t.
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?
Honestly, the history of the game has been chronicled pretty wonderfully. There is no sport that I’m aware of that has had its history told in more detail than baseball. I really can’t think of anything I’d need to read about at this point.
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?
In terms of players that I actually saw play on TV, there’s been so many great ones. But if I had to pick one, even though he was on the downside of his career by the time I was really paying attention, it would be Willie Mays. I started following baseball around 1970, and he was in his final years with the Giants. He wasn’t the great Mays of the 1950s and early 60s, but he was still a fabulous ballplayer.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
The Yankees, then, now, and forever. Though I will say that I’m old enough to remember when the two leagues were completely separate, so I also followed the Cubs as my National League team, starting with their 1984 season.
Who was your favorite player?
I’ve never really had a favorite player. I’ve always been a fan of teams, not individual players. If I had to choose, Don Mattingly and Ryne Sandberg are two players I took an interest in.
What is your most prized collectible?
I’m not a collector of anything, really, but one thing I do is save all of my press passes from events that I cover. So, over 35 years in the business, I’ve got some really cool ones. Super Bowls, golf major championships, Ryder Cups, Stanley Cup playoffs, NCAA tournaments, etc.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
Bruce Springsteen. I have been listening to his music for 40 years. I hate his politics, but the music is incredible. Beyond Springsteen, classic rock n roll. U2, the Stones, the Who, Tom Petty, on and on. I’m 58, so you know where I’m coming from.
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
Of course I love pizza, and in Rochester, the best place is Salvatore’s. In Buffalo, there are too many to name but maybe my favorite is La Nova. However, first and foremost, I’m a steak man.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience –
I’ll share two things. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, please do it. For yourself, and for everyone else you come in contact with. Off the soap box, I’d like to make sure that your readers check out my sports history website at salmaiorana.com. Sign up, create a free account, you get a free app (Mighty Networks), and I provide what amounts to a daily newsletter every morning at 7:30 with history stories.
Thank you again Sal. I appreciate all your time. Please keep in touch!