SSTN Interviews Shawn Anderson (The Hall of Very Good Podcast)
by Paul Semendinger
December 16, 2021
We’re here today with Shawn Anderson of The Hall of Very Good Podcast. Since 2012, Shawn and his podcast co-host Lou have been celebrating those in and around baseball that Cooperstown has seemingly forgotten. This month (December) marks the sixth anniversary of their show, The Hall of Very Good Podcast.
Thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News. It is great to have this discussion with you.
Thank you , Paul. I appreciate the interest. Let’s talk some baseball!
To begin, please tell us how you became a baseball fan.
I honestly can’t pinpoint it exactly…but my guess is that it came from one of two places. The canned response is always that I spent way too much time around my grandparents who were baseball fans and my grandma was a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. Being from Northern Illinois at a time before Wrigley Field had lights…the Cubs were on TV every afternoon, literally, at least 81 games a season. And since I spent A LOT of time at my grandparents, I was seemingly always exposed to baseball. It didn’t make me a Cubs fan (more on that later), but we’ll say it made me a baseball fan. The likely reality is that before I was WATCHING baseball…I was COLLECTING baseball. Cards. My older brother and I (and some neighbors) were all baseball card collectors and traders. After that, came way too much Strat-o-Matic and the rest, well, I think the rest is history.
You like to call The Hall of Very Good Podcast, your little slice of the Internet. Please tell us about it.
Wow…where to start? Yeeeeeeeears ago, I was writing about Hall of Fame arguments on my Myspace page. It gained some traction and, eventually, after some urging from some friends…I migrated those Myspace posts to a Blogger page. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I soon went from arguing the inclusion of certain players and managers into the National Baseball Hall of Fame to creating what I call a “web cooler” site. Think MLB.com’s Cut4 before there was a Cut4. I was posting up to five or six new stories every day. These things ranged from tracking playing milestones, dumb tweets and, yes, even mugshots! Eventually, that got EXHAUSTING. Seriously, there’s only so many hours in a day. Cut to…mid-2015. Lou, who had been heading up Reviewing the Brew over at FanSided, and I finally decided to put what we had been doing online into audio form. We already had a few years under our belts interviewing people for the site and for our annual Hall of Very Good Induction…so why not? Anyway, here we are, six years into it, and we’ve carved out a nice little place for ourselves and our podcast family. For real, it is a family. I had no idea how connected this baseball world was until we started the show. At the end of the day though, and, God, I hate that cliché, but, at the end of the day, we’re still two guys looking to shine a light on some folks Cooperstown hasn’t paid enough attention to AND use our platform to educate and inform our listeners about some stories they may not have known.
You have interviewed a host of great baseball players on your podcast. How do you make the necessary connections with these ballplayers to get them to appear on your program? Which interviews have been your favorites?
Outside of a couple… they’re all my favorites. In all seriousness, my favorite interviews are the ones where I get so immersed in listening that I forgot I’m supposed to be leading a discussion. Does that make sense? That said, I think the BEST interviews are the ones that sound like three people sitting around the dinner table. I was recently listening back to our March 2020 interview with author and illustrator Anika Orrock for some reason and 25 minutes into what was supposed to be a 20-minute conversation, she asked when we wanted to start. Haha. We were all too busy being three friends chatting to conduct an interview. But back to that first part…HOW do we make the connections? We hustle. Plain and simple. Social media makes it easy…but there are a number of connections that we’ve made in person at events, cold calling or, believe it or not, through the mail. True story. Two of our biggest guests, Larry King and Bob Costas were because we literally wrote each of them a letter, established connection and made the ask. Larry was an interesting one because he was thrilled to be able to talk baseball instead of asking questions. It was his idea to talk more, but we were limited to just those three appearances because of our schedules and, at the end, his health. All in all, we’re just sincere and honest about our intentions and interest. We’re never going to bring someone on to argue, nor play “gotcha”.
How did you get involved in broadcasting and media? Was this always a dream of yours?
I’ve always been a TV and radio kid…probably way too into pop culture and media. In high school, I had some weird idea that I wanted to go into broadcasting in some form or fashion. Why? No clue. When I went away to college, I jumped right into the broadcasting department Day One and that, along with journalism, continued throughout my time at Western Illinois University. After that, a career in television was a no-brainer.
Not long after you started the podcast, you interviewed Tommy John. I believe he belongs in the Hall-of-Fame. I just started a series where I am searching through each game Tommy John pitched to try to find him twelve more wins to get him to #300. If he had reached that goal, he’d be in the Hall-of-Fame, I believe. Do you agree?
Totally. Tommy was the inaugural inductee into our Hall of Very Good back in 2012. We might not see another pitcher get to 300 wins…much less the 288 that Tommy ended with.
Which players not yet in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame do you feel belong in there?
The lame response would be “the ones we’ve inducted into The Hall of Very Good” right? Outside of Tommy John obviously…let’s look at the 20 names that comprise the 2022 Eras committees. We’ve inducted five guys (Buck O’Neil, Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and Roger Maris) who are eligible this year. Meaning…there’s a really good chance we’ll see another member of our little group end up in Cooperstown.
Why, do you believe, are people so drawn to baseball and its stories, legends, and people?
Why wouldn’t they be? I think it goes back to the fact that just about everybody has picked up a baseball and that makes the sport and whoever plays it inherently relatable, right?
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?
Is doing the opposite of whatever Rob Manfred does an answer? I have no idea what changes I would make. Oh, wait, I’d get rid of automatic, no-pitch intentional walks and starting extra innings with runners on base. How’s that?
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?
I think it’s coming out in June in the form of Howard Bryant’s Rickey Henderson book. Now, I’m not sure how much of Rickey’s New York days will be covered, but, yeah…let’s get that Rickey book on the shelves now!
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?
Bob Gibson once glared at me and Lou so hard we were too afraid to approach him…does that count? In all seriousness, how about we talk about the best baseball player I didn’t see? George Brett was the sun, moon and stars for me when I was growing up. When I was a teenager, my family planned a roadtrip to Washington DC and, on the way back to the Midwest, we would find ourselves crossing through Cleveland. So, as luck would have it, the Kansas City Royals were scheduled to be playing in Cleveland and, yes, I was able to talk my parents into getting tickets to a game and, thusly, fulfilling my destiny of seeing Brett play in person. You know where this is going. I forget if he was put on the injured list or just sat out that night, but suffice it to say, he wasn’t in the lineup. Sidenote…neither was Bo Jackson. Harrumph.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
I’ve always been more of a fan of players than teams, but I grew up a fan of the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets. As an adult, I’ve transitioned into a Boston Red Sox fan. Cue the chorus of boos.
Who was your favorite player?
George Brett. Hands down. If you asked about my second favorite player, we’d be sitting here a long time sifting through dozens of possibilities.
What is your most prized collectible?
It’s a tie. Is that acceptable? Through the website and podcast, I’ve become friends with former pitcher Ross Grimsley. Long story short…among other Ross items, I have a ticket stub from his first game in May 1971. The other thing I like to show off is a 1973 program and typed out lineup card from the Orangeburg Cardinals. The catcher on that team? Randy Poffo. You know him as the Macho Man Randy Savage. Oooooh yeah!
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
Pearl Jam. Coincidentally, probably the best time I’ve ever had at a baseball stadium was in 2016 when my son and I saw Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field.
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
There’s a Thai restaurant here in Rockford that is my “go to” when it comes to being my favorite. Cashew chicken, no pineapple with a spicy level of three. There’s nothing better.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience.
Because I’m a shameless promoter…you can find me on Twitter at @HOVG. You can listen to The Hall of Very Good Podcast literally anywhere podcasts can be heard.
Thanks for joining us Shawn. This was a lot of fun. Keep up the great work. (Oh, and let’s get Graig Nettles in the Baseball Hall of Fame!)