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Terry Pluto, America’s Sportswriter

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

HH: What a better way to continue the afternoon’s theme than talking with America’s finest sportswriter, Terry Pluto. Terry, welcome. It’s good to have…and meet you in person, finally.

TP: Yes, after all those phone conversations, are you supposed to be told you don’t look like your voice?

HH: No, I do look…grey-haired and just dashingly handsome. Is that what you were about to say?

TP: Well, maybe.

HH: Okay. Terry Pluto, I asked you to come over because I think you now have America’s finest job, because you get to cover the Browns, the Indians and the Cavaliers. By the way, do you cover the Blue Jackets? I got some nasty e-mail that I never bring up the Blue Jackets.

TP: That’s a…no, I don’t cover down…that’s Columbus, and…

HH: We don’t care.

TP: I mean, hockey, I’ve never seen a goal in my life. I mean, I’ve seen the red light go on and all that, but I’ve actually never seen the goal.

HH: But did you ever go when the Crusaders were in town?

TP: I did, but I didn’t see the goal then, either.

HH: Okay.

TP: I mean, if you watch the game, I mean seriously, I’ve had friends explain to me how this works, all the red lines and blue lines, and so on.

HH: Well, what I want to talk to you about, is actually, I do this once in a while. I’ll do an hour behind the curtain with someone about how they do what they do, and the life that they live. And here in Cleveland, you just moved over to the Cleveland Plain Dealer from…how many years were you at the Akron Beacon Journal?

TP: 22.

HH: Wow. Didn’t you start with the Plain Dealer, though?

TP: Well, actually…I started in Greensboro, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Baltimore, and I was at the Plain Dealer for nearly five years in the early 80’s. So I mean, Paul Hoynes has been the baseball writer seemingly since like Tris Speaker played there. But before Paul was a baseball writer, I actually was the baseball writer at the Plain Dealer. So I did the Indians for five years then.

HH: And what years did you cover the Indians first time around for the Plain Dealer?

TP: ’80 through ’84.

HH: Okay, so some of the dark years.

TP: Yeah, and I mean, I grew up in this town. It was just more of the same. I mean, that thirty year span from 1960 through 1994 where they never won more than 86 games, never had more than six winning seasons, but they did have 18 managers, Hugh.

HH: I know. It affected…did you see in the Wall Street Journal today, I think it was the Journal, it might have been USA Today that listed all the right fielders that they’ve had in the last…since we lost Manny Ramirez? Did you see that list today?

TP: Oh, that list goes on and on, yeah, and I mean, that’s one of the things, too, where the amazing thing about this team is they’ve lost Manny Ramirez, they lost Jim Thome, they lost Omar Vizquel, and so many of those players are part of the team, the great teams they had here in the 90’s. And it took them a while, but they retooled and they’re back, and you know, they knocked off the Yankees, and right now, I mean, they’re going to give the Red Sox the scare of their lives. And they’re the two top paying teams in all of baseball, Boston and New York. This is not supposed to happen, what’s happened here in Cleveland.

HH: No, it’s not, and it’s wonderful. Now take people behind the curtain with you. How will you cover tonight’s game? You know, they’re going to be watching it, right after we’re done, they’re going to go catch up on it. Where will you actually physically be in Jacob’s Field?

TP: There’s two spots. It really depends upon where we have so many people from the Plain Dealer there. We have a couple of spots in the main press box, which is right behind the plate. It’s the one you see. Then there’s a big press box out in right field, where you can sit out there. And actually, the last two innings of the game, it’s sort of disillusioning to people to hear this, I move into the press room where there’s a big television set, and frankly, there’s more room to spread out and to write, because here’s the thing about being a sportswriter. There’s no such thing as a late, great story, Hugh. I mean, it can be great, but if it’s late, you’re not going to be covering tomorrow’s game. And so I have…they would say put yourself in position to win…put myself in the best position to file as quickly as possible. And you know, you’re talking sometimes ten, fifteen, twenty minutes after these games, depending upon when they end.

HH: So you’ve got to start writing the story in the 7th inning?

TP: Yeah, pretty much. I often take notes. In fact, sometimes, I just do a notes column. I just call it scribbles in my notebook, and it really is things I write down during the game. But I’ll be doing it even if I’m doing a regular column on what it is. And when you’re a baseball writer, you learn this technique, it’s called the in-between story. Like if you ever notice you read five or six graphs in a story, and suddenly they say, ‘and in the third inning, comma, you know, this happened in the fourth inning.’ That’s all set up, so then you can throw the top on it right as it ends, and fire it in. And hopefully, you have some time between editions to go down and get some quotes, and try to at least put half of it in English.

HH: Now a lot of people are thinking you have the life of Reilly, a sportswriter, especially covering the teams that you grew up with, the teams that you love. But it actually is, because I’ve known some sportswriters, awfully demanding work. You’re up late, you go long.

TP: Right. I mean, it’s true, but now my Dad worked in a food warehouse growing up, and his father was a carpenter, and was from the old country, didn’t even speak English. I mean, I was the first, my brother and I were the first from our family to go to college. I worked in that food warehouse when I was going through Cleveland State and going in high school. I will never complain about my job, Hugh. I have seen the other side. My degree is secondary education, social studies, minor in English. I taught, basically, my senior year at Lincoln West High School here, you know, five, six preparations a day, I forgot what it was. I know what…that is work. In fact, my Dad used to say to me, ‘Don’t you complain. You get paid to go to ballgames.’ And in a sense, he was right. I mean, there was more to it than that, but I also think that we in the media tend to complain about the entitlement attitude of players. The only ones who can match it is us.

HH: The sportswriters?

TP: I mean, we can grouse and complain with the best of them. So I really try to keep my mindset that this is a really neat job, which it is. I mean, you write the story, eight, ten hours later, it’s in the paper on somebody’s doorstep. You get to see your work. I remember at the food warehouse, I mean, basically, you’re only heard if you got the wrong case of tomato sauce on the wrong truck onto the wrong store. I mean, that was it. So this really, I mean, I really come to this job with a grateful heart. And after having done it for almost thirty years at a bunch of different papers, that hasn’t changed, Hugh.

HH: So take us back…how old are you?

TP: I’m 52.

HH: Okay, you’re a year older than I am. Where were you born? You’re obviously in Cleveland.

TP: In Cleveland, yeah.

HH: In Cleveland proper?

TP: I was born in Cleveland proper, and then lived in Parma, lived in Northfield for a while, lived, and then went, I worked at the Plain Dealer for the first time, I lived in Newburgh Heights, which is right over by the steel mills here. And now I’ve lived in Akron for the last 22 years.

HH: So you’ve been watching Northeastern Ohio for 52 years…

TP: Right.

HH: …and not like I have, in and out, but continually living here, except for your stints at the other newspapers. When you went to Cleveland State, did you go there intending to become a sportswriter? Or did you go there intending to be a teacher?

TP: I was going to be a sportswriter, but I think because…I mean, Hugh, this is going to sound…well basically, I’ve probably written more books than we had books in my house growing up. I mean, the fact, the thought that I could become a sportswriter or a writer was really kind of beyond what people imagines could happen. And so what that kind of did, when I was at Cleveland State, was get that secondary education degree, because my older brother had become a teacher and a coach, and this was a really prestigious thing. But when I was at Cleveland Benedictine High School, which was a Catholic inner-city school here, I had an English teacher named Jim Muth in the 9th grade, and he saw I could write a little bit, and got me very interested in it. In fact, really, I wanted to be the next John Steinbeck. The book Of Mice And Men, I remember reading it as a high school freshman, and it was just, you know, basically it’s a buddy story, is really what it was, but so clearly told. You know, they used to stick Ivanhoe and all these books on us that…Silas Marner, you know, that would…

HH: Oh, the worst book ever written.

TP: …drive people…

HH: George Eliot should be banned.

TP: …anywhere except into wanting to write. This just enabled me to see that boy, there’s great storytelling. And I remember the next book he gave me was written by a Cleveland guy named Don Robertson, who was a long time sports, I mean, general columnist here in town. It was called The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread. And it was a kind of a coming of age story, and set in Cleveland. And he did it intentionally, Jim Muth did, because he said now look, this guy’s from Cleveland. At the time, he was working at the old Cleveland Press. He wrote a novel set in Cleveland, and it was published by Putnam or one of the national publishers. Because I don’t know about you, Hugh, growing up in this part, but you have this thing like if you’re going to be in writing or in media, you know, really big time, you’ve got to be on one of the two coasts.

HH: Right.

TP: It’s like we don’t count here in the middle.

HH: Right.

TP: And he was opening doors to me. And it really made me want to…

HH: Well, it’s one of the great institutions of Northeastern Ohio, is Benedictine High School…

TP: Yeah.

HH: …has got legendary graduates going…how many years old is that? That’s got to be…

TP: The school itself?

HH: Yeah.

TP: Oh, yeah, it goes back to like 1920’s. My Dad went there and graduated before World War II.

HH: Okay.

TP: So it was founded by the Benedictine Order of Monks, and it was a Slovak school, primarily, for those from, as my grandfather said, we don’t like the Czechs, we’re Slovak.

HH: So Pluto is Slovakian?

TP: Yeah.

HH: I thought it was Italian.

TP: No, no.

HH: Oh, okay, okay.

TP: He was supposedly whacked at Ellis Island when they came through.

HH: Okay, I see.

TP: I think it was Plutovich, or something like that. But yeah, I hated it when I was a kid.

HH: But you’re not Catholic anymore.

TP: No, I’m a non-denominational Christian, so yeah.

HH: Yeah, you’ve written quite a lot, I’m going to get into that later in the interview, in addition to a number of wonderful books, including the most recent one, Dealing: The Cleveland Indians’ New Ballgame: Inside the Front Office and the Process of Rebuilding a Contender. I didn’t know…when did this come out?

TP: It came out last year. I wish it would have come out this year, Hugh. Because it came out last year, just as they were taking their step back between ’05 and now.

HH: Oh, so is it in bookstores now, still?

TP: Yeah, it is, and of course, is a great place to get it.

HH: And did Shapiro talk to you, Mark Shapiro, the GM?

TP: Oh, yeah.

HH: He must have loved having this.

TP: They gave…Paul Dolan and Shapiro, everybody there really opened up on their scouting reports of the players, when they were trading for them. I mean, for example, Grady Sizemore, who we see now, hits 25 homers a year or whatever. The scouting report when he was 19 years old in Class A, where he was hitting like .261 and had one homer, the guy wrote, “I’ve watched him for five days, I love his swing, he’s a good athlete. He hasn’t even hit a home run in batting practice, so I worry about his power.” And it wasn’t that he was scouted incorrectly, it just shows how when you’re looking at these kids at 18 and 19, you go in the Dominican Republic at 17, how do you know how big they’re going to be? How do you know what they’re going to develop into? So in fact, some of the scouting reports they gave me on some of the very poor trades they made, where they got these prospects, for example, for Robbie Alomar, you read the scouting reports and say why did they ever take these guys?

– – – –

HH: Terry Pluto, I’ve got a number of questions about being inside of this. But first, how many books have you written? You turn out more books than I do.

TP: 22.

HH: 22 books? How many of those are on faith, and how many are on sports?

TP: There’s five on faith, and the rest are on sports. So…

HH: Now this is one of the most interesting…there’s a front page story today, yesterday in the Sunday Denver Post about athletes, sports and religion. Did you happen to see that at all?

TP: No, I did not.

HH: So you’re one of the few writers, I think, who do actually write both on faith and on sports.

TP: I don’t know of anyone else. I’m not saying there isn’t anyone. I don’t know of it.

HH: When you made the jump from the Akron Beacon Journal to the Cleveland Plain Dealer…

TP: Right.

HH: …was that part of the negotiations?

TP: Oh, yeah. In fact, there were a couple of things, probably on the weirder negotiations ever when they came to recruit me, which I was, hey, I’m 52, great to be recruited for anything but a burial policy. You know, at that age, you’re glad to be…someone likes you. But as I got to talking with Susan Goldberg, who was the editor of the paper then, and I’d already met with Roy Hewitt, the sports editor, knew I’d fit in there. And I said well Susan, I’m not coming if I can’t do these faith columns which I’ve been doing for the last six years at the Beacon Journal. And she had read some, and she thought it was fine, so basically, there is two of those a month. And the other thing, too, is it was kind of, sort of a memorandum of understanding. I said now you know I do this prison ministry every Wednesday morning at Summit County Jail, and sometimes speak in Chuches. And I’m not going to be baptizing people in the sink at the Plain Dealer, but if you’ve got a problem here, I need to know, because this is a big part of my life. And if I can’t do the ministry stuff…and they’ve really been fine with it. I mean, I think so far, we’ve had…I’ve only been there six weeks, I’ve had three faith columns. And the response has been good. And once in a while, I used to get an e-mail saying well, what are you writing about God on the religion page for, and I write back, well, where is He supposed to be? I mean, the Browns live on the sports page, and so that kind of thing.

HH: Where…what does the athlete community think about this. Now there are a lot of believers in sports, obviously. I heard John Smoltz give an amazing testimony at a Philies game earlier this year to a bunch of Fellowship of Christian Athletes kids from around Philadelphia.

TP: Right.

HH: But if you’ve got that mark, do they give you a hard time about it? Because locker rooms can be pretty tough places.

TP: Not so much. Frankly, I don’t even know how many of these guys know I write that, because we flatter ourselves, sometimes, thinking they’re listening or they’re reading. They kind of live in a bubble.

HH: So you have two different audiences.

TP: Yeah. I mean, they really…and I mean, I’m not even sure half the time they’re reading the sports page. I think they hear about something that was critical of them, but for the most part, a lot of these guys don’t. Now Paul Byrd, who pitches for the Indians, and I was just so thrilled to see him win that game at Yankee Stadium, because you know, he’s…I mean, he’s sort of like a normal-looking guy. He’s a little over six foot…

HH: Yup.

TP: …and he doesn’t throw very hard. He doesn’t even know how he wins half the games he wins. And so, he’s very unpretentious. Now he wants…I e-mail the stuff to him, and he’s a Christian, and he and Jake Westbrook are the two there, and they’ve read my stuff. But I think most of the guys don’t even know. I mean, it’s amazing how you talk about life in a bubble. I mean, they do. If you’re playing major league sports, for example, when the Indians played in Boston the other night, and then they were flying to Cleveland after the game, they packed their bags in their room, they do have to do that themselves.

HH: Okay.

TP: Then they call the bellhop who picks up their bag in their room in the hotel in Boston. They never see that bag again until it appears either at the luggage thing where they’re getting off in Cleveland, or suppose they were going to Detroit. It would then literally appear in your room in Detroit. You would never touch your bag again. You don’t buy an airline ticket. Everything is taken care for you, so they just kind of wander along. Basically, what they’re very aware of in the media is what’s being said on ESPN.

HH: Oh, because that’s what they’re watching every night before they go to bed.

TP: That’s all…right.

HH: ESPN Sportscenter.

TP: That’s what’s on.

HH: Has that changed your job to go to the 24 hour news cycle with ESPN leaning over your shoulder every single day?

TP: Not just them, but the internet itself.

HH: Right.

TP: You know, you just have to keep filing, or as we say now, basically, we’re always on deadline. But I love the internet. I mean, I get e-mails from guys who are in Kuwait in bases there. I don’t get much from Iraq itself. It seems like they’re cycling through. I’ve sent books over to those guys, and they kind of pass them around, and so that means a lot to me. Or senior citizens who can’t get to the games. They’re a couple of blind people, I don’t know all the technology, but they’re able to now get my stuff, whether it’s…I don’t know if it’s read to them…

HH: I don’t know how that works, either.

TP: Or it’s bigger on the screen, you know, or something.

HH: Yeah.

TP: But I mean, in fact, one, this girl, Kathleen Thompson said well, your Cavaliers notes didn’t quite make it, because on the internet, they cut it off after the Browns. They forgot to put my Cavs notes on, so I had to dig those up for her. And so that, to me, is just…I’m aware, as a lot of people in my profession are intimidated by the internet or whatever, I mean, I like to think I kind of wander between new and old media.

HH: Right. Well, the internet…I gathered the Plain Dealer made the bid for you because they knew you had an online following, and that you would be writing. And you’re prodigious in your output. Are most sportswriters that prolific?

TP: Probably not, although you see Paul Hoynes, who’s our baseball writer, or Tony Grossi, our football writer.

HH: Football writer.

TP: And they will be writing all the time. And see, I spent 14 years covering teams. I did home and away. When I say covering teams now, like now, I’m a columnist, where I do different teams. I mean, living with these guys, basically, home and away, the ’79 Orioles, the Indians, ’80-’84, then I did the Cavaliers for ’85 for another eight years. Basically, 14 years home and away. You’re writing every single day on the beat. So to me, I mean, you could come up to me right now and say in an hour from now, I need a story on the Cavaliers, it may not be a great idea, but I will come up with something…

HH: Yup.

TP: Because I want to be able to work tomorrow.

HH: My theory that the has been so successful, because they hired a sports guy to run it, Jim Brady, and he knows about breaking news, he knows about how…it’s the first thing you said in the first segment. If it’s tomorrow, it’s old. It’s over. Nobody cares about a game two days ago.

TP: Right.

HH: And that his sensibilities are breaking news, as I think yours are, and I think the Plain Dealer may be figuring out that the heart of their internet audience is going to be their sports page.

TP: Well, I mean the interesting thing, Hugh, is that the Plain Dealer’s circulation actually went up about 1% a year ago. Now it’s not a lot, but compared to other papers…

HH: Yeah.

TP: …it’s there. And I do think with the people they have now, Susan Goldberg running the paper, and then they brought in Deborah Adams Simmons from the Akron Beacon Journal, my former editor there, along with Roy Hewitt who does sports, especially on the sports side, they’re going to put more stuff into sports. Look, sports, politics, I remember somebody once said you know what a lot of the blogs are? They’re commentary on commentary?

HH: Right.

TP: I mean, they’ve read something somewhere that just angered them in the New York Times, or Pluto’s an idiot here…

HH: Right.

TP: And that just starts it off. Well, we want to stay out in front so that we’re driving the commentary on commentary. Now you’ve got to think about it differently, and frankly, you have to write stuff that people can read.

HH: Yup.

TP: I mean, I pick up half these things in newspapers, everyone will go who are you writing for?

HH: Right.

TP: I mean, this stuff is so dense. I mean, for example, I love the Civil War, but I can guarantee you I’m not going to have a reference to Chancellorsville in my Indians story tomorrow. I mean, I’m just not.

HH: Well, I kind of like Chancellorsville. We could bring it up here.

TP: We could do the Civil War then.

HH: But obviously, when I do things like I’m talking to Terry Pluto from the basement of Pickwick and Frolic on East 4th, two blocks from the Jake, I’m resetting. And a lot of sportswriters don’t do that. I think Vin Scully actually taught me that every…if you’ve gone five minutes without giving the score, you’ve really failed your audience. And the same thing happens on a broadcast like this.

– – – –

HH: Terry, during the break, I want to go back to what it’s like to be a sportswriter. But you were saying the Plain Dealer is surfing this technological revolution, and they’re throwing more and more online. Not many newspapers are getting this yet.

TP: Well, if you want to survive, you do. And I think here’s one of the advantages of being in a town like Cleveland, where we’ve lost industry, and we’ve had to keep reinventing ourselves. I mean, in a sense, we’re almost like the Indians pitcher Paul Byrd who has to keep reinventing yourself, you know, come through injuries or whatever. You can’t just sit there and say I’m in New York, or I’m in Washington, and I’m in Los Angeles, and people are just going to come to me and read my paper, because I’m the L.A. Times, so genuflect and kiss my knee. You know, you can’t do that in Cleveland. And the remarkable thing is the other night, the game ended at 1:38 in the morning, when the Indians beat the Red Sox. The papers that went to our immediate seven county area all had the score in it.

HH: On Saturday night?

TP: On Saturday night.

HH: That is amazing.

TP: I mean, they held, they really made a commitment there. Now the stories were not award winners or whatever, but you knew Trot Nixon got a big hit, you knew Gutierrez hit a three-run homer, and you knew Borowski kind of hung you. You know they won, 13-6. If nothing else, because a lot of people probably…because baseball’s so stupid with these late night game starts.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

TP: At least you woke up in the morning, you found out the basics of what happened.

HH: Now talk to me about, you have a sort of a trustee’s role. Because the people of Cleveland are so passionate about their sports.

TP: Right.

HH: They must be passionate about their sportswriters, too. I always was. I always loved Russ Schneider, I loved these guys.

TP: Yeah.

HH: But there were some I didn’t like so much, and I’ll leave them out of that. But what’s your relationship with the fans?

TP: I think it’s very strong, because they view me as one of them. In fact, another reason the Plain Dealer recruited me is because of the fact I am a Cleveland guy. I instantly know the history, along with having written…I mean, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, basically I didn’t invent…I wrote the book, but it was invented by my editor, Jeff Newman, who was reading it through, and it’s had legs to it. But that’s because I understood what those 34 years were from 1960-1994. I think fans feel when they pick me up, they may not like what I’m doing, a lot of times they’ll almost start with an apology of usually I agree with you, but this time…and then you get a few that start out, I especially like the ones that start out, “Dear knucklehead…” And you know it’s not going to be real good. Or just the tagline, “You are a moron, and it’s getting worse.” Those don’t exactly make you want to open it up and see, but for the most part, I think people view me as one of them.

HH: And do you push through the negative stuff? Or do you respond to them?

TP: Oh, I usually respond to almost everybody, even if it’s thanks for your thoughts. I mean, some people, let’s face it, I wrote a 600 word column, and he wrote me 3,000 words back. Well, you know, I can’t really get into all this. I often times will pick a point or two that I like, and that type of thing. So…but what I really want to do is have them pick up the paper, and be able to kind of make it through my story without nodding off, or thinking this guy’s just writing something for effect. I mean, I’m generally a positive person, and generally a positive writer. So then when I write something negative, they know I’m not just doing it for effect, that I really mean it.

HH: Now Terry Pluto, if a kid’s out there right now, and they think they want to be a sportswriter, and I had a very good friend in high school, lives in Columbus now, went down and did sports for the Arlington paper, covering the Rangers, and he left it after a while because it was not what he thought he’d signed up for.

TP: Yeah.

HH: What do you tell him about what they should know about this business that you’re in?

TP: Well, the first thing is, I mean, I’ve have some people tell me I want to be a sportswriter. I’ll say why. They say I love sports. I say wrong. Here’s how it works. It’s like saying to a guy I want to be an airline pilot, and you ask the pilot why, and he says because I want to travel. No, baby, you better love to fly.

HH: Yeah.

TP: You better love airplanes, you better love to fly. So if you’re a sportswriter, you better love to write, and love the craft of writing and putting it together. It helps if you like sports. It helps if you love sports. For example, Bob Ryan from the Boston Globe, a very good friend of mine, and he and I did a book many, about twenty-some years ago called 48 Minutes Of Life A Night In The NBA. We did that together. He passionately loves sports. He’ll watch all kinds of different sports. He loves sports a lot more than I love sports. He’s aware of everything, you know, I love the writing part. Remember before, I talked to you about John Steinbeck and Irwin Shaw and some of these other people that got me. And I love the fact, for example, when I would read Hal Lebowitz growing up, that I could understand what Hal was talking about.

HH: Ask Hal.

TP: And Hal would talk to some guy’s wife, or just kind of get something different. So I would tell him you better like to write first. If you like to just be sports, and figure this is a back way of getting into it, just go coach or something.

– – – –

HH: Terry Pluto, the Wall Street Journal’s been hunting around for a temporary correspondent to cover the Indians and the Red Sox, whoever makes it to the Series. And they’ve been getting e-mails from all sorts of people who say they know Cleveland sports, because they’ve suffered and they’ve gone through this. This is a unique market in this regard. You weren’t writing sports when they last won anything around here.

TP: No. I mean, it’s…

HH: What are you going to do if they ever win something?

TP: Well, I mean, the nice thing, at least in the 90’s, I always would argue okay, they didn’t win the World Series, but they got there twice.

HH: Yup.

TP: That was a really good era. I’ll sign up for that again anytime. But the last championship team was the 1964 Browns. I do remember sitting around a radio in the basement of my friend’s house listening to that, you know, Gib Shanley doing the game. But that’s about all I remember. I was like 9 years old. So basically, the interesting thing is the Indians and the Red Sox playing, people argue about who’s suffered more. I mean, we don’t even want to hear this from these Boston people.

HH: Right.

TP: You know, Bill Buckner’s legs and all that, the ball there, and Bucky Dent.

HH: Right.

TP: I mean, go away with this stuff. You know, celebrity mourners like Stephen King and Ben Affleck, James Taylor doing the…

HH: I know, he was there, it was awful.

TP: Well, and I like his music, but please. So you know, let’s just…in Cleveland…you want suffering, you come to this town.

HH: And in…compared to Chicago? When you hear the Cubs fans wailing about their life?

TP: Yeah, you only had Michael Jordan. That was real tough.

HH: Yes, I know. See? It’s a collective sort of thing.

TP: Yeah, right. Please…

HH: So what…for the rest of the country tuning in, they’re saying oh, gosh, they’re talking Cleveland again, what do you love that kept you here? Because obviously, you could have gone to a lot of different places over the course of a sportswriting career, why Cleveland? Why stay here?

TP: Well, one thing, when you are writing sports, if you do grow up in that town, you really do have a home court advantage. I mean, you instantly know kind of the history of the area, what fans hurt. I mean, not only can I, say, start in the early 60’s with the teams that my Dad talked to me about the Indians…I mean, I felt growing up, even though I never met these people like Lew Boudreau and Bob Feller and Ray Mack and Gene…these people are part of my family. My Dad would talk about them, frankly, more than he talked about some of the relatives.

HH: Yeah.

TP: So I was very familiar with that. So instantly, you have a grasp of what the teams are like, what they mean to the city. I’m comfortable here. I mean, I just got back from Boston. It’s a wonderful town to visit. Before that, in New York. I would go crazy living there. I mean, just riding the subways, and I mean, it’s just tough.

HH: So what is Cleveland now? I’m going to talk next hour, I’m going to set this up in the next segment with Michael Barone about the politics of Ohio, because Ohio matters in 2008.

TP: Right.

HH: So what’s going on in Cleveland now? Is this a city on the rise? Or a city that’s stable, stagnant or falling?

TP: I think, you know, the last poverty rates were real bad for the city itself. But I think if you really look at the suburban area, whatever, it’s stable. It’s like any other Midwestern city.

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