Episode 97

St Pete X features business and civic leaders in St. Petersburg Florida who share their insight, expertise and love of our special city. An initiative of the St. Petersburg Group, St Pete X strives to connect and elevate the city by sharing the voices of its citizens, and to bring awareness to the opportunities offered by the great St. Petersburg renaissance.

05/15/2024 | Episode 97 | 46:45

Peter Golenbock - Author

In this episode we welcome renowned author, sports historian and St Petersburg resident Peter Golenbock. With a seasoned eye on the game and a pen that has chronicled baseball's most pivotal moments, Peter brings a unique perspective on how the sport has evolved amidst today's fast-paced, technologically driven world. We also dig into the current debate around the pending Rays stadium deal and more.



Joe Hamilton  00:29

So I want to start with a state of the nation for baseball. You’ve been following it a long time the game has changed. Other sports have come up and become competitors. You know, the landscape for baseball has changed video games are here, etc, etc. So what is the state of the nation for baseball in the current world we live in?

Peter Golenbock  01:45

Well, several years ago, baseball was in trouble. Because for one reason or another, the pitchers would take two or three minutes between pitches, and the games would go for hours. Now I’ve been a season ticket holder for the Tampa Bay Rays for 20 something years. And even I would sit there in my seat screaming at the pitcher, either our pitcher or their pitcher will throw the ball. And they did something about it. They did something smart. They passed a rule that the pitchers now have to pitch within I think it’s 18 seconds if there’s nobody on base and 20 seconds if there’s somebody on base. But it’s sort of saved the game. Yeah. People are now flocking to come see these ballgames here in St. Petersburg. Because they’re not sitting there pulling their hair out as the pitchers take, you know, two or three minutes between pigeons. That’s huge. I can’t tell you how huge it is.

Joe Hamilton  02:28

It’s amazing. Something seemingly innocuous, you know, not tied to the fabric of the game. Yeah, but tied to life experience of being at the game can make such a difference.

Peter Golenbock  03:04

And one other thing that baseball did, which was interesting, which was totally Joe Madden’s fault, you know, Madden was our wonderful manager. And he using, you know, AI, or whatever, he figured out exactly where the opposing batters would hit. So he started putting three fielders on one side of the infield, because he knew that the pull hitters would never hit the ball, the right field, the right handed pull, hitters would never hit the ball writes yield. So he started putting three players over there. And sure enough, everybody’s batting average went down. So one of the other things that Major League Baseball did, and quite rightly, I do believe, is make a rule that only two, only two fielders can be on either side of second base. So now you do have your second baseman playing close to being on the other side, but not on the other side. And that’s made a difference too. So we had a couple of years of crazy shifts, and oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness, my God, and I was mad. He started but then everybody else started to do it. So you got the combination there for the couple of years have a lot of groundouts and for our games.

Joe Hamilton  04:22

Yeah. Well, I don’t like groundouts but I did I did like the strategy of the shift to because if you grew up watching it seeing that giant hole or between second third was just You gotta be able to get it there and then they just didn’t know

Peter Golenbock 04:34

Oh, well. me for a long while to nobody would bunt me literally would nobody would bunt and I’m mad and to nobody stole very much either. It was a three run home run game. Under Kevin Cash. I mean, Cash has gotten a lot of  critiques. But I gotta tell you that guy’s done a magnificent job. And I think the Rays may well you can look it up may well be leading solid bases right now?

Joe Hamilton  05:03

Interesting. Yeah. Yeah, they’ve been punching above their weight for years.

Peter Golenbock 05:06

They’ve just been playing great ball. Two weeks ago, you would have thought that the rays were going to be the worst team in our division. They lost three straight to the wolfssl, Chicago White Sox, then two out of three to the Milwaukee Brewers. And the raise then brought up two new players. Johnny to Luca, who’s a centerfielder. They sat down Siri who was hitting about 150 and not hustling. And they brought in this catcher Rookville. He can’t pronounce his name, but boy, can he hit and boy can he catch. And it’s amazing. You put in two guys. And right now the rays are looking to be as good a team as the Yankees or the Orioles. And it’ll be interesting to see how well they do. 

Joe Hamilton  05:55

Were you at the game when they had the catcher in there thrown the knuckleball a couple of weeks ago. And they were down ten to One in the in the eighth. And they think it was worked out there. They put the catcher in the picture. It was hilarious. It’s like he was it was funny. Yeah, that’s one knuckleballs couple of minutes of being batting practice. I think only one home run. But he made it through 20

Peter Golenbock  06:14

Oh, he did. Yeah. I always get a chuckle when they make the fielders pitch. Yeah, but that was one of those games where you thought to yourself, boy, this team is really terrible.

Joe Hamilton  06:27

And it’s not so State of the Nation then with these changes. You feel like baseball is holding steady. And still it has a big special place in the heart of America.

Peter Golenbock  06:40

Well, baseball. And I guess pro football the same way? Is there a religion? You know, you grew up with it. And it’s in your blood? It’s part of you. And it’s a very kind religion too. You can be a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. You can be Christian, Jewish, or or what have you. And if this fella is rooting for your team, he’s your friend. Yeah. And you work together. It’s it’s, I love the game. I love the fact that we’re playing major league baseball in St. Petersburg. It’s so incredibly special. Yeah. And I think most people realize that too.

Joe Hamilton  07:23

And, you know, he talked about baseball as religion the Florida teams have struggled the most historically with attendance is this because in part the the young followers the you know, that haven’t haven’t gotten their faith yet. And and that individual team and we’re still too much a place of transplants are why do you think the Florida teams.

Peter Golenbock  07:42

You got a lot of transplants? I mean, it was amazing hit during the three game series against the Mets. I mean, the place was filled with fans wearing Mets uniforms. I mean, they they’re just crazy. Mets fans. Yeah, they are. And the Yankee fans are the same way and the Yankees train in Tampa. And that never should have been allowed. And so you know, the Yankee fans will only go to Yankee games, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, the Rays fandom is picking up this year. Yeah. I mean, they’re seeing that this is a team with a lot of potential, the three games against the Mets, we had, you know, 20 to 23,000 people every single game, it was fabulous.

Joe Hamilton  08:20

And I mean, the team is what 30,26, 27 years old now. So, you know, kids coming in at seven eight now or getting in their 20s Starting come to the games themselves. They are. So we are seeing our first generation of born and raised raised fan

Peter Golenbock  08:35

And you’re seeing you know, two year olds and three year olds and four year olds still coming to the games with their parents, which I love.

Joe Hamilton  08:41

How did you experience the Moneyball years as far as you talk about changing the game, when some of the luster came off of the big stars and paying for the names and the homeruns and go into the more stats driven lineups and things that were a little more mechanical? Do you think that any major major ripple? ,

Peter Golenbock 09:02

Well teams like the Oakland A’s certainly were, you know, the star fit with Moneyball. Magnificent book, by the way, guys, a genius. But the rays have been a Moneyball team. They’ve always been a Moneyball team. And somehow, you know, the only thing we have not done is won a World Series. If we had won a World Series, I think people around the country would look at this team a lot more differently. We have not won a World Series. So they still look somewhat askance. You when you go to MLB and see what the national game of the day is. It’s not usually the race. It’s usually the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Yankees, right? But we have the smarter this guy Neander he should be in the Hall of Fame. That guy’s a genius. He’s an absolute genius. So so this is the brilliance of what what Neander does. So we had Tyler glass now and we have had Manny, the outfielder. And we traded the two of them. I mean, Glasner was a $25 million pitcher. And Manny was, I don’t know, four or $5 million himself, we traded him for the Dodgers. And we got two guys back. We got this fella, patio, patio, patio as a pitcher. And he’s like, a million dollars. And this guy right now is as good as anybody. He’s going on the DL, unfortunately. But what a trade, you know, trade of $25 million pitcher and get a guy back for a million dollars. He’s just as good. That’s fantastic. And the guy we got back for Manny was was Johnny DeLuca, who in four games has driven a 10 runs. And this has has just energized this team, to the point where you think hey, you know, we could end up in the playoffs. Amazing, guys, that amazing trait among others. Year after year, they do it year after year.

Joe Hamilton  11:02

So you mentioned you know, obviously you’re a season ticket holder and a fan. You mentioned the importance of the city and a baseball team. What does it mean to a city to have a baseball team and what have you seen of cities that have lost baseball teams? ,

Peter Golenbock  11:19

Well I have friends who are there in their 80s they were kids when the Brooklyn Dodgers left Brookland to go to Los Angeles, at the end of the 1956 season, thanks for 56 or 57. And to these people, it’s still the worst thing that’s ever happened to them in their life. It took their heart from them. I mean, a baseball team is part of your family. It is and and those people who contend that the city is better off without it. I mean, I was at dinner last night where this fellow across from me was saying that the rays don’t bring any money into St. Petersburg. You know, it was all I could do to reach over the table and choking to death. But I mean, this is some of what you’re hearing. You know, we should spend our money on other things. I can’t think of anything that’s more important socially, economically metaphysically, to the city of St. Petersburg than the Tampa Bay Rays. I mean, I would be utterly bereft if this team went somewhere else. And you know, they’re not going to Tampa. Because somehow St. Pete gave Tampa three years to raise $800 million to move the team over to Tampa. And at the end of the three years, they raised 3 million of the $800 million. And why do you think that is? You got me? I was surprised. I was shocked, actually and happy. So we’re in a tricky time now? I don’t think so I think they’re going to, I think this is going to go through. The mayor wants it. I know, at least half of the council people want it. Not only will you get a new stadium, this big, beautiful stadium, but you will also be able to transform a large part of what used to be that part of town into something that will be wonderful.

Joe Hamilton  13:25

Yeah, and the development that’s going to spring up around it is absolute gamechanger. Absolutely right.

Peter Golenbock  13:30

I can’t imagine. I just can’t imagine that they won’t pass this.

Joe Hamilton  13:38

You’ve written a lot of books on baseball, and you’ve interviewed a lot of folks. And we’ve become known for your interviewing skills, asking for a friend. What are some good tips? How do you be a good interviewer?

Peter Golenbock  13:52

I think the most important elements of being a good interviewer is you have to want to know what you want to know from them. You have to do the research to find out what they were involved with. You know, what were the situations? Who were their teammates? Were talking baseball and who were their teammates? Who were their opponents? Who were their managers who were their owners, right. And if you do the research, you find out whatever incidents they were involved with. I mean in this in my book now, baseball heaven, I have interviewed both Ralph Branca and Bobby Thompson. And I did that because for an awful lot of people, the home run that Thompson hit off of Branca in the 1951 playoffs. It was the shot heard round the world and it’s certainly created a tremendous amount of attention for both those men. And when I did my Dodger book, I interviewed Ralph Branca and then in 1981 I had my own radio show and who are in New York. And I had the opportunity to interview Bobby Thompson for that show. And so I tape I’ve taped all the interviews, I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of taped interviews. And for this book, baseball, heaven, those were certainly two of the people I wanted involved in that book.

Joe Hamilton  15:23

Sports figures are known for their their cliches, and, you know, take it one game at a time and all of that, how do you get to the essence? How do you get beyond that with with these players?

Peter Golenbock  15:34

  You show them, you know, you show them that you know about them.You start with questions that they care about. So I never cared as much about the scores as I did about the people. And so, for instance, Gary Carter was one of the people I’ve interviewed, became friends with him, right? Oh, yeah, yeah. I spent the 85 season with the New York Mets. When I did the book with Davey Johnson, the manager was called, called bats, because it’s a game that drives you crazy. So, you know, after the games, everybody would have dinner. And then Gary and I and Sid Fernandez, we would go out to the movies, while some of the other guys like Keith Hernandez, and Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry would go into their defense, whatever they were doing. Yes, yes. So so when I did my book, amazing about the Mets, I called Gary and I interviewed him. Here in Florida, actually on a golf course, he was about to go play golf. And I knew, for instance, that when he was with Montreal, he was a star there as the catcher for the Montreal Expos. But a lot of the ballplayers didn’t like him, because he was more than willing to do interviews with the reporters, or go on television. The players called him camera Carter, in derision. So you know, all this and so you want to know how he was feeling about, you know, all of that. Yeah. And then, of course, he came to the Mets and they won the 1986 world series that was after Bill Buckner, let the ball roll through his legs and Carter was part of that experience as well. And so you know, I had a lot of things to ask him about.

Joe Hamilton  17:28

Carter was a contemporary and rival my favorite player Carlton Fisk is kind of the opposite. He was more of a quiet guy. He didn’t d&d was a quiet didn’t do a lot of interviews and things like that. How did you find people that are playing guitar want to become rock stars, there’s a rock star lifestyle that they’re they’re keyed into? Baseball has its own version of that the nostalgia and the history and the you know, to be a legend of the game? You know, and obviously, the fans surround themselves with that nostalgia and surround themselves with that, you know, that history? They do. How, how much? How did that vary across players as far as how much they were able to really embody that and feel that and exist in that and appreciate that while they were playing? And how many of them were just athletes making a buck?

Peter Golenbock  18:19

There are you know, they’re all different? They’re just all different.

Joe Hamilton  18:23

To Billy Martin. I’ll just look at him specifically.

Peter Golenbock  18:25

Yeah, Billy. Billy Martin. I can’t say he was somebody who would go to the railing and sign autographs for fans. That’s, that’s not what he did. Most of these people did their job. You know, it was a job. What happened after they retired, they now have something that they didn’t have back then which is to say they could pay Mickey Mantle $20,000 to come to someplace and sign autographs for three hours. Yeah, you know, when guys you know started making very good money signing autographs, but back when few rows at the top of the heap Pete Rose is right now I’m gonna see him up in Cusco Cooperstown in the middle of July. He’s got a place right up there. And you also in Las Vegas. I believe he lives in Las Vegas.

Joe Hamilton  19:10

But they’re heroes. I mean, they’re they’re doing their job as being the hero though even while they’re playing through. They’re screaming for them. And yeah, so that’s, that’s, to me, that’s an interesting thing to put on a person and you don’t have to have to deal with and you kind of got a behind the scenes look at how they did deal with that. And it’s

Peter Golenbock  19:26

amazing. I mean, it’s just amazing. Can you imagine getting up the bat the other night? The Mets were leading? What was it two to one in the bottom of the nights. And there were two outs. And a Rosarito was up with two outs. And the fans. You know, they’re all going crazy because if he makes an app the game’s over, and if he can do something, he can, you know, keep it going for the race. And in front of all of those people. He took a 96 mile an hour fastball. and hit the thing over the left field fence. I mean, I stood there, with my hands on my head, just incredulous. I mean, it was very few things that you can go to where you see something that’s amazing. And it was, it was amazing. And as he was running around the bases, I was thinking to myself, That’s a professional athlete who can do that. And then needless to say, in the 10th inning after the Mets scored a run in the top of the 10th, the race then score two runs in the bottom of the 10th. On this Johnny to look at whoever Johnny DeLuca his our new hero, yeah, Johnny, look, I hit a triple to drive into runs to win that game. And you go home just I mean, where else literally, where else can you go? To have such pure joy over something? It was, I gotta tell you, it was, again, I’m using the same word amazing it was.

Joe Hamilton  21:04

And that’s and that’s just that thing that the people who seem to ambivalent about the Rays leaving just don’t get.

Peter Golenbock  21:13

I’ll tell you something else about the people who talk about that the Rays don’t do anything for the city economically. I very often like to sit with the people to talk with the people I’m sitting with. And usually I sit on the third base side. So I’m usually talking with Mets fans, and so forth and so on. I must have talked to Oh, a dozen of these Mets fans during these games. And I think one of them lived in St. Petersburg. 11 of them. Three of them came from New York themselves and stayed in a hotel and ate our food and came to our games. And the rest of them came from south of here. Venice, one was from Venice. Another one was from Ocala. I mean, they’re coming here and and visiting St. Petersburg and spending money.

Joe Hamilton  22:04

And what’s your take on? You know how you divide up the stadium cost amongst the benefits? You’ve seen a lot of stadiums, you’ve written about stadiums? You know, what do you come down on on that subject,

Peter Golenbock  22:18

I come down on the fact that the owner of the team has got something you don’t have, and something you really want. So if you have the opportunity to get this team in your town, take it. That’s my take on it

Joe Hamilton  22:33

Makes a lot of sense. Bouncing back a little bit to the history of the game coming forward. How would you describe how that happens, your role and how that happens? Because we think about what makes nostalgia. There’s an inherent nostalgia just I went there with my family when I was a kid, and I have memories of it. But that’s like the gasoline. And the spark that really articulates that a lot of time is in work like you do. Well,

Peter Golenbock  23:06

I mean, for instance, when I was 12 years old, I went to the Stamford Connecticut library, and I found a book called the New York Yankees by Frank Graham. And in this book, Graham was telling stories about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and showed him as you the book was, was came out in 1947. And I was just mesmerized by it. I was just a kid. So after, after college and law school, I went to work for Prentice Hall, doing law. And after a while, I found a trade book with the books that they did. And I thought to myself, you know, this would be a place where I could do the sequel to the New York Yankees by Frank Graham. And I went downstairs to the trade book division knocked on the door of the guy in charge, and basically talked myself into getting a contract to write my first book dynasty, and I could spend an hour talking about the experiences I had visiting all of those Yankees, you know, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Elston Howard Elston Howard, by the way, the entire interview is in this book. I feel heaven. Yeah.

Joe Hamilton  24:17

So you got that? Yes. You’ve never written a book before. No. Talk about that feeling. And with the plan you made?

Peter Golenbock  24:24

Well, at Dartmouth, I was the sports editor. And my athletic director was Red Roth, who had been the third baseman for the Yankees in the 30s and early 40s. And I became close to Red, because I loved the fact that he was a third baseman for the Yankees. And I used to write articles about him and and, and it was just great to be able to sidle up to somebody who had, you know, played ball with DiMaggio and Bill Dickey, and so forth and so on. So, so the other thing is when I was in law school, my first Rand was the sports editor of the Stanford advocate. And I said to him, if you will give me press credentials, I will write your articles for free. And so I got to write articles about the Yankees, the Mets, the New York nets, the Jets, the giants on the weekends, and I got to do that. So I did articles, the OJ Simpson. Articles on Joe Namath. I mean, I had some experience. It’s not like I hadn’t done anything. So when I went to this editor at Prentice Hall, I could show him, you know, some of the work that I had done.

Joe Hamilton  25:41

what was when you were writing those articles? What was your intention? Other than to inform?

Peter Golenbock  25:47

Just, you know, just to write a great article? That’s all what makes a great article.

Joe Hamilton  25:51

What about your personality? Are you infusing them there? You know, obviously, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of color available to you and describing. 

Peter Golenbock  26:00

Well, I was an opportunity to interview OJ Simpson. You know, hey, how many people get to do that? Yeah. So you do your homework, you find out what you want to know. He asked him the questions, and hopefully he tells you, yeah, so straight journalism. Yeah, absolutely. Straight journalism. I had nothing more in mind. I was just, you know, writing articles for the Stanford advocate at the time. Alright.

Joe Hamilton  26:21

So now you’re haunting Yankee field, you’re there. And you stadium, and and you’re getting to talk to all these folks. Do you remember the sort of early evolution of your confidence level, your willingness to go deep on them, you know, with them and get beyond just the a couple questions about the game? Were you always kind of pushing that envelope?

Peter Golenbock  26:43

No, I made my list of questions for whoever I want to say. And all you know, this is yours. This was, you know, years after they’d stopped playing most of them. Yeah. I mean, Mickey had stopped playing in 68. And I was interviewing him and 73. So this was five years later. Yeah. I mean, that’s a funny story. I, I was supposed to meet him in Dallas where he lives. So I flew to Dallas, and I called his house and his wife answered, and I said, Can I speak to Mickey? And she said, Well, Mickey is in New York. This, Mickey was rather, you know, like that. So stayed overnight, the airport, gotten a plane flew to New York, and ran, you know, there was Mickey in the Yankee clubhouse the next day. And rarely Am I cowed by somebody, but Mickey was somebody who had been my hero all my childhood. So I had interviewed Ellie Howard. And I asked, Lea said, Ali, would you please, please, you know, bring me over to Mickey and introduce me. So we did. And I said, Mr. Mantle, may I ask you some questions, please. And he looks at me and he goes, No. And as he bursts out to this big cackle started cackling and laughing. We talked for a good hour, hour and 15 minutes, hour and a half. And he told me some incredible things that he had never told anybody else.

Joe Hamilton  28:12

Well, here’s what I’m getting at. Because you’re you’re saying I just wrote a list of questions down, but yet you’re cold intro to Mickey Mantle within an hour. He’s telling you things he’s never told anybody before. That’s not just writing a list of questions down, you’re building a rapport, you’re knowing what to ask. And this is what I’m trying to dig into and figure out

Peter Golenbock  28:28

alright, I can’t tell you why they liked me. I can’t tell me my earnestness and trustworthiness. Well, that that that I was serious about what I was doing. I had done my homework. And I cared about them. These are my guys. And there’ 

Joe Hamilton  28:43

that famous story of, I mean, I don’t know if it’s real or not, but it was more of a to prove a point where, you know, the they were on a train. And you know, some reporters were in one of the cars and, you know, babe, Ruth ran through almost naked with a woman chasing him with a knife and the reporter looked at the report, and so I’m glad we didn’t see that right. Did you? You know, how much of that did you did you have to do to keep the you know, the words?

Peter Golenbock  29:08

None of it? No, no. Well, there was one. There, sort of how I ended up here in St. Petersburg. I was living in Ridgefield, Connecticut. And I went and I bought the USA Today newspaper, which I rarely did. And there was in the sports section was the telephone number. We’re starting the senior professional baseball league. And if you weren’t your player, and you want to play in the league, call this number. And I thought to myself, wow, you know, I could spend a season with one of these teams. And what a great book this would be. So I call the fella who’s telephone number it was. And he said, come on down to Palm Beach and sit with all the players and the owners and pick the team you want to spend the season with. Great. So I went down there and I picked the West Palm Beach tropics. Dick Williams was the manager. Ron Washington was the shortstop. The Mets great home run hitter Kingman was the left field there. I thought this would be a really interesting team to write a book about. So the next day I got a telephone call. We don’t want you. I mean, what do you mean, you don’t want me? Well, then you just write personal fouls. About Jim Valvano. I said, Yeah. He said, Well, you got valve on a fire. We don’t want you. So I called Jim Morley, who was the fellow who started the league. And I told him what the problem was. And he said, not to worry. I’m the owner of the St. Petersburg pelicans come and spend the season with the pelicans. I said, Great. Okay, so drive down from Connecticut, to St. Petersburg crossing the Bayway. And the sun is going down. There’s the Dawn says are in the background. It’s 75 degrees. And I’m thinking, why would anybody want to live anywhere else but here. So the only thing that happened the next day, I went to see, to see Bobby Tolan, the manager to say hello. And he sits me down. He says, I think we have a problem. I said, What’s that, Bobby? He says, Well, the players really don’t want some strange guy hanging around them. And meanwhile, Doc Ellis, who’s it who’s in my baseball Heaven Book, Doc Ellis, who’s walking around my chair. And he’s going loser writer, loser writer, loser writer. So I say to Bobby, listen, let me talk to the boys. And tell them what I’m doing. To explain to them exactly what it is that I’m doing. He says fine. So there I am surrounded by all these former Mexico makes big names, good players. And I proceeded to tell him that this is a book about players having the opportunity to play the game again, the game they love so much. They had to stop playing and now you can play it again. And I was talking along those lines. And then I said to them, and if there’s something that I’m writing that you don’t like, you can read it and take it out. And then the meeting broke up. Nobody said a word to me. The next day I got on the bus. We were going to Winter Haven to play the Winter Haven super sucks. Nobody said a word. I spent the entire season with the St. Petersburg pelicans. We won the championship. These people became my close friends. I moved to St. Petersburg shortly thereafter, and it changed my life.

Joe Hamilton  32:39

Wow. What’s the fate in there? Yeah. A couple of twists. Absolutely. And a lot of a lot of willingness to take risks, you know, because obviously, with the Valvano, even though I assumed somebody on the other team was a fan, or friend of Valvano.

Peter Golenbock  32:58

The PR director was the friend of Alba PR Director of the West Palm Beach tropics, tropics, and the real irony of it was halfway through the season, he comes over to me and he says, How would you like to change teams and spend the rest of the season with the West Palm Beach tropics? And the answer was no.

Joe Hamilton  33:17

Tell me a little bit about your collection. I know you’ve got more than one bobblehead. What are some of your you know your favorite bobblehead? And what are some of the other relics you’ve you’ve saved that mean a lot to you?

Peter Golenbock  33:28

Well, I don’t know what it is about bobbleheads. It’s sort of keeps these players alive and funny kind of a way. I have almost all of the Yankees. I have the 2004 Boston Red Sox carrying their trophies. I have a lot of Pittsburgh Pirates for some reason. I’ve got a lot of hall of famers and more than anybody else. I have Tampa Bay Rays, dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of some people collect stamps, I collect bobbleheads

Joe Hamilton  33:58

So without any other any other things beyond bobbleheads if you’ve you’ve sort of kept friends with players and stuff.

Peter Golenbock  34:06

You know, when when I when I wrote The Bronx Zoo, the fellow from Mad Magazine, I had sport magazine, you know, put some of it in of the rocks in the magazine. And the fellow from Mad Magazine drew a picture of all the Yankees in the dugout sort of in a jail. I mean, it’s just it’s a fabulous keepsake. You know, I bought it from sport magazine after it came out. You know, I’ve got wonderful things. I’ve got the ticket that Secretary Well, I went to the Belmont to see Secretariat win the Triple Crown and he won, as you know by 20 lengths. I still have the ticket. I never cashed it. It was a $2 ticket where you could get $3 back

Joe Hamilton  34:53

Worth more than $2 now. I have my guess on this one. I’m gonna I’m gonna sit on my answer tell you, you told me yours. But if you had to give somebody one Peter Golenbock book, what would it be?

Peter Golenbock 35:09

Oh, that’s hard. I know. That’s very hard, very, very hard. I suppose it depends who they are. Baseball. You know, I think I think for Yankee fans, I think they would enjoy Dynasty the most. The Bronx Zoo was something that they would want to read to because it’s Sparky was hilarious. I mean, it’s really quite amazing how I ended up doing it after after writing. dynasty, I went to work for the Bergen record. And I became a journalist and an editor. And I was intending to spend the rest of my life in newspapers. When I got a call from Billy Martin’s business manager, Billy Martin wants you to do his book with you. Great. So turned out for one reason or another. Billy couldn’t do it at that moment. But the guy had one other client. And that was Sparky. Lyle. Yeah. So he said, you know, why don’t you do a book with Sparky and I quite naturally said why would anybody be interested in what Sparky has to say? And very wisely, he said to me, go down to Fort Lauderdale. And hang out with Sparky. And you’ll see. And I did that. And I you know, you’re standing in the clubhouse. Who are you standing with? You’re standing with Reggie Jackson. You’re standing with Thurman Munson. You’re standing with catfish Hunter was Danny with Billy Martin. George Steinbrenner is hovering above. And it occurred to me you know, a sparky would keep a diary of the season. This could really be interesting. And number of things turned out. Well, the Steinbrenner had bought goose Gossage during the winter for $2 million. Sparky was making 140,000. So Sparky knew that he was losing his closer job. So not only was Sparky a great reporter, but he was also you know, spitting Matt, you know, so he had no problem telling me what the role was going on with the Yankees during the entire 1978 season. And, you know, when that book, hit the stands, you know, it was like a bomb went off in New York, it was really very exciting. Very, very exciting, you know, and it also, you know, obviously changed my life. So I didn’t become a newspaper reporter. I wrote that book, which became a New York Times bestseller. And then I wrote Billy’s book, which was called number one. And that became a New York Times bestseller, and I had a career. It’s fantastic.

Joe Hamilton  37:38

And it’s funny. The, the answer, my guests are just so because I know people don’t like an unclosed loop. When I said, I’m going to sit on my answer, my guess was going to be bumps, mainly because of, of the positioning of an understanding what what what Jackie Robinson and I thought that was, seemed like that was a moving thing for you that runs bombs.

Peter Golenbock 38:03

Bombs were special to me when I was 10 years old. My uncle Justin Golenbock took me to the 1956 World Series was the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. And he took me there. Well, I’ll see the game but also he was Jackie Robinson, attorney. And Jackie was moving from wherever he was in New York to Stamford, Connecticut. And so after the game, Uncle Justin and I went down to meet this man. And I’m 10 and, and he’s Jackie Robinson, he looked like, you know, giant. I never forgot it. And so my senior paper at Dartmouth was about Jackie Robinson and his effect on, you know, American culture. And when I had the opportunity to write bombs, I think the most important person who I interviewed in that book, and believe me, I interviewed, everybody was Rachel Robinson. And she remembered me, you know, she, she loved my uncle. And so she gave me a fantastic, fantastic interview. And that’s thing really, that that made bums even more special than it was.

Joe Hamilton  39:21

And you’ve often said that had that gone a different way. You know, Jackie’s acceptance, or, you know, there’s some rumors, it could it could really change things in America as a lawyer

Peter Golenbock  39:31

Without a doubt. I mean, I even when I was writing it in 1980, I’m not sure people quite understood how important Jackie was to the civil rights movement. I think if Jackie had failed, you might not have had Brown versus Board education, you might not have had a lot of things. It might have taken a lot longer. But once he succeeded, and one of the books I wrote was called in the country of Brooklyn, and I interviewed a bunch of people who were poor. Can Dodger fans, and they talked about Jackie, and you know, they were white, Jackie was African American, they wanted to be him, you know, and a lot of them ended up being lawyers, which is kind of fun. One of them being ended up being the head of the ACLU, all these people who saw what Jackie did, and just were overwhelmed by what it meant.

Joe Hamilton  40:24

So I wanted to come back to Bombs just to just close that loop. But you were talking about having a career as a writer, and I found it quite interesting the inbound that you’ve gotten, you know, you said, I think I saw where you said that. There’s a lot of folks who’d love to write biographies about or CO write autobiographies with that they’re just hard to get a hold of, but you’ve had a steady stream of inbound interest. But it’s really come from all over the place. Sure, from trial lawyers to you know, obviously some racecar stuff. And so what’s, you know, how do you? How do you find joy and all those different subjects? Just just grand wide curiosity? And how do you decide which projects to take on which don’t?

Peter Golenbock  41:06

It’s just mostly the love of the work? While I’m doing it, 

Joe Hamilton  41:11

But it is a devotion? I mean, how long did the Casey Anthony book take?  How long did you have to spend on that? A year? That’s a year your life? No, yeah. Oh,

Peter Golenbock  41:19

yeah. And Jose Baez was incredible. What he did, what the lengths that he went to, to save her from going to prison, were unbelievable. I mean, that that prosecutor, he made up stuff, he lied. He just, he wanted her to go to prison. And the truth of the matter is that Casey Anthony was asleep when her daughter drowned, and her father, and the thing you discover is her father had been having sex with Casey Anthony since he was eight years old, eight years old. And so So on this particular day, the, you know, when when the kid was born, the question was, you know, was was her father, the father of this child, and he wasn’t, fortunately, but but when the child died, the father was supposed to be watching her. And she walked up the stairs to their pool, and fell in the pool, couldn’t get out and drowned. And so what did the father do? The father went, in the past, when when their animals had died, the father had taken the dog’s bodies, put them in a black paper bag and threw them in the woods. He did the same thing with the body of this girl. A he was a former policeman. So nobody, you know, looked at him. The prosecutor never looked at him. They all looked at Casey Anthony. And they were all convinced that somehow she had killed her daughter. And they were stuffing the trunk. And it was supposed to be the dead body that was in the trunk, and it had flies and so forth and so on. And the project cuter came up with all of this nonsense. And Jose Baez, step by step by step by step, prove that none of that that they were talking about was true. None of it. And the jury was out about 10 minutes. I know they they found her not guilty. So fast. It wasn’t funny. And even to this day, people don’t believe that she was innocent. Oddly enough.

Joe Hamilton  43:21

That’s tough thing in this world. You get out in the media is guilty or guilty. Yeah. I’m curious. Just have you had? Have you had? Have you been six months into a year project and said, what am I doing here? No. You’ve been pretty good about your due diligence before committing to that.

Peter Golenbock  43:40

Yeah, well, not. Not all of them work out. You know, sometimes the person you’re working with turns out to be not somebody you should be working with.

Joe Hamilton  43:53

That’s happened. And as far as the business itself goes, you know, you said obviously, a lot of people say that the internet changed things. You’ve said that it was actually the death of the local bookstore. Absolutely. That that impacted your sales, the math.

Peter Golenbock  44:07

So we though, I must say here in St. Petersburg with Tombolo books. Those people are doing a fabulous, fabulous job, making books available, doing publicity, having, you know, the authors come and do little shows. They’ve been great. They just have been great. I admire them tremendously. They’re doing a great, great job. And

Joe Hamilton  44:30

We actually own St. Pete Press. And so we do about we do about a dozen books a year by local authors. Wow. Actually put on a an annual event every year, which I’ll make sure you get an invite to have it at the Palladium. I’d love to come it’s just a night of we bring in a representative from a bookseller someone in education writer and a publisher and just kind of give a state of the industry and St. Pete Yeah, we have fun you know, Paul Wellborn plays little few tunes, right, Peter Clark, we give away actually the right Peter Clark Every year 

Peter Golenbock  45:00

Isn’t that wonderful? Yeah. And so the hardest thing in the world is doing publicity for your book. Yes. It’s very, very, very, very hard. There’s no short answers on how to do it. You go on, you go on MSNBC, and every single one of those people have a book out. And you say to yourself, how in the world can I compete? Well, you know, people who are on nationwide television, you know, promoting their books, it’s just very, very hard.

Joe Hamilton  45:26

Because you’ve never considered jumping in anything else. Unless you did some, some broadcasting.

Peter Golenbock  45:33

 And I did. – WOR. Yeah, I did that first nine months, I was making a solid $100 a week. But I had a ball I had, you know, wonderful figures, command baseball players, tennis players, hockey players. You know, after the nine months, I was, you know, financially it was becoming difficult. So I said to him, you know, could you make it $300 a week? And they said, No, so that was the end of my radio career.

Joe Hamilton  45:59

Well, I appreciate you stopping by  and sharing some stories, and I was very interested to hear in your thoughts on the raise. And it’s pretty clear that well…

Peter Golenbock  46:10

We have something here. That’s a very, very, very special, you know, and the thought that anybody could say, let them go. I don’t know. I just I don’t understand it. That literally makes me crazy.

Joe Hamilton

And that’s a good place to end. Thank you.

Peter Golenbock

My pleasure. Thank you, sir.


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