Watching DiPietro’s career from afar over the years, I knew that I would write this story one day, sad as that idea was. Then to hear that he recently asked for his own release from a minor league hockey team because he knew he was keeping someone more deserving from a roster spot was equally hard to hear. I will never forget the player that I saw in net at Boston University, and I believe that that player is somewhere to be found. But at this point, I don’t even think Rick knows how to find him.
This story came together, start to finish, from reporting to writing to publication, in less than a week. I pushed myself harder and faster on this one more than any assignment I’ve ever gotten. (The sum total of my inspiration was a Gchat from my editor saying, “Hey, you should do something on ‘One Shining Moment.’”) So I set out to write a definitive history of what has been called the national anthem of college hoops.
David Barrett, though he had told this story a few times over the years, was extremely gracious, even as he was literally headed out the door to attend the national championship game and cheer on the Michigan Wolverines. His old high school friend, CBS’ Armen Keteyian, who was instrumental in cementing the song’s legacy, was equally great. I was so anxious that the story wouldn’t come together in time, but in the sense that any story “writes itself,” this one truly did, much to my relief.
The Short Flight Of El Pájaro (May 17)
I came upon the idea for this story one night while researching a joke answer for a Twitter hashtag that was going around. That Alfredo Cabrera was such a legend in Cuban baseball and actually managed to play one single game in MLB but no more than that fascinated me to no end. I had to learn everything I could about this man’s life and career. Wouldn’t you know it, there are quite a bit of old New England newspaper sports pages from the 1910s to be found the Google News archives. Go figure.
As happy as I am of how this story turned out, I remain convinced that a better writer with a deeper understanding of Cuban baseball history could do this narrative even more justice. I would read that in a second.
Tracking down the long-retired Wilstein proved harder than I thought — also surprisingly difficult was pinpointing the exact day that Wilstein’s investigation first hit the wires — but he was so accommodating and friendly when we finally were able to connect. More than that, he seemed so content that he’d been able to put so much room between himself and sports since his retirement. (I’m certain that the trauma of watching his wife die from a long illness, all in the midst of his McGwire reporting blowing up baseball, had something to do with his eventual and complete divorce from the profession. If that’s so, we truly missed out.)
I also did not realize what sort of abuse Wilstein had to put up with in the wake of all that hullabaloo. (Especially from the St. Louis media.) In spite of all that, he sounded neither bitter nor regretful when I spoke with him. I can only hope to have such perspective when I retire one day.
Why Do Baseball Players Still Bunt So Damn Much? (September 16)
There have been countless better stories written about bunting, probably even this past year alone, but I wanted to take a stab at relaying a complicated, arcane strategy that many casual fans probably would profess to understanding but secretly do not. I couldn’t have done this without the gracious time afforded me by some of the nation’s top baseball writers, and I hope to do more of these kinds of “casual sports fans’ guide to ______” in 2014, especially for concepts that we tend to easily gloss over, if for no other reason than the theory that the more we really understand sports, the more we can enjoy them.