Saturday, November 30, 2013

Interview with Tucker Elliot

I recently had the pleasure to interview Tucker Elliot, author of several baseball trivia books and also a book on military families, "The Day Before 9/11".     He also has another book in the works that combines a military theme and baseball, which he details below in one of the answers.

What inspired you to write “Baltimore Orioles IQ”?
I’ve had a lifelong fascination with baseball stats, history and memorabilia – but when I was a kid, my parents were very careful about who was “acceptable” as my heroes if you will, because they didn’t want me being influenced by athletes who lacked morals. Cal Ripken and Dale Murphy were at the top of my mom’s list of players she felt were good role models, so of course I was a diehard fan of both those guys – and naturally when I signed a contract to write in this series my first choices were Atlanta and Baltimore. As things turned out I agreed to write several books but I didn’t get to choose how they were queued or the Orioles would have been written 2-3 years ago.

You have written similar books on several teams.  Will you write about all 30 major league teams?
That’s a goal for the series for sure. I am currently working on other teams – the Twins, for example, as well as the Pirates – but due to other projects I’m involved with there will be a pretty good lag between future IQ books.

Describe your research for the book, including anything you wish to share about his family or friends whom you may have contacted during this process.
I always start by reading memoirs and biographies on the great players from whichever team I’m researching. I won’t always read them cover-to-cover, but I’ll take down notes about specific moments that should be in the book. I usually contact the team and ask for old media guides, as they are great resources. The last two things I always include in the research is a comprehensive look at the franchise record book and recaps for any and all postseason trips.

In the book, you address topics that can be considered controversial, such as the inclusion of players accused of taking performance enhancing drugs.  Why did you choose to include them?
I don’t mind taking shots at Barry Bonds or other players from the PED era – and in fact I’m firmly in the camp that believes Roger Maris and Hank Aaron are the rightful season and career home run champions. I took as many shots as I could at Bonds in writing my last book on the Braves and had a good time contrasting him with Dale Murphy (who wrote the foreword to the book) – and you can see that in this Orioles book as well when I refer to what Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds did as “not naturally occurring events.” That being said … yes, Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada and Brady Anderson are in this book and they are three names from Orioles history that get brought up in this discussion – and statistically, there aren’t many other ways to explain what Anderson did, though to my knowledge he’s never admitted nor been proven to have used PEDs. As for Palmeiro, he denied it before Congress, tested positive for steroids a few weeks later, explained it by saying he didn’t do it on purpose, and then denied it again, and he denies it to this day. Ultimately I chose to include them in the book because what they did on the field is an important part of franchise history. Should there be an asterisk next to their names in the record book? Well, others can debate that – but you can’t pretend that what they did isn’t relevant. It’s a wholly separate question from asking if what they did is tainted.

Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself – if you are a baseball/sports fan, why you became an author, and anything else you wish to share.
My family is from Georgia but I grew up in the middle of Nowhere, FL. Around the time I was 8 or 9 we got a stoplight. Seriously. Most days we spent fishing and playing sports. My parents were worried about my education so at night when I was listening to the Braves on the radio my mom would have me write “game reports” and she’d check my spelling and everything. In high school I wrote an essay on baseball and my teacher told me I had to rewrite it on a more serious topic. So I wrote an essay about the World Series and my teacher gave up. Anyway, I knew from an early age that writing was something I wanted to pursue. I’m a diehard Braves fan. I’m right handed, and bitter. I’d gladly be a fat thirty or forty-something reliever (Terry Forster maybe?) who gets to play half of forever just because he’s a southpaw. I’ve lived all over the world – North America, Asia and Europe – and have been influenced tremendously by foreign cultures. I’m a diehard fan of European soccer (Bayern Munich and Chelsea) but I’ve been to a cricket match in Indonesia before, too.

Do you have any projects or books that you are currently writing? Is there anything you wish to add, about the book or anything else?

A few years ago I wrote an essay that was essentially a memoir on being a teacher and coach and entered it in the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. I did well enough that I actually got a book contract out of it. I began writing a lot about education issues and also sports. Writing about baseball has been especially good for me because as my writing career has progressed my new projects have taken on much more serious issues – 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how all of it has impacted military kids living overseas with their soldier parents. I wrote a rather dark book titled The Day Before 9/11 that’s a true story about these topics – and being able to go back to baseball for a few hours each week is a relief when the rest of my time is spent reliving some rather painful true life events. As for current projects, I’m writing the memoir for Tony Stevens – he was in the Twins’ farm system on 9/11 and later he left baseball to join the Marines and served three tours in Iraq. The Day Before 9/11 was the first of three eBooks on 9/11 related topics that are meant to introduce Tony and his story to readers. The Memory of Hope and 11 Bombs are the second and third eBooks and will be released after the first of the year. 

No comments:

Post a Comment