Monday, April 23, 2012

Author Spotlight, Doug Feldmann

Doug Feldmann is the author of Gibson's Last Stand: The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975. He is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Northern Kentucky University and a part-time scout for the Cincinnati Reds. He is the author of nine books, including El Birdos: The 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals, and is our current Author Spotlight!

by Brittney Warrick, Publicity Intern

In what ways do you feel the game of baseball has changed the most since Gibson’s last day on the field to present day?

This, ironically, was one of the themes of the book; both Gibson and the Cardinals owner, August Busch Jr., were bemoaning what they envisioned – separately, and for separate reasons – changes that were occurring in baseball by the early to mid-1970s.  For Gibson, it was the dissipation of what he called the “rancor” between the pitcher and the batter… that is, the ability for the pitcher and the batter to resolve on-field disputes themselves, without the umpire constantly jumping in with a warning for a pitch too close, a warning for a threatening tone from the batter, etc.  For Busch, he saw the typical player of the mid-1970s as one of a new breed – that of greed and ungratefulness.  It truly soured his love for the game, and hastened his retreat from running many of the day-to-day operations of the club.

  How would you personally describe the Golden Era of baseball?

In my opinion, the “Golden Era” of baseball would begin in the Great Depression, through World War II and the 1950s, and into the 1960s.  It was a time when ballplayers not only loved and respected the game, but had to watch their money carefully.  For example, in 1934, Cardinals shortstop Leo Durocher was asked to take a 40% salary cut due to the economic times – from $8,500 a year down to $5,000.  Could one imagine a player today accepting a 40% pay cut? (at least without a lot of whining and moaning?)  Likely not!  What is more – the fact that the players during the Great Depression, like so many others in the society, had to fight for any extra nickel they could earn; what this produced was a hard-fought World Series in 1934 (for example) between the Tigers and the Cardinals, in which each player on the winning side would receive an extra $5,800 – money that was desperately needed, even by major leaguers, during this time.  Therefore, fans were thus treated to a hard-fought World Series, with players on both sides giving everything they had.

As a part time scout for the Cincinnati Reds can you explain the process of scouting?

As a part-time scout, I assist full-time scouts in covering some of their geographical area.  With the cuts that many clubs have made to their full-time scouting staffs, some scouts now have to cover the equivalent of two states or more.  If there is a player in my area that the full-time scout would like for me to see, I do so, fill out a report on the player, and send it in to the club.  So, I serve as an extra “set of eyes” in evaluating the given player, helping the organization decide if it would like to select the player during the June amateur draft.

Who are your favorite major leagues sports teams?

My father played for the Cubs and the White Sox in the minor leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and our family was raised mostly Cubs fans on the north side of Chicago (my mother is a Cubs fan as well – even though she was raised in Joliet, Illinois – definitely more of a White Sox town, south of Chicago).  Additionally, my father was raised in southern Illinois, which is Cardinals territory (and my mother was born in St. Louis) – so, we have some Cardinals connections within our family as well.

 What are your hobbies and interest outside of your profession?

I also work part-time for the Major League Baseball web site, – I enter the play-by-play on a laptop for the Cincinnati Reds games from the ballpark press box, so that people can follow the game if they are at a computer, but perhaps away from a television or radio.  I also like to run, read historical biographies, and hang out with my wonderful wife Angie, and our playful dog Dizzy! (who, incidentally, is named after former Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean – the subject of my first book from 2000).

 As the author of nine books, where do your main ideas and thoughts come from and how do you go about pursuing the research for them?

Most of my nine books have dealt with a particular team in a particular baseball season; for example, I have written books on the 1934 Cardinals, the 1967-68 Cardinals, and the 1985 Cardinals (in addition to Gibson's Last Stand, which looks at the team from 1969-1975).  Part of my reasoning for choosing a particular topic is "selfish," and the other part is "practical."  The selfish part means that I select  years or teams that were personally meaningful or interesting to me; the practical part means that I select years or teams with an especially-compelling story to tell, arising from the given baseball season or that era/year in society.  The "selfish" part is what drives me (and is, I am sure, what drives many authors); the "practical" part helps me finish the job, as I attempt to create associations in the story that others will understand and find interesting.

  Where has been one of the most interesting places you have traveled to?

Speaking of my dog, Dizzy... when I was conducting the research for my first book, I traveled to the last home of Dizzy Dean in Wiggins, Mississippi - a small town on U.S. 49, and one of the last stops on the way to the Gulf Coast at Biloxi and Gulfport.  Bond - the community next to Wiggins - was the hometown of Dizzy's wife Pat, whom he had met during one of Dizzy's minor league stops back around 1930.  They decided to retire there in the 1960s, and their home is now an orphanage known as "Deanash" (a combination of Dizzy's last name and Pat's maiden name, which was Nash).  Also, there is now the "Dizzy Dean Rest Area" off of U.S. 49 in Wiggins, with pictures from his career with the Cardinals.  Diz and Pat are buried in the Bond Cemetery, which is tucked away through some back country roads in a quaint, remote, and peaceful area.

Who do you predict to be the winner of the next World Series?

I don’t like making predictions; however, I do see the Cardinals having another strong year!  I believe some people are writing them off, simply because of the loss of Albert Pujols; however, with the return of Adam Wainwright to the pitching staff, as well as the development and acquisition of other certain players, I think the 2012 Cardinals could be even better this year than their World Series-winning club of a year ago.

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