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From day one he caught my attention. Not just with his Baseball notebook series but with his user name. As I discussed with him, "The Nite Owl" was my nickname in my college days at Temple University due to the fact that I don't sleep very much... and we've always been able to discuss baseball,; the game, the players and the lore with a similar passion and undying love.
On to the questions!!!
Meet the Users
1. Niteowl, you spent nearly 40 years working with a newspaper - How did that industry change over your time and how do you compare print to the ever-expanding world of the internet as it concerns sports coverage? Where is the internet headed in the future?
NiteOwl: I started working for the newspaper in 1966 a few months after returning from Vietnam. We were still using the linotype machines. We were still using linotype machines that the operators would use to type out the words on a metal slug. This process was called hot metal. Then in 1972 we switched to the cold type process which printed the stories out on paper and if there were any mistakes we would cover up the bad line with the correction by pasting over the bad line.
The newspaper as we know it now seems to be dying. Since I worked for Gannett corporation I was offered a chance to buy stock in the company and the stock that was $80 a few years ago is worth only $30 a share today.
The advantage of internet sports coverage is that it can be found instantly. Newspapers have deadlines that cause games on the West Coast to be left out of most papers in other parts of the country. Some sites update scores so you can know the final score just a short time after the game has been finished.
Internet has no space limitations like newspapers and can give the reader the latest statistics and unlike newspapers which have to cut the end of stories to make space for other stories on the page while the internet lets readers read the entire story. I look for the internet to replace newspapers in the next 20 or 30 years if not sooner since those of us like me who like to pick up a paper and read it in the morning may be gone and the younger demographic will be happy to get all their sports coverage from the internet.
2. As a baseball fan since 1955 (you've been a fan as long as Don Zimmer has been employed in the Majors!), what one team would you like to go back in my time machine and have season tickets with?
NiteOwl: The 1957 Braves would be the team I would like to have season tickets for if I could go back in time. It was an exciting time seeing future Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron in action. They had Johnny Logan, the enforcer, playing shortstop and was the team policeman, but Eddie Mathews could take care of himself too. I always liked Joe Adcock too because he lived about 55 miles from where we lived in Louisiana. 1957 was the year the Braves defeated the Yankees in the World Series, but lost when they played each other again in 1958.
3. They say the more things change, the more they stay the same - have sports really changed that much or is it our over awareness, accessibility and perceptions?
NiteOwl: Since the advent of free agency I think our perceptions of the players have changed since they used to have to work during the winter to support their families but now even the lowest paid player makes $390,000. It is hard for an average fan to perceive the players being able to make that kind of money. It surprises me that baseball fans go to so many games during a season because of the high cost of tickets, parking and concessions at the games. The basic of baseball have not changed on the field. Pitchers still try to get batters out and hitters try to hit the ball where a fielder can't catch it.
4. What would Dale Murphy have accomplished if he played today? Stats be damned - I think he should be a Hall of Famer. He was the best player in the game for 4-5 years and very good for another 4-5 years!
NiteOwl: If he played today I think Murphy would still be one of the best players in the game. Since he was able to adapt from being a catcher who had problems throwing baseball back to the pitcher to become a five time Gold Glove center fielder I think he could adapt to whatever difference he may encounter in baseball today. I think being traded from Braves to Phillies ended his career sooner than it should have. He hit 18 home runs and drove in 81 for the Phillies in 1991 but in his last two seasons with Phillies and Rockies he hit 2 home runs and drove in 104 at bats over those last two seasons and hit .161 and .143. To me there has never been a better role model for kids than Dale Murphy.
In the next two years he combined to hit only 2 home runs and drive in 14 runs in 104 at bats and fell two home runs short of hitting his 400th home run and had 2111 hits.
I have been fortunate to have been able to see Dale Murphy play in Houston at the Astrodome a few times and my wife even touched his arm which was a big deal for her.
5. We know you love baseball, but what are your thoughts about the other sports??
NiteOwl: I haven't seen an entire basketball game in person or watched one on television for several years. It is not that I have anything against the sport but it just doesn't interest me. Football is a different story. I have been to one LSU game in Baton Rouge and will never forget seeing a wide receiver catching a pass on the fly and running toward our end zone seats for a touchdown. I have suffered through many years of agony watching the Saints and can remember when John Gilliam ran the opening kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. It has been a tradition to watch the Saints game on television after coming home from church for over 35 years. Now that we are in Tennessee that tradition has ended and am trying to become a Tennessee Titans fan. It wasn't easy watching LSU and Tennessee play this last fall since we didn't know who to root for but when it came down to it we rooted for LSU.
Of other major sports football is the only one that is of interest to me. I have not seen a entire basketball game in person or watching on TV in several years. Football though has kept my interest mostly because of watching the New Orleans Saints for over 30 years almost every Sunday after church. The Saints could come up with more ways to lose than can be imagined. I have seen LSU play in Baton Rouge, Louisiana one time and have watched the local college play some games. They just can't take the place of baseball. I have watched the Alexandria Aces team play in Class C, Class AA in Texas League and now they play in an independent league. The Texas League team sent 12 players off of one year's roster to the major leagues including Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones.
5b. Thinking back to your High School days - Which sport has surprised you the most over the past 40 years (good or bad)?
NiteOwl: Since my high school days the biggest change is that football has gained more popularity than in the past. Our local college team went without football after a few years of losing and lately after 32 years they restarted the program and they are drawing big crowds to the games. Right before they ended football my dad who sold tickets at the games said they were barely making enough to pay the bill for the lights for the stadium.
Obligatory Bonus Question. Change one play in the history of sports, which play would you change?
NiteOwl: The play that I would like to see changed would be Bill Buckner letting the ball get through him in the 1986 World Series. Because of that one play Bill Buckner will be mainly remembered for that one play rather than for all the good things he accomplished while playing baseball. It also would have saved Red Sox fans of having to wait 18 extra years to get rid of the Babe Ruth curse once and for all and it caused many a Red Sox fan die with never seeing their team win a World Series. That is why I will be rooting for the Cubs to win this year since five generations have passed without them winning a World Series while the Marlins have won two World Series in seven years.
I am sure there is nobody alive today that even remembers the Cubs winning in 1908. I am sure some Cubs fans back then after the 1907 and 1908 World Series wins were thinking of a three peat but a hundred years later it never has happened.
Thanks, NiteOwl! Always a pleasure!