Tuesday, we had the pleasure of visiting with author Richard Bogovich. We recently read his second book, Kid Nichols: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Pitcher. During the weeks in which we were reading and talking about the book, we met for several baseball-themed movies including Pride of the Yankees, Field of Dreams and Fear Strikes Out. Even though it was the middle of winter, we had our own little baseball season.
But that didn't make conditions any less icy for Bogovich, who drove down from Rochester, Minnesota to meet with us. Accompanying him was his wife, Pastor Laura Sutherland, who many blog readers will recall was instrumental, during her time at Bethel, in launching Bethel's Homeless Ministries (the support group, support services and this book club). She is now senior pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Rochester, MN.
Once sandwiches and coffee were served, we launched in with our questions.
What made you decide to write about Kid Nichols?
One day, Bogovich, who loves trivia of all kinds, came across a trivia book having to do only with baseball. In the book was a list of Hall of Fame baseball players who had not yet been honored by their home town and he was surprised to find a player from Madison on the list, a man named Kid Nichols. At the time, Bogovich was living in Madison. He decided to see if he could find enough information to write a biography on Nichols. He started by searching archives at the Wisconsin State Journal and the State Historical Society, and was pleased to discover quite a bit of information. He approached his publisher, McFarland & Company, and they were interested. So he went to work.
Did you ever play baseball yourself? If so, what position did you play?
In his self-effacing way, Bogovich, a lefty, claims his most common position was "left out." He had a tough time judging pop ups, which are supposed to be the easiest balls to catch because there is time to line up under them, but for some reason that didn't work for Bogovich. Nonetheless, he made it to Little League, where he liked to play first base because grounders and balls thrown by his teammates were easier for him to catch.
Did you have a mentor in baseball and who was your favorite baseball player?
Bogovich says he didn't play long enough to find a mentor, although he was on a championship team once. His father taught him some things about the game, playing catch and such, but mostly he played with the neighborhood kids. He recalls in the third or fourth grade having a female coach, which was unusual back in the early 70's. But she was okay.
As for a favorite player, he says it was Ernie Banks. To his father's great disappointment, Bogovich has always been a Cub fan. That's because on his television back then, WGN Channel 9 was about the only channel that tuned in well, allowing Bogovich to watch the Cub games but not the White Sox games. Another favorite player of Bogovich and his younger brother was Cal Ripkin, Jr. The two brothers would buy up all the Cal Ripkin, Jr. baseball cards they could find, even duplicates.
Who is your favorite author?
Bogovich admits that he's not much of a reader, explaining that when it comes to reading he is "super slow." He can count on one hand the number of novels he's read in his lifetime. On the other hand, he has literally thousands of comic books. (His wife attests to this.) When pressed, he says his favorite author is probably Arthur Conan Doyle because he's watched just about every Sherlock Holmes television series and movie ever made.
Who inspired you to become a writer?
Bogovich says he had many good English teachers over the years, but not one of them stands out in his memory. There wasn't a teacher who took him under wing or anything like that. Consequently, he never actually thought about becoming a writer. "That was something other people did." In college he studied math, political science and speech, not writing or English. He especially had no interest in ever writing fiction. It just sort of evolved out of his love for collecting trivia.
Is it tough to write having not read a lot of books?
"Not really," Bogovich says. "I've been exposed to enough baseball books to know how it goes together. So I had a sense." Bogovich, who, in addition to reading lots of comics and trivia books, has also read a lot of music and movie critics, says he didn't want to write like critics do. "They write to impress. They trot out a lot of big words. I didn't want to do that." In doing research for this book, Bogovich read a lot of sports writers' works from the 19th and 20th centuries and found the writing on average to be of a much higher level than contemporary sports writing. (Sounds like a subject for another book.)
How and were did you gather all the information about Kid Nichols?
Most of the initial information came from the State Historical Society and old Madison newspapers. The internet was tremendously helpful, providing access to archives in other states, making it easy to get at without having to travel much. Later in the process, Bogovich met and talked with Nichols' granddaughters who provided additional files and photos, much of it never before published.
How long did it take to write this book?
Gathering the information took a lot longer than writing the book. Overall, he spent about 10 years on this project, with about two full weeks dedicated to writing.
Are you writing any other books and are you writing another book about baseball?
Bogovich has several ideas for books that he is currently investigating, including one on Frank Selee, who helped create the Cub team that went on to win the World Series in 1908; or on Frank Grant, an African American player from the 19th century who played in the integrated minor league teams before the Jim Crow laws forced him out; or maybe Brett Favre, focusing on his fall from grace. Bogovich thinks there would be more than enough material on any of these three subjects to generate the requisite 70-80,000 words his publisher wants, and these books would have the potential to be money-makers.
Do your children share your love of writing?
Both Bogovich and his wife weighed in on this one. While both of their children are intelligent, hard-working and creative, neither seems bent on a writing career. Bogovich humbly adds, "They are both much better students than I ever was."
Did any of Kid Nichols' descendants get involved with baseball?
Nichols was talented at many sports. In addition to playing baseball, Nichols loved to bike, golf and bowl. With his wife, Nichols helped promote a bowling team for women in Kansas. There were a lot of things his descendants could take from him, but none, it seems, made any attempt to exceed his accomplishments in baseball.
List 5 characteristics of Kid Nichols:
Do you have a favorite quote from Nichols?
While not necessarily his favorite Nichols quote, there is one line that stands out in Bogovich's memory It comes from the title of an article Nichols wrote for Baseball Digest Magazine in 1947. "Pitchers are sissies now."
And with that, our time with Mr. Bogovich came to an end. Bogovich stayed for photos and to sign books and answer any last minute questions.
We give our thanks to author Richard Bogovich for writing this book and then making the drive all the way from Rochester, MN on icy roads just to spend time with us. We especially appreciate his humble and honest answers to our many questions. We wish you continued writing success, Mr. Bogovich!
Thanks also to his wife, Pastor Laura Sutherland, for accompanying him on this journey. We enjoyed catching up with her, refreshing our connection. Dear Laura: We wish you continued joy in serving at Mount Olive Lutheran Church.
|Author Richard Bogovich and his wife, Pastor Laura Sutherland.|
Tyrone, Ray, C.E., Doug, David, Mark, Jack, Linda, Thomas, Freddie, Jeremy and special guest, Pastor Laura Sutherland.
We meet next week in the Fireside Gallery to watch The Natural, starring Robert Redford.