Graphic of A E T N Logo Graphic of P B S logo

On the Same Page with Buzz Bissinger

Loading the player…

Best-selling, Pulitzer Prize winning author Buzz Bissinger brings his new book, "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager," to "AETN Presents: On the Same Page,"

"Three Nights in August" goes behind the scenes of a three-game series between the St. Louis Cardinals and their rivals the Chicago Cubs. Bissinger explores the strategy, luck and emotions that Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa says contribute to "beautiful baseball." Bissinger examines numerous aspects of the game, including: recent changes in how baseball is played, skyrocketing salaries, player motivation, steroid use and rare insights on baseball's most intense moments. The book's popularity has kept it on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 17 weeks.

Bissinger is the best-selling author of "Friday Night Lights," which was named the best sports book of the past 25 years by ESPN and was made into a movie starring Billy Bob Thornton. He has won the Pulitzer Prize and the Livingston Award for his journalism and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

This "AETN Presents" interview was conducted by Kane Webb, assistant editorial page editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, who spoke with Bissinger during the second annual Arkansas Literary Festival in downtown Little Rock on April 27. The interview was taped at Rivermarket Books and Gifts in the Central Arkansas Library System.

Among those discussing "Three Nights in August" with OTSP host Tommy Sanders at That Bookstore at Mountebanq Place in Conway are: Steve Wright, a freelance writer from Fayetteville and a Batesville native who has served as a sportswriter at the Northwest Arkansas Times, Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; his daughter Casey Wright, a 2004 graduate of Fayetteville High School and student at the University of Arkansas who claims to love the Cardinals almost as much as her father; and Taylor Carr, a lifelong baseball fan and former baseball broadcaster and sports reporter who now teaches in the Harding University communications department.

"On the Same Page" has been called "Good television for people who love good books." Previously featured authors include: Crescent Dragonwagon, "Passionate Vegetarian;" Rick Bragg, "All Over but the Shouting;" Fannie Flagg, "Standing in the Rainbow;" Donna Tartt, "The Little Friend;" Sandra Cisneros, "The House on Mango Street" and Patricia McKissack, "Precious and the Boo Hag." Visit the program homepage at www.aetn.org/otsp.

The series is part of "AETN Presents," which has highlighted several special performances in recent years and has broadened its scope to include a variety of arts and cultural subjects.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans' lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming. AETN's five transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.

Transcript

WELCOME TO LITTLEROCK, WELCOME TO ON THE SAME PAGE. WELCOME TO THE ARKANSAS LITERARY FESTIVAL. AS YOU CAN SEE, LOTS OF BOOKS, LOTS OF AUTHORS IN ATTENDANCE. THE AUTHOR THAT WE'LL CONCENTRATE ON TODAY IS BISSINGER, THE AUTHOR OF HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IN NORTH TEXA TEXAS. HE HAS A NEW BOOK. OF SPECIAL INTEREST TO MOST BASEBALL FANS IN ARKANSAS, THAT MANAGER IS NONE OTHER THAN TONY LARUSSA OF THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS. WE'LL BE BACK TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH FELLOW ARKANSAS READERS ABOUT THREE CONVERSATION WITH FELLOW ARKANSAS READERS ABOUT THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST. 

WE'RE HERE AT THE ARKANSAS LITERARY FESTIVAL WITH BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, BUZZ BISSINGER, ALSO A CONTRIBUTING EDITOR TO HAVEN'T FAIR. HIS LATEST BOOK IS THREE NIGH NIGHTS IN AUGUST, STRATEGY, HEARTBREAK, AND JOY INSIDE THE MIND OF A MANAGER. THE MANAGER IS TONY LARUSSA OF THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, THE THREE GAMES ARE THE CARDINALS AND CUBS IN AUGUST OF 2003, AND THE WRITER IS BUZZ BISSINGER. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. 

THANK YOU. 

TELL US WHAT ATTRACTED TO YOU THIS PROJECT AND WHY YOU DECIDED TO DO A BOOK ABOUT TONY LARUSSA AND BASEBALL? 

I AM A BIG SPORTS FAN. MY FIRST BOOK WAS ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IN TEXAS, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, ALTHOUGH I DON'T CONSIDER MYSELF A SPORTS WRITER. BUT BASEBALL IS MY FIRST LOVE. WHAT HAPPENED WAS AT THE END OF 2002, TONY LARUSSA APPROAC APPROACHED ME. HE WAS INTERESTED IN DOING A BOOK, IN COLLABORATING WITH SOMEONE, AND HE CAME TO ME BECAUSE HE LOVED "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS" AND I BASICALLY IMPULSIVELY SAID YES LET'S DO IT BECAUSE I LIKED THE CARDINALS, AND DIZZY, AND DAFFY, AND STAN, THEY'RE CLASSY, VERY INTERESTING ORGANIZATION. AND I HAD SEEN TONY FOR YEARS ON TV IN THE DUGOUT. I NEVER MET HIM. BUT HE NEVER SMILED. I THINK THAT IN THE BOOK I DESCRIBE HIM AS A GLACIER WITH A MIGRAINE. YOU JUST FEEL THE INTENSITY AND PRESSURE POURING OFF OF HIS FACE. SO THE WRITER'S CHALLENGE OF WHAT'S BEHIND THE FACE? CAN YOU GET BEHIND THAT? AND WHAT I KNEW WAS A DEEP AND VERY INTRICATE AND COMPLEX MIND ABOUT THE GAME OF BASEBALL. 

LUCKILY FOR THE READERS IT'S NOT AS AS TOLD TO BOOK. WHEN I SAW YOU ON THE BACK COVER AND SAW YOU AND TONY TOGETHER -- 

YOU GOT NERVOUS. 

YEAH, BUT IT'S NOT. 

YOU WERE RIGHT TO GET NERVOUS, AND I GOT NERVOUS. ORIGINALLY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A TRADITIONAL AS TOLD TO. POCKET SOME CHANGE, GET IT OUT QUICKLY. THE CARDINALS HAD BEEN THROUGH A VERY EMOTIONAL 2002 SEASON WITH THE DEATH OF PITCHER DARRYL KILE, YOU KNOW, TONY HAD BROUGHT THE TEAM BACK. THEY HAD ALMOST GOTTEN INTO THE WORLD SERIES. I DON'T WANT TO DO A AS TOLD TO. THEY'RE BORING. THEY'RE SELF-CONGRAT LATORERY. THEY NEVER SAY ANYTHING. TONY AND I HAD INITIAL EXPLORATORY CONVERSATIONS, I WANT "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS," I WANT ALL OF THAT VIVID WRITING AND OBSERVATION. I SAID, TONY, I WANT TO TRY TO GET SOMETHING CLOSE TO THAT, TOO. BUT I SAID IF YOU WANT THAT TO HAPPEN, I NEED ACCESS TO THE TEAM, FOR THE 2002 TEAM, BECAUSE I FEED OFF THAT ACCESS, THAT WONDERFUL YOU ARE THERE QUALITY FOR READERS. YOU NEED TO BE REVEALING. YOU NEED TO SAY THINGS. NOT TAWDRY THINGS, NOT TO BE A MANAGERIAL VERSION OF JOSE CANSECO, BUT TO REVEAL THINGS ABOUT STRATEGY,  ABOUT YOURSELF PERSONALLY, ABOUT THE STATE OF THE MODERN-DAY BALL PLAYER. AND PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANT YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME THE LATITUDE TO TAKE THIS BOOK IN THE DIRECTION THAT I WANT TO TAKE IT IN. BECAUSE THIS IS NOT A BIOGRAPHY OF TONY LARUSSA. THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER DIMENSIONS AND PLAYERS AND PERSONALITIES WITHIN IT. 

WHEN HE SAID HE WANTED "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS" HE DID REALIZE HOW CONTROVERSIAL THAT BOOK WAS WHEN IT CAME OUT? 

I KNOW THAT HE READ IT I DON'T THINK THAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR THE CONTROVERSIAL ACT. LET'S FACE IT, CONTROVERSY IS GOOD. IT DOES HELP SELL THINGS. BUT HE JUST LIKED THE BOOK. HE LIKED THE WAY THAT IT WAS WRITTEN. HE LIKED THE VIVIDNESS OF IT. AS I SAID, HE LIKED THE OBSERVATIONAL QUALITIES OF IT. AND THE THING ABOUT TONY IS THAT I THINK THAT TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT MET HIM, THE FAN FANS, THERE IS A ALOOFNESS, MAYBE EVEN AN AIR GANS. HE IS NOT THAT TYPE OF GUY AT ALL. HE IS VERY SELF-EFFACING. THERE IS A SHYNESS TO HIM. BUT WHEN TONY COMMITS, HE IS VERY THOUGHTFUL. HE IS NOT AN OFF-THE-HANDLE KIND OF GUY. WHEN HE COMMITS, HE COMMITS. HE REALLY DID COMMIT IN TAKING A LEAP AND TRUSTING ME IN DOING WHAT I THINK IS A VIRTUALLY TOTALLY DIFFERENT BOOK IN THE GENRE OF SPORTS BOOKS. 

HE GAVE YOU ACCESS NOT JUST TO THE TEAM BUT TO HIMSELF. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT FASCINATING ME, SOME OF THE BEST PARTS OF THE BOOK ARE THE STUFF THAT HAPPENS OUTSIDE OF THE LINES. FOR INSTANCE, TONY LARUSSA'S PRIVATE LIFE WHICH JUST AMAZED ME THE WAY THAT HE LIVES FROM SPRING TRAINING TO OCTOBER TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT. 

WELL, IT'S NOT THE KIND OF LIFE THAT YOU WANT TO LIVE, OR YOU WOULD WANT TO LIVE OR ANYONE WOULD. TONY WILL BECOME THE THIRD WINNINGEST MANAGER OF ALL TIME. YOU KNOW, BEHIND CONNIE MACK AND JOHN MCGRAW. BUT YOU PAY A PRICE FOR THAT OBSESSION. AND HE IS OBSESSED WITH BASEBALL. SO HE DOES NOT LIVE WITH HIS FAMILY DURING THE SEASON, AS YOU SAY, FROM SPRING TRAINING ON HE BASICALLY LIVES IN A HOTEL SUITE IN ST. LOUIS. HIS FAMILY HAS REMAINED BEHIND, HIS BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND TWO DAUGHTERS, IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. AND THE REASON WAS WHEN TONY GOT THE CARDINALS JOB IN '96, ELAINE SAID, TONY, WE DON'T WANT TO GO WE'VE SEEN YOU WHEN YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT THERE. YOU ARE CONSUMED BY THE GAME. THE GAME MAKES YOU MOODY. THE GAME MAKES YOU DEPRESSED. IT'S ALL THAT YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT. THIS WILL ENABLE YOU TO GO TO ST. LOUIS AND TO FOCUS ON NOTHING BUT BASEBALL AND WILL ENABLE ME AS A MOTHER, AS THE MOTHER OF MY KIDS FOR US TO HAVE AN IDENTITY AND HAVE A LIFE. SO IT'S GREAT FOR FANS BECAUSE TONY DOES NOTHING BUT CONCENTRATE ON BASEBALL, AND IT WORKS WITHIN THE TERMS OF THEIR MARRIAGE. BUT THERE IS A LONELINESS TO IT. I MEAN, HE IS A VERY ISOLATED GUY. 

EVEN IN THE DUGOUT. 

OH, YEAH. THE ONLY PERSON HE TALKS TO IN THE DUGOUT IS HIS PITCHING COACH DAVE DUNCAN. BUT TONY TAKES ALL RESPONSIBILITIES UPON HISSELF. BASEBALL IS KIND OF A BEAUTIFUL GAME, AND WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL ABOUT IT IS OFTEN WHAT DOESN'T TAKE PLACE ON THE FIELD. I LOVE THE WAY THAT COX IS ALWAYS TALKING TO JOE TORI WHO USED TO HAVE HIS PILACHI IN DON ZIMMER. TONY REALLY DOESN'T DO ANY OF THAT. I CALL IT HIS FOXHOLE. 

IT'S NOT A CUB HOUSE CONFIDENTIAL, BUT WHEN YOU FIRST JOINED THE TEAM, HOW DID THE PLAYERS TAKE HAVING A EMBEDDED REPORTER WITH THEM WITH A LOT OF ACCESS AND THE OKAY OF THE MANAGER? 

EMBEDDED IN THE WAR OF BASEBALL.  (LAUGHTER) THAT WAS THE ONE THING THAT TONY WAS VERY WORRIED ABOUT. HE SAID, I WILL GIVE YOU ACCESS, ACCESS TO PRIVATE MEETINGS, TO TEAM MEETINGS, TO PITCHING MEETINGS, AND THE HITTERS' MEETINGS, BUT, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO TREAD QUIETLY. BECAUSE IF YOU ALIENATE PLAYERS, IF THEY'RE WORRY THAID MANY PREOCCUPIED WITH THIS BOOK, IF THEY THINK THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SNOOP AROUND AND GET THEM IN A GAME OF GOTCHA, THEN I WILL PULL OUT OF THE BOOK. SO AS A REPORTER THAT PRESENTS CHALLENGES, AS A WRITER, FOR THE FIRST THREE MONTHS I DIDN'T REALLY APPROACH A SINGLE PLAYER PROBABLY UNTIL THE END OF JUNE. I TREADED VERY QUIETLY. I JUST WANTED TO GIVE THEM THE EFFECT THAT I WAS THERE, AND TO BE THERE WITHOUT MAKING A NUISANCE OF MYSELF. REPORTERS DO OFTEN MAKE NUISANCES OF THEMSELVES. AND THEN BIT BY BIT BEGAN TO APPROACH THEM. AND I LEARNED ABOUT PLAYERS. THEY ACTUALLY LOVE TALKING ABOUT THE GAME. THE QUESTIONS THEY HATE IS THE RIDICULOUS OBVIOUS QUESTION. HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU GAVE UP THE HOME RUN IN THE BOTTOM OF THE 9TH? WELL, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT A PITCHER SAY? I FEEL GREAT? I HEAR THE GUY ON WELFARE AND THEN THEY FEEL TERRIBLE.   THEY LOVE WHEN YOU SAY TAKE ME THROUGH THAT AT BAT. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AS THE PITCHER?  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AS THE HITTER?  THEY LOVE TALKING ABOUT THE INTRICACIES OF THE GAME, SO IT REALLY BEGAN TO WORK, AND THEY DID NOT FEEL THREATENED. 

THERE IS A LOT OF STRATEGY IN THE BOOK. ONE AT BAT GOES ON FOR 2 1/2 PAGES. IT'S GOOD STUFF. BUT YOU CAN OVERDO THE BASEBALL STRATEGY IN A BOOK LIKE THAT. 

YOU CAN, AND IT'S A SLIPPERY SLOPE IN A BOOK LIKE THIS. I OFTEN SAID THAT A LIT BILL OF BASEBALL STRATEGY GOES A LONG WAY. IT SOUNDS LIKE PHYSICS, AND IT BECOMES INCREDIBLY COMPLEX. I'VE READ BOOKS AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS BOOK APPEAL BOTH TO PEOPLE WHO SIMPLY HAVE A CASUAL INTEREST IN THE GAME, BUT IT HAS TO APPEAL TO KNOWLEDGEABLE FANS. THERE ARE A LOT OF KNOWLEDGEABLE FANS. SO IF THEY READ THE BOOK AND THEY SAY, WELL, I KNEW ALL OF THIS STUFF, YOU ARE SUNK. SO THE REAL WRITING CHALLENGE IS HOW DO YOU MAKE THAT STRATEGY INTERESTING? LIVELY? PROVOCATIVE? AND YOU ARE RIGHT. IT WAS THEY HAD PLAYED IN ARKANSAS A LITTLE BIT. IT JUST TAKES THE READER TO AN AT BAT FOR 2 1/2 PAGES WHERE HE DOESN'T EVEN GET A HIT. BUT IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE IT SHOWS THE IMPORTANT OF TAKING PITCHES, AND WORKING A MANAGER'S PITCH COUNT, AND HOW TONY AS A MANAGER SAYS THAT'S THE BEST AT-BAT OF THE GAME BECAUSE HE REALLY WORKS CUB'S PITCHER WOOD DEEP AND GETS HIM OUT OF THE BALLGAME. THAT'S WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BASEBALL, ALL OF THE TINY COMPLEXITIES THAT MAKE IT REALLY A MAGNIFICENT GAME. 

MANAGERS SEE THE GAME DIFFERENTLY THAN WE DO DO YOU SEE A GAME DIFFERENTLY NOW AFTER SPENDING TIME WITH TO TO KNEE? I DO. I JUST APPRECIATE THE ASPECTS OF THE GAME. I LOVE THE FLUID DYNAMIC THIS, WONDERFUL SYSTEMS OF PULLIES AND LEVERS THAT THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF BASEBALL INVENTED. YOU KNOW, WITH EACH CHANGE IN THE COUNT THE WHOLE DYNAMICS CHANGE. I LOVE IT WHEN A GUY GETS TO FIRST BASE. IS HE TAKING A HIT AND RUN LATE? IS IT A STEEL LEAD? IS IT A DECOY? IS TONY HAVING HIM TAKE A CERTAIN LEAD BECAUSE HE WANTS THE OPPOSING MANAGER TO PITCH OUT? I LOVE THIS. THEFT IS LEGAL IN BASEBALL. IT WAS A SECTION THAT I LOVED. SO WHEN THERE WAS A GUY ON SECOND BASE, HE IS TRYING TO TELEGRAPH LOCATIONS AT THE FIRST BASE COACH WHO WILL THEN TELEGRAPH IT TO THE HITTERS? THERE ARE ALL OF THESE KIND OF HIDDEN STORIES THAT GO ON IN THE GAME. SO I THINK THAT IT CERTAINLY MADE ME HOPEFULLY A BETTER FAN AND WILL MAKE READERS A BETTER FAN OF THE GAME. 

THERE IS A THEORY THAT CASUAL SPORTS LIKE BASEBALL, GOLF, MAYBE HORSERACING, KIND OF LEND THEMSELVES TO BETTER RIDING. YOU'VE WRITTEN A BEST-SELLING FOOTBALL BOOK. THIS BOOK IS ON THE BES BEST-SELLER'S LIST OF THE "NEW YORK TIMES." DO YOU BUY INTO THAT A LITTLE BIT? 

I DO AND I DON'T. I'VE SEEN BASEBALL, I'VE SEEN HORSERACING, BOXING I'VE SEEN IT WRITTEN ABOUT BEAUTIFULLY. I THINK THAT THERE IS A CERTAIN POETRY TO THE GAME. THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL GAMES SIMPLY TO WATCH. I MEAN, I THINK THAT EVERY KID REMEMBERS THE FIRST TIME WHEN YOU WALKED INTO A MAJOR LEAGUE STADIUM AND YOU SEE THAT FIELD AND IT JUST SORT OF LIGHTS UP YOUR EYES. BUT YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL. I MEAN, YOU KNOW, IF YOU DO TOO MUCH OF THE FIELD OF DREAMS PASTORAL SYMPHONY STUFF, YOU KNOW, BASEBALL IS NOT A METAPHOR FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT BASEBALL. IT'S NOT A METAPHOR TO AMERICA. THERE IS NO INTENT IN THIS BOOK TO MAKE IT SYMBOLIC OF SOME LARGER AMERICAN TEAM. 

BASEBALL ISN'T A METAPHOR FOR LIFE?  (LAUGHTER) 

I THINK THAT THE EMOTION DOES REFLECT EMOTIONS IN LIFE. BUT YOU HAVE TO LIKE BASEBALL TO LIKE THIS BOOK. MAKE NO BONES ABOUT IT. WHEREAS ON "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS," IT WAS NEVER REALLY ABOUT FOOTBALL, BUT THE SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACT OF WEIGHING EVERYTHING IN THAT TOWN THAT STEMS FROM HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL. YOU KNOW, A DIFFERENT BOOK, I THINK THAT THE AMERICAN THEMES EVEHICLEED IN "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS" REALLY WORK. BUT THEY DON'T WORK IN ALL BOOKS. I THINK THAT TOO MANY FICTION WRITERS STRETCH, YOU KNOW, THEY -- THIS IS SYMBOLIC OF SOMETHING GOING ON IN AMERICA WHEN TO ME THE ONLY THING THAT'S SYMBOLIC OF IS THE WRITER'S INTENT TO MAKE IT SYMBOLIC. 

YOU ARE NOT A SPORTS WRITER. 

NO. 

YOU GREW UP GOING TO SPORTS EVENTS. BUT YOU WROTE TWO SPORTS BOOK BOOKS. ARE YOU DONE? 

YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT I AM DONE. WHAT I LIKE ABOUT "THREE NIGH NIGHTS IN AUGUST" AS A WRITER IS PRESENTED THE WONDERFUL CHALLENGE OF WRITING THE STRATEGY IN A DIFFERENT WAY. BUT THE BOOK IS MORE THAN STRATEGY. I LIKE WRITING THINGS WITH HUMAN EMOTION AND HUMAN HEART. AND THERE IS A LOT OF THAT IN THIS BOOK WHETHER IT'S TONY TALKING CANDIDLY ABOUT HIS PERSONAL LIFE, WHETHER IT IS HOW THE TEAM REACTS WHEN YOU HAVE THE DEATH OF A BULLDOG, A WONDERFUL PITCHER, DARRYL KIL KILE, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON. YOU KNOW, THERE IS A SECTION ON -- AND I AM REALLY HAUNTED WHAT HAPPENED TO RICK, WHEN HE MELTS DOWN, WHEN HE LOSES THIS INCREDIBLE PERFECT NATURAL GOD-GIVEN GIFT TO PITCH IN THE PLAY-OFFS IN 2000 AND IS NEVER THE SAME. A LOT OF MOMENTS IN THE BOOK LIKE IT, AND, YOU KNOW, THE REVIEWS HAVE GENERALLY BEEN TERRIFIC. THE "ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS" SAID THAT IT WAS THE BEST BASEBALL BOOK OF THE DECADE. I DON'T KNOW WHY THEY DIDN'T SAY IT WAS THE BEST BASEBALL BOOK EVER, BUT I WILL TAKE IT.  (LAUGHTER) 

  I'VE READ IT, AND I CAN RECOMMEND IT. AND "FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE" WAS RANKED AS ONE OF THE TOP SPORTS BOOK OF ALL TIME. BUT I WOULD LIKE FOR TO YOU READ A PASSAGE FROM YOUR LATEST BOOK.WHIL WHAT'S NEXT FOR BUZZ BISSINGE BISSINGER? 

I AM NOT SURE. I DON'T HAVE A BOOK PROJECT ON THE HORIZON. I'VE WRITTEN THREE BOOKS IT TAKES ME SORT OF A EMBARRASSING FIVE OR SIX YEARS IN BETWEEN BOOKS. I'M NOT VERY GOOD AT USING VERY BAD BASEBALL CLICHES AND ANALOGIES BECAUSE I'VE WRITTEN A BASEBALL BOOK. BUT IF YOU FORCE BOOK IDEAS, IT'S LIKE BUNTING, IT JUST HAS TO POP OUT. IT'S HARD ENOUGH WRITING A BOOK IF YOU LOVE THE IDEA. IF YOU DON'T LOVE THE IDEA, IT'S A KILLER. SO I DO STUFF FOR "VANITY FAIR" MAGAZINE, DO I SCREEN WRITING, SO I KEEP MY FINGER IN DIFFERENT POTS. 

GOOD ADVICE FOR THOSE OF US WHO HAVEN'T WRITTEN OUR FIRST ONE. 

ALL OF YOU WILL. THIS IS A BRIEF SECTION FROM THE PROLOGUE. IT GETS TO SORT OF THE HEART OF WHAT TONY LARUSSA AND BASEBALL IS ABOUT. AS MUCH AS HIS JOB TO TORMENTED HIM, HE KNEW THAT MANAGING A BASEBALL TEAM WAS A WONDERFUL WAY TO SPEND A LIFE. COULD BE THRILLING WHEN IT WENT RIGHT. WHEN YOU DID SOMETHING THAT PUSHED IN A RUN HERE AND THERE. WHEN YOU SET UP A DEFENSE AND THE BALL OFTEN SO RECALCITRANT OBEDIENTLY PLAYED RIGHT INTO THE HANDS EVERY THE DEFENSE. THERE WAS EXCEPTIONAL EXCITEMENT IN THE FACT THAT FOR ALL OF THE PREPARATION THAT YOU DID, AND TONY LARUSSA WAS ALWAYS PREPARING, THE GAME COULD NEVER BE SCRIPTED. AS MUCH AS HE KNEW, AND HE HAD SPENT HIS LIFE TRYING TO KNOW, THINGS THAT HE NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED STILL ROUTINELY HAPPENED, AN ODD FANTASTIC PLAY THAT EVEN IF IT WENT AGAINST YOU STILL MADE YOU SECRETLY SMILE AND WONDER. WHEN THE GAME DID WORK RIGHT, HUMMED ALONG WITH THAT PERFECT HUM THAT EVERY FAN RECOGNIZES, LARUSSA WOULD THINK SIMPLY, "BEAUTIFUL. JUST BEAUTIFUL BASEBALL." THAT'S SORT OF THE MOTIF OF THE BOOK. WE HAVE STEROIDS. WE ALWAYS HAVE SOME SCANDAL IN BASEBALL. THE GAME WILL ENDURE. IT'S ENDURED FOR OVER 100 YEARS. WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. AS GEORGE WILKES SAID, IT'S A GAME WORTH PAYING ATTENTION TO. IF YOU PAY ATTENTION TO BASEBALL, THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL WAY TO PUT IT. 

I AGREE WITH YOU THIS IS A TERRIFIC BOOK. WE APPRECIATE YOU JOINING US TODAY. AND GOOD LUCK DOWN THE ROAD. BUZZ BISSINGER. 

GO RAZORBACKS!  BIG RAZOR BACK FAN! 

GO RAZORBACKS!  BIG RAZOR BACK FAN!  (LAUGHTER) 

WE ARE BACK WITH OUR ARKANSAS READERS, AND WE'RE READY TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT "THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST." I WANT TO INTRODUCE OUR PANEL TO YOU. BEING A CARDINALS FAN THAT PUTS YOU MORE QUALIFIED TO BE ON THE PANEL. WE HAVE A BLUE RIBBON PANEL. THIS IS STACEY WRIGHT OF FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS, NOW COMPLETING HER FRESHMAN YEAR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS, AND A HUGE CARDINAL FAN. 

OF COURSE. 

AND TAYLOR CARR IN SPORTS TELEVISION FOR A LONG TIME AROUND LITTLEROCK AND NATIONALLY. AND A BASEBALL BROADCASTER WITH THE TRAVELLERS. AND A TEAM IN THE SOUTH LEAGU LEAGUE, AND HAWAII TEAM. TAYLOR, THANK YOU FOR COMING IN. AND STEVE WRIGHT IS OUR THIRD PANELIST. HE IS A FATHER OF STACEY WRIGHT. AND STEVE YOU'VE SEEN HIS WORK IN THE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT, THE ARKANSAS GAZETTE, FREELANCE WRITER, BOOK WRITER, AS WELL AS A RECOGNIZED FIGURE AROUND ARKANSAS IN SPORTS WRITING TRAVELLER FAN SINCE INFANCY. 

TRAVEL FAN AND CARDINAL FAN, YEAH, SINCE BIRTH. 

LET'S START WITH YOU, STACEY, WHAT CAUSED YOU, AND I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU WENT OUT AND SOUGHT OUT THIS BOOK. YOU WERE THERE THE DAY IT HIT THE STORES. 

YES. MY DAD REALLY TOLD ME ABOUT IT, AND I SAW IT ON THE WEBSITE, AND I WANTED TO GET TO KNOW BASEBALL A LITTLE BIT MORE MY OWN KNOWLEDGE TO BE A FAN OF THE SPORT, A BETTER FA FAN, I GUESS. 

HAD YOU READ THE OTHER BUZZ BISSINGER BOOK? 

NO. THIS WAS MY FIRST TIME READING HIS WORK. 

TAYLOR, I KNOW YOU READ IT FOR THIS PROGRAM, BUT YOU SAID YOU WOULD HAVE GOTTEN THIS BOOK ANYWAY. 

I LOVE BOOKS ABOUT BASEBALL. THIS TALKS ABOUT DETAILS AND WHAT GOES ON BEHIND THE SCENES, AND IT'S A BOOK THAT I ENJOYED AND WOULD HAVE READ EVENTUALLY. 

STEVE, DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? 

  I THOUGHT IT WAS GREAT. AS A FORMER SPOORTS WRITER AND A LIFELONG BASEBALL FAN, I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED WITH THE DETAIL THAT I HAD NO AWARENESS OF, AND IT KIND OF SHOCKED ME A LITTLE BIT THAT THERE WAS THAT MUCH IN THE GAME THAT I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT. 

THAT'S THE FIRST THING I WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT. THIS SPORTSWRITER AND HIS ACCESS -- HE IS NOT A SPORTSWRITER, BUT A NOVELIST AND NON-FICTION WRITER, BUT THE LEVEL OF HIS ACCESS TO TO KNEE LARUSSA AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THE STAFF AND THE TEAM AS WELL SEEMS SUPERNATURAL. DOES THIS SEEM LEGIT? HE IS A GREAT WRITEER WITH A GREAT IMAGINATION, BUT HE HAS DONE A MASTERFUL JOB OF GETTING INTO THIS MAN'S MIND. 

AND THAT'S THE MARK OF -- I WAS TALKING TO STACEY ABOUT THE IDEA OF CREATIVE LIKE TOM WOLF'S "THE RIGHT STUFF" YOU GET THERE AND REALLY HARD WOR WORK. AND IT SHOWS -- YOU ARE POLIS POLISHING SOMETHING UNTIL IT'S AS BRILLIANT AS THIS. THERE IS A LOT OF HARD WORK THERE. AND TO GET SOMEONE'S CONFIDENCE LIKE THAT IS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT IN ITSELF. AND THEN TO GET IT ON PAPER AFTER YOU GET THAT LEVEL OF ACCESS. 

CASEY, EXPLAIN TO ALL OF OUR VIEWERS OUT THERE WHY THIS GAME WAS CHOSEN? WHY CUBS VERSUS CARDINALS? WHAT'S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT? 

THE CUBS VERSUS CARDINALS IS THE BIGGEST RIVALRY EVER. THE CUBS HATE THE CARDINALS. THE CARDINALS HATE THE CUBS. AND IT WAS JUST -- I DON'T THINK THAT IT WAS CHOSEN, IT JUST KIND OF HAPPENED THIS WAY THAT THEY WERE VYING FOR FIRST PLACE IN THE CENTRAL DIVISION AT THIS POINT OF THE SEASON IN 2003. IT WAS THE CARDINALS AND THE CUBS AND THE ASTROS THAT WERE ALL IN IT. AND THEY ALL -- IT WAS JUST PRINTED RIGHT THERE IN THE BOOK. 

IT REALLY SETS THE TABLE WELL. IT WAS A GOOD SERIES TO PICK UP ON AS WELL. , TAYLOR, EXPLAIN WHY WE IN ARKANSAS, AND STEVE CAN CHIME IN ON THIS, WHY SO MANY ARKANSAS PEOPLE ARE ST. LOUIS CARDINAL FANS? WHY IS THAT? 

THE PROXIMITY. FOR A LONG TIME ST. LOUIS WAS THE TEAM FURTHEST WEST IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, AND THE CARDINALS FARM TEAM WAS ARKANSAS FOR YEARS AND YEARS. AND THREE OF THE PLAYERS IN THE BOOK, ROBINSON, AND MORRIS PLAYED SIGNIFICANT ROLES IN THE TRAVELLERS IN THE LATE '90S. AND SO IF YOU READ THE BOOK AND YOU ARE A TRAVS FAN, YOU BRING THAT WITH YOU. BUT IT MAKES A LOT OF FOLKS HERE A CARDINAL FAN. 

GROWING UP, EVERYONE IS A CARDINAL FAN. THE THING THAT HE GETS INTO ARE FASCINATING, THINGS THAT WE NEVER IMAGINED. ONE THING THAT FASCINATED ME WAS ALL OF THE THINGS THAT A MANAGER HAS TO DEAL WITH IN THIS DAY AND AGE HE DIDN'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH 40 OR 50 YEARS AGO. THE GUY IS MAKING SO MUCH MONEY THESE DAYS THAT, YOU KNOW, WHEREAS 50 YEARS AGO THEY MIGHT DO SOMETHING FOR THE TEAM. THEY WANT THEIR TEAM TO GET IN THE SERIES, TO MAKE THAT SERIES SHARE OF MONEY AND EVERYTHING. NOW THAT'S KIND OF WALKING AROUND MONEY FOR SOME THESE GUYS WITH THEIR SALARY SO OUT OF WHACK. SO INSTEAD OF LISTENING TO THE FANS SOMETIMES THEY'RE LISTENING TO AGENTS, THEY'RE LISTENING TO THEIR FAMILIES, THEY'RE DOING WHAT SUPPORTS THAT HUGE SALARY MORE THAN WHAT SUPPORTS THE TEAM. THAT'S GOT TO BE TWICE A BIG AS BURDEN FOR A MANAGER. 

TWORP TWO POINTS IN THE BOOK THAT LARUSSA MADE THAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN 25 YEARS THAT HAD CHANGED, WHAT MOTIVATE AS PLAYER. AND THAT OTHER GREAT ANECDOTE ABOUT JOSE CANSECO GOING THROUGH A WORLD SERIES WHERE HE JUST GOT UP THERE AND HAD TAKEN THREE BIG CUTS AND SAT DOWN. AND LARUSSA CONFRONTED HIM WITH THAT. AN ENSAID, TOMMY, THE FANS WOULD RATHER SEE ME DO THAT THAN TRY AND HIT AND RUN OR SOMETHING. I'M A PERFORMER. IT WASN'T ABOUT TEAM. IT WAS ALL ABOUT HIM. 

HE HAS GOT TO DEAL WITH THAT EVERYDAY, AND IT'S JUST GOING TO GET WORSE, RIGHT? 

HE TALKS ABOUT PLAYERS WHO CAN GIVE 75% AND STILL MAKE 5 MILLION A YEAR. THEY CAN GIVE 100% AND MAKE 8 MILLION. BUT 5 MILLION IS A TON OF MONEY. THAT REALLY GOT TO HIM IN 25 YEARS THAT'S ONE THING THAT HE SAW A CHANGE IN, AND THAT WAS A CHARACTER OF THE PLAYERS AND THEIR VALUES IN PLAYING THE GAME. 

ONE GUY THAT FITS THAT DESCRIPTION IS JD DREW, AND YOU ARE A BIG FAN FOR HIM. HAD YOU HUGE EXPECTATIONS FOR HIM. HIS PORTRAYAL OF THAT STORY WAS VIVID, WAS IT? 

I WAS THE BIGGEST FAN OF HIS UNTIL I READ THIS BOOK. AND THEN I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE HE WAS JUST INJURED ALL THE TIME, HE WASN'T A CLUBHOUSE PLAYER. HE DIDN'T HAVE REALLY ANY FRIENDS. THEY SAID THAT HE WAS LIKE A HERMIT IN THE DUGOUT, AND IT JUST DISAPPOINTED ME. WANTED TO HAVE A FAVORITE PLAYER THAT'S A TEAM PLAYER AND GETS ALONG WITH EVERYBODY YOU KNOW, DOES HIS JOB AND HE DIDN'T. HE WOULD JUST SIT ON THE BENCH INJURED ALL THE TIME. 

JD DREW'S CASE, AND A LOT OF OTHER PLAYERS YOU CAN SEE BY READING WITH THE BOOK IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE WHY THEY'RE NOT WITH THE CARDINAL CARDINALS, RIGHT, STEVE? 

EXACTLY. TONY LARUSSA WON'T PUT UP WITH THAT BUT, AGAIN, THAT POINT THAT YOU MADE, TAYLOR, ABOUT IT POINTED OUT THAT JD DREW GREW UP POOR, AND THE MONEY THAT HE WAS MAKING WAS GOING TO BE MORE THAN HE EVER NEEDE NEEDED. HE DIDN'T HAVE TO EXECUTE, TO DO IT. SO IT'S HARD FOR ANYONE ELSE TO -- YOU THINK, WELL, IF I WAS THERE, I WOULD DO THIS. YOU DON'T KNOW. YOU DON'T KNOW UNTIL YOU GET THAT $3 MILLION CHECK IN YOUR POCKET AFTER ONE YEAR OF PLAYING MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. WHAT IS GOING TO MOTIVATE YOU? 

THAT'S THE BIG PROBLEM FOR THE MANAGERS IN THIS DAY AND AGE. DAVE DUNCAN, ONE OF THE BIG SUPPORTING PLAYERS IN THIS BOOK, VERY COLORFUL, VERY INTERESTING.  WHY IS HE INTERESTING TO YOU, TAYLOR? 

HE IS THE ONE GUY THAT LARUSSA REALLY TRUSTS, AND WHO CAN -- THEY REALLY HAVE A COMMUNICATION. AND WHAT DUNCAN DOES FOR THE TEAM IN TERMS OF HANDLING THOSE PITCHERS IS SO CRITICAL, AND LARUSSA JUST GOING PITCH BY PITCH IN THE CORNERS OF THE PLATE THAT THE PITCHER CAN USE AND NOT USE, AND THAT INFORMATION TO DUNCAN IS SO CRITICAL TO HIM, HE IS THE ONE GUY THAT HAS ACCESS TO HIS HEAD DURING THE SEASON AND THROUGHOUT THE GAMES. 

THE COUNTER OF LARUSSA'S APPROACH TO MANAGING WHICH IS BASED ON INTUITION AND INSTINCT, IS PLAYED UP AGAINST ONE OF THE NEWER TRENDS IN MANAGING BASEBALL IF I'VE GOT THIS CORRECT OF REALLY STA STAT-BASED, SORT OF GEEKY, COMPUTER MANAGEMENT OF A BASEBALL TEAM. AND MANAGING INFORMATION THAT WAY AND PARCELLING OUT INFORMATION THAT WAY. BISSINGER OBVIOUSLY FAVORS LARUSSA'S APPROACH. WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT? 

I THINK SO. I THINK THAT THE WAY THAT HE MANAGES THE TEAM, YOU KNOW, THE HIT AND RUN, ALL OF THE LITTLE ASPECTS REALLY COME OUT IN THIS BOOK THAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT, AND IT WAS A LOT OF DETAIL-ORIENTED. THE STATS THAT PLAYERS AND PITCHERS THAT THEY DO GOOD SENSE CERTAIN PITCHERS, AND IT WAS REALLY INTERESTING. I DON'T KNOW HOW OTHER MANAGER DOES, IT SO I WILL BE BIASED. 

LARUSSA, REALLY A GUY THAT CONCENTRATES ON MATCHUPS. NOT LOOKING AT STATS, BUT WHAT HE HAS INSIDE HIS BRAIN. I THAT I BISSINGER DOES A GREAT JOB OF PORTRAYING THAT. 

AND THAT HIT AND RUN THAT WAS MENTIONED, SO MUCH TO TELL ON THAT THAT I NEVER CONSIDERED BEFORE, AND THAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF AN INTUITION PLAY. BECAUSE THE ODDS OF SUCCEEDING ON THAT, THEY TALK ABOUT 15 OUT OF 50 IS GOOD. AND THE CARDINALS IN ONE SEASON -- OF COURSE, HITTING THE TWO TRIPLE PLAYS, ONE WHICH ONLY HAS HAPPENED 12 TIMES IN MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY, AN UNASSISTED TRIPLE PLAY WHEN THE HIT AND RUN WAS PUT ON WITH WOODY WILLIAMS WITH TWO MEN ON, LINE DRIVE, STEP ON THE BACK, TOUCH THE OTHER GUY, THREE OUTS JUST LIKE THAT YOU DON'T HIT AND RUN, YOU DON'T HIT THE TRIPLE PLAY. 

ALL THREE OF YOU MENTIONED WE'VE GOT ASPECTS OF THE GAME BROUGHT TO LIFE IN THIS BOOK THAT YOU DIDN'T REALIZE HAPPEN BEFORE. THE ETIQUETTE OF BEAN BALL I FOUND FASCINATING. AND ONE OF THE TOP THINGS FOR HIS TO-DO LIST EVERYDAY FOR A MONTH-AND-A-HALF WAS TO FIGURE OUT WHO ON THE ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS THEY WERE GOING TO HIT AFTER THEIR PLAY. I GUESS MACGWIRE WOUND UP GOING FOR HIS BUDDY. 

HE CALLED IT THE MOSTING A -- AGONIZING DECISIONS HE HAD TO MAKE. 

LARUSSA IS KNOWN FOR THAT REASON AS A STAND-UP GUY, YET IN OTHER PARTS OF THE BOOK HE IS PORTRAYED AS A LONELY FIGURE, SOMEONE WHO IS NOT A REAL BACK SLAPPER OR A PA PAL-AROUND GUY. THAT SORT OF FORM A CONTRADICTION IN YOUR MIND, CASEY? 

I KIND OF KNEW JUST WATCHING TELEVISION ON THE GAMES THAT HE WOULD BE BY HIMSELF DURING THE GAMES, AND THEY WOULD SHOW HIM IN THE DUGOUT, AND IT JUST KIND OF SHOWED THAT HIS MIND IS ON THE GAME ALL THE TIME. IT'S NOT ELSEWHERE. THAT MAKES ME RESPECT THE GAME MORE AND HIM BEING THE MANAGER AND WHAT HE DOES. 

HE IS A FASCINATING GUY, THAT'S FOR SURE. IT'S A GREAT SUBJECT FOR THE BOOK.  AND THE BOOK IS "THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST" BY BUZZ BISSINGER. THE TONY OF TONY LARUE SASHTION AND THREE NIGHTS OF A SERIES BETWEEN THE CUBS AND THE CARDINALS. THANK YOU GUYS FOR SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US. THANK YOU GUYS FOR SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US. THANK YOU. 

AETN.org > Programs > AETN Presents > On the Same Page > On the Same Page with Buzz Bissinger