Photo Credit: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer
After a highly disturbing round of editorial layoffs recently, sinking morale to new lows-including home delivery having been slashed to three days a week-there’s finally some good news to report from the newsroom of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio.
It was announced this week that Cleveland Indians’ beat reporter Paul Hoynes, who has covered the Tribe for 30 years (28 with the PD) has been selected by the Press Club of Cleveland for induction into its Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame. The induction will be held Nov. 14 at Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center.
Hoynes, who most just affectionately refer to as ``Hoynsie’’ has been chronicling the ups and downs (until 1994, mostly downs) of Tribe baseball since 1982, which includes two World Series appearances (1995 and 1997) and the infamous ``Bat Gate’’ incident of July 15, 1994, when a corked bat used by Albert Belle (and confiscated by umpire Dave Phillips and placed in the umpires room) was later reclaimed by Cleveland relief pitcher Jason Grimsley after surreptitiously crawling across the ceiling with a flashlight in his mouth at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
Perhaps Stats Inc. can crunch some numbers to determine exactly how many reporter notebooks and scorecards Hoynes has ripped through over the last three decades. Since he’s easily covered more than 5,000 games, I bet it’s a bunch.
So now that it has clearly been determined by the selection committee that ``Hoynsie’’ didn’t have any ``performance enhancing’’ reporting tools in his background, which might have blemished his induction, the path is now clear to the Hall without an asterisk next to his name.
The integrity of the game, thank goodness, remains intact.
After hearing the great news of Hoynes selection to the Journalism Hall of Fame, I immediately fired off some questions (not all softball questions) in hopes he might reflect on different slices of his distinguished journalism career. To my surprise, the Indians’ beat writer was more than game by returning some revealing ``inside baseball’’ responses.
What follows, then, is my Q & A with the person everyone likes to call``Hoynsie.’’
Q. How successful were you as a baseball player in your youth: little leagues, high school, college?
A. "I was a terrible baseball player. I played in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade, but got cut from my high school team. Played in a 30-and-over Sunday morning softball league for a couple of years and it was a blast. But I was still terrible."
Q. I hope it’s not anytime soon, but when close your reporters’ notebook for good and hang up your spikes, do you plan to chronicle your years covering the Cleveland Indians in a book?
A. "I write so much every day during the season that when I think about sitting down and writing a book, it terrifies me. When the season stops, I just want to shut it down and not think or write about anything. When I retire, maybe that will change. I'm not sure."
Q. Do you find yourself longing for the good old days in print reporting before the Internet, smartphones and Twitter; or have you welcomed these innovations, having made your job a little easier?
A. "I've tried to embrace all the technological changes that I can. It hasn't always been pretty, but to stay competitive and relevant, you have to do it. I don't think the changes have made the job easier; they have made it more immediate. The news cycle never stops. You can write a story at anytime and have it posted within minutes. The biggest difference is that there are no more scoops. You used to own a story for at least a day. You'd write it and go to bed hoping no one else had it. Today you own a story for about two seconds before you post it or Tweet it.’
Q. I believe many years ago you were involved in a locker room scuffle with Mel Hall, the former Indians’ outfielder (1984-1988). What were the circumstances for the altercation; and have you faced similar confrontations with any other players?
A. That's when I was young and dumb. I had written a story about Mel being sued for child support by I believe a former girlfriend. Another part of the story had him suing a club employee with whom he'd been involved in a car wreck during a road trip. It was a double whammy and Mel was not happy.
Walked into the clubhouse on Sunday morning and manager Pat Corrales told me, "You better get out of here because there's a bounty out for you." I turned around to leave and there was Mel. One thing led to another and I ended up at the bottom of Carmen Castillo's locker with Mel on top of me. Otis Nixon was one of the guys that pulled him off me. Saved my life.
After that Mel and me were great friends. . .strange.
"I've had other arguments with players, but nothing physical. John Rocker invited me into the weight room once and shut the door. He was not happy with something I wrote. Rocker scared me a lot more than Mel.’’
Q. How challenging it is to maintain a personal life and successful marriage by traveling six months every year? Does your wife often travel with you? During the season, do you still watch the Tribe on TV/Radio on your off days, as rare as they are?
A. I have a great wife, who is strong and independent. She earned her master’s, PHD and raised two kids while I was chasing the ballclub around the country. When our boys were young, they used to come to spring training for several days with my wife or father-in-law. That's when the Indians trained in Tucson.
My wife is in education and is very busy. She also earns a lot more money than me. But she knows I love this job and that it makes he happy. She does come on a couple of trips a year with me. She likes the beach so Florida is a good trip for her.
The boys are gown now and I think I missed a lot because it seemed like they grew up and were gone in flash. They both still live near us and they are big Tribe fans. They've also given us four grandchildren, which is a blast.
When I don't cover a game, I'll almost always watch it on TV. I drive my wife crazy. She thinks I'm nuts. If I'm driving on an off-day, I listen to the game on the radio. I guess I'm addicted.
Q. Is there a particular city you love to visit every year on the Tribe’s schedule-or at this point in your career-do all the city landscapes and hotel rooms begin to look alike?
A.`` I love walking around Seattle. I love taking the subway from Grand Central Station to Yankee Stadium. I love coming out of that tunnel on the subway into the sunlight and seeing Yankee Stadium right there on the 161st street stop. I like walking to the ballpark in Boston and Toronto. You can walk along the water in Toronto and that's cool.
Chicago is a great city to visit. When I go to Detroit, I like to stay downtown near Greektown. There's always a lot of action in Detroit. I like Greek food and they have a great bakery there.’’
Q. As a beat reporter, what was your most memorable game covering the Indians; also, were there any particular players (not necessarily Indians) who had profound impact on you or earned your respect and admiration?
A. "The thing I remember most in regard to games was the whole 1995 season. So many come back. So many late home runs.
I think the game where Paul Sorrento hit a homer late to beat Toronto was in June, 1995. The Blue Jays had David Cone pitching and were up 8-0 and the Tribe came back and won the game on Sorrento's two-out, two-run home run to cap a three run ninth in a thrilling 9-8 win. To me that was a signal that something special was happening. ‘’
"I've like almost all the guys I've covered. A few stick out to me: Brook Jacoby, Kenny Lofton, Julio Franco, Mike Hargrove, Omar Vizquel, Sandy Alomar Jr. Jacoby was a grinder who never complained and just played the game. Kenny Lofton was prickly as a player, but I loved his talent and I loved the way he played at a high level for so long. Wherever he went, he helped his team win. I think he's a Hall of Famer. Liked Julio just because he was so much fun to cover. One of the best pure hitters I've ever seen. Covered Grover as a player, coach and manager. Always the same, always dead honest. He'd get mad at you one day, but the next day it was forgotten. Never held a grudge. Vizquel was just a joy to cover and watch. Stand-up guy. Never ducked a tough question. Alomar is a solid guy. Really like him.
Q. Are you a strong supporter of MLB introducing instant replay? Does such a change run the risk of extending games to as long as four and a half hours? Are there any other changes you’d like to see in the game?
A. ``For me, the more replay the better. It drives me crazy when people talk about the "human element' being a part of the game they want to retain. So that means you want to continue having a game where mistakes are made that cost team's games when the means are available to make the right call? Amazing.’’
Q. What is the most difficult part of covering a baseball game, which most readers might not fully appreciate: deadline pressures, getting players to talk with you, writing a lead that grabs readers’ attention, concern for accuracy, beating your competitors to the punch, etc?
A. Two big hurdles for me: deadlines and access. The clock is always ticking. With the Internet, we're sending game stories as soon as the game ends. Last out, you hit the send button, even in spring training games. Then you have to rewrite.
The volume of work has increased as well. You write an early post, a notebook, a running gamer and then a rewrite of the gamer. On the Internet every story can get a headline, so there are times when you can write four to six stories a day. Not to mention Tweeting.
Access has been a reporter's problem for ages. But now, with how fast the news moves, if you don't have access to general managers, agents or players, you're sunk as far as covering a breaking story. So it's critical that you have sources who will help you.’’
Q. With so many newspapers, including the Plain Dealer, having slashed editorial positions, including the shrinking of news space at an alarming rate, how concerned are you for younger reporters trying to get into sports reporting; and how concerned are you for the future of print journalism in general?
A. ``Somebody is always going to have to tell the story whether it's about a fire, public corruption, car crash or a game-winning home run. What vehicle they use to tell it and to send it to their readers is evolving every day.’’
``We just went to three days home delivery at the PD. They are still publishing a printed paper seven days a week, but for four days it's available only on the street.’’
``I just took a job with the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the digital arm of The Plain Dealer, and will continue to cover the Indians, but everything I deal with now is online. Things are changing so fast. But the job is still the same. At least for now.''
August 15, 2013