A different career? A sports historian would have been pretty cool

Recently, I wrote an article for this website about a daughter-driven project to tell the story of my life to my grandkids through a series of questions. One of those questions was, “Did you consider any other careers (for your life’s work)?”

 Prior to being asked that question, I really hadn’t given it much thought. My college major and experiences drove me toward a life as a writer and I ultimately put those skills to work as an advertising and marketing communicator. But as I pondered this question, I concluded that being a historian would have been an interesting career option.

— I’ve always been a sucker for odd tidbits of history – especially when it involves sports. I was reminded of this by an odd convergence of events. A few weeks back, I came across a paperback novel I must have purchased quite some time ago and never got around to reading. The title of the book is “The Greatest Player Who Never Lived.” Written by Michael Veron, it is a fascinating piece of historical fiction based on the relationship between the legendary golfer, Bobby Jones, and a teenage phenom and protégé named Beau Stedman.

 Because he had been unjustly accused of murder, Stedman went into hiding but continued to compete under a series of assumed names. He played a series of arranged matches set up by Jones against virtually all of the great players of the time and consistently beat them in head-to-head competition. I won’t go into more detail lest I become a “spoiler” for anyone who might be inclined to read this fascinating story.

— Shortly before I read this book, I had a series of breakfast meetings with former South Bend mayor Roger Parent. Parent was in the process of wrapping up his second book, “Getting Things Done” and had sought my opinions on steps he might take to promote it. One of the chapters of his book deals with the circumstances leading up to South Bend’s acquisition of the minor league baseball franchise now known as the South Bend Cubs.

During the conversation, I reminded Parent of an article I had written in 1982 for the local magazine, Michiana Today. The article dealt with the various professional teams who had once called South Bend home including the South Bend Blue Sox, immortalized in the movie “A League of Their Own.”

 When I interviewed the mayor for that story, I asked him about the possibility of South Bend hosting a professional baseball franchise in the future. (Bear in mind, this conversation took place in the early 80’s.) Parent’s response was that such a scenario was highly “unlikely,” citing the prohibitive costs of building a stadium and not wanting to try to co-exist competitively with Notre Dame.

Just five years later, with the active support of Mayor Parent, the city was awarded a franchise in the Midwest League and built Coveleski Stadium. 

— The third of the converging events was pure happenstance. As I was on Facebook, an ad popped up for t-shirts featuring defunct minor league team logos. Amid apparel offerings for the likes of the Akron (OH) Rubbernecks, Salem (MA) Witches, Hannibal (MO) Cannibals, Cairo (IL) Egyptians, Riverside (CA) Rubes, Sheboygan (WI) Chairmakers, Holyoke (MA) Paperweights, Portland (OR) Webfeet and Lincoln (IL) Abes was one for the South Bend Greenstockings.

I just had to buy it.