Jump to content

Thomas Boswell (1947-), Washington Post Sportswriter and Columnist, with a Specialty in Baseball (1984-)


Recommended Posts

I think Thomas Boswell is one of DC's greatest sportswriters - he is one of the people at the Post whom I look forward to reading whenever I can. Basically, I have nothing negative to say about him.

One question, though: I remember back in 1997 when Mark McGwire was chasing Roger Maris, someone for the Post called McGwire "Our Babe Ruth." Shortly thereafter, the legendary Shirley Povich (1905-1998), sports editor since *1925*, took issue with the comment, saying something along the lines of: "Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute there!" etc. That's a little embellished, but the general tone is intact.

Does anyone remember if this was in rebuttal to Boswell (as opposed to someone else), and what, if anything, was Boswell's response? It was a great little back-and-forth.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don, is this the Povich article you're talking about?  If so, the editor's note is remarkable.

Yes, wow. I had not seen that article in 15 1/2 years.

Which means that I've been reading Thomas Boswell for at least that long (I had no idea).

I remember at the time that I agreed, completely, with Boswell. I had witnessed McGwire's incredible season myself, and was sure it would never happen again (see my Unbreakable Records post). I looked at Povich's rebuttal as "pissing on the party," but as so often happens, age and experience turn out to be right, for one reason or another.

Incidentally, I was standing right next to Mark McGwire less than one month ago. I was absolutely certain it was him because of where we were, and because he was remarkably tall, but one thing he didn't have? He didn't have those bazookas for forearms that he used to have. Okay, of *course* he doesn't - he's retired - but his arms were so big in 1997 that they simply weren't natural. I also think McGwire is an example of a nice guy who got caught up in the steroid culture (he admitted it early on, so it's not like he tried to hide it [ETA - apparently, this is not true since Google said he didn't come out until 2010, but I swear I remember him saying he was taking a "dietary supplement" in 1997 that was essentially a steroid]).

Thank you, lovehockey, for the link - I would have probably never seen it again had it not been for you. The Editor's Note was indeed dramatic - I didn't remember it, and I guess this was Povich's final column as a sportswriter. It says a lot about my respect for Boswell that this thread is named after him, and not Povich.

I also remember a column by Tony Kornheiser (I think it was Kornheiser; it might have been in Povich's obit) that mentioned Povich once calling up Walter Johnson (Walter Johnson!) to invite him to see this new "kid" named Bob Feller pitch - they drove together and watched him. Just to put that in cooking terms, this is not like having been friends with Jean-Louis Palladin; this is like having been friends with Auguste Escoffier. Really, it's that big a deal!

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I always enjoy Boswell's obligatory "this year it's different" <enter DC sports team, but usually it's for the Redskins> column at the beginning of each team's season.  Next fall I hope he writes a column that says you know what the Redskins stunk last year and they are going to stink again this year.     

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I always enjoy Boswell's obligatory "this year it's different" <enter DC sports team, but usually it's for the Redskins> column at the beginning of each team's season.  Next fall I hope he writes a column that says you know what the Redskins stunk last year and they are going to stink again this year.     

:)

This is worth watching. (Boswell's Nats preview)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just now, I was mindlessly surfing the news, and came across this article which I clicked on from The Washington Post's home page:

"Inside The Game, Most Think The Manager Can Make A Big Difference"

I didn't even take note of who wrote it, but right when I had finished reading the paragraph that ends, "But you sure have to combine a lot of people in one skin," I said to myself, out loud (and I'm home alone), "God *damn* this is a good article," then scrolled up to see if it was Boswell - it was. Until that point, the author hadn't even occurred to me.

And now, I'm going to click on "Add Reply," and then head back over to finish the article.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been meaning to post this for awhile now, and spring training is as good a time as any.

If you scroll up, you'll see that I'm a fan of Tom Boswell - enough so that I wrote him last year to express my admiration for him. In that letter, I also asked him if he'd list for me his favorite columns of the year, which he did.

However, I can't really entitle this list "Tom Boswell's Favorite Columns of 2014," because we exchanged emails in early November, 2014, so he could have written something during the final 6-7 weeks of the year that he liked better. Since his list went back to December 8, 2013, it might be reasonable to say, "When I wrote him in early November, 2014, these were the columns that sprung to his mind which were published during the past year or so."

The columns are listed, not chronologically, but in the order he listed them in his response (although he didn't seem to list them in any particular order; I think he merely rattled them off the top of his head):

01/07/14 "Baseball Hall of Fame: Greg Maddux used methodical approach to get to Cooperstown"

07/14/14 "Derek Jeter has earned universal respect during his Hall of Fame career"

04/01/14 "Tiger Woods will never catch Jack Nicklaus until he comes to terms with his own frailty"

12/08/13 "Is Mike Shanahan or Daniel Snyder to blame? Washington doesn't deserve either of them"

10/05/14 "Could Jordan Zimmerman have made history in Game 2? We'll never know"

10/30/14 "Giants' Madison Bumgarner is just scary good as San Francisco wins World Series over Kansas City"

Note: Just to be exceptionally safe, I wrote the Washington Post and got their permission to publish this - I wasn't sure they would be okay with this type of "interview," but they had no problem with it, and even seemed a bit surprised that I asked, when they found out I'd merely be linking to the articles instead of quoting from them.

BTW, I don't know if people with a Hall of Fame vote can vote for themselves, but if they can, Tom Boswell should - he deserves to be in.

Link to post
Share on other sites

:)

This is worth watching. (Boswell's Nats preview)

I'm also a big Bos fan. To me, he stands out by being better researched, more thoughtful, a better pure writer, more courageous and better networked in clubhouses. His stuff is usually great interpretation of events versus the more banal description and rehashing. typical of too many others.

That said, he does of course take a few arrows beyond mere disagreements with whatever views. I've heard people complain that he sometimes takes too many liberties with the statistics he cites liberally. I haven't seen clear evidence of this but it is out there in the ether. Some also think he can be unnecessarily dramatic on occasion, distracting from an important point. I begrudge him that. He's both human and prolific.

Just watched his 2014 preview above. Amazingly, he was largely right. With good reason, he has already published a similarly optimistic piece for this year, which of course makes sense given the team roster and it's experience.

We're lucky to have Bos in our town. The baseball team too. Should be a very exciting year.

Link to post
Share on other sites

BTW, I don't know if people with a Hall of Fame vote can vote for themselves, but if they can, Tom Boswell should - he deserves to be in.

Actually, the Post instituted a policy quite a few years ago that required Boswell to give up his vote, which he has called "a good decision". And while the Hall of Fame hands out some honors to baseball journalists, it does not induct them into the Hall. And I seem to recall Boswell writing many years ago that they ought to eliminate all the non-players from the Hall, although I can't find a citation. Otherwise, I agree.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, the Post instituted a policy quite a few years ago that required Boswell to give up his vote, which he has called "a good decision". And while the Hall of Fame hands out some honors to baseball journalists, it does not induct them into the Hall. And I seem to recall Boswell writing many years ago that they ought to eliminate all the non-players from the Hall, although I can't find a citation. Otherwise, I agree.

If this is true, it's inconsistent with other Post policies and makes no sense. Actually, the only reason I know he has (had?) a vote is because I read it in one of his columns, and I could have sworn it was last year.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If this is true, it's inconsistent with other Post policies and makes no sense. Actually, the only reason I know he has (had?) a vote is because I read it in one of his columns, and I could have sworn it was last year.

This Wikipedia article on the BBWAA says that NYT, WaPo, and Baltimore Sun writers are not allowed to vote, and lists Boswell as a non-voting member. This Boswell column on the Hall of Fame from January of this year confirms it: "The Washington Post stopped letting writers vote many years ago, a good decision; but I've been in many press box discussions." Which Post policies is this inconsistent with? (Not that I seek to defend anything about the Washington Post.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Tom Boswell's writings. He has a George Will quality to his prose -- clean, clear, concise, and when necessary, colorful.

I actually think Bos has been less interesting since he's been covering the Nats. When his "beat" was Baseball writ large, he was more interesting to read. The Nats have confined him a bit.

His books on baseball are great reads. And this column resonated with me.

He also called attention to the steroids era way back in the '90s, without calling it such. He had a few columns that mentioned the sizes of guys back then, pointing out how huge they looked compared to their predecessors.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Tom Boswell's writings. He has a George Will quality to his prose -- clean, clear, concise, and when necessary, colorful.

I love Boswell's writing too, but as to your second sentence you should chomp down hard on your tongue. George Will is a horrible prose stylist, whose work manages to combine slapdash under-writing with pompous, ersatz "erudition". George Will couldn't carry Thomas Boswell's jock, if you'll pardon the expression.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a very harsh article about Tom Boswell, and to be honest, I haven't read it that carefully - I'm curious to know what others think:

"Thomas Boswell's Outrageous Ethical Breach" on ethicsalarms.com

For the record, I'd be shocked if Boswell did anything unethical, and I think that, short of committing a serious crime, journalistic loyalty outweighs any "public right to know." God, if I told everything I knew about the transgressions of chefs, people simply wouldn't believe me (and don't worry, I would never, ever do that).

I think Marc Fisher was guilty of a serious breach of ethics when he published Michael Landrum's email - this was about the biggest middle finger I've ever seen, and I'm surprised someone wasn't fired over it. Maybe I'm naive, but I would *never* publish someone's private email or PM to me, regardless of how mean and nasty it was, unless I feared for my safety - and let me tell you, I've had some pretty hostile things said to me over the years. I figure people have just had a bad day, or have had a couple drinks too many, or both, and I let it go - if they write back and apologize, all is immediately forgiven. Hell, I've done it myself in the past, and looking back, I realize I was just blowing off steam. When it trends over multiple days or weeks, that's when you should probably take action, but my first action would be to simply write the person back and ask them to please stop - there's no reason it can't be done politely, and I'll bet it works 90% of the time; I can't imagine publicly humiliating someone over a poison pen letter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read the Ethicsalarms article and the long, contentious discussion thread that follows it, and I must say the argument is tortured. The author's point is that Boswell apparently knew, in 1988, of a particular player taking what the player called a "Canseco milkshake", and later, when that player was being considered for the Hall of Fame, Boswell didn't come forward and say "Hey! Player X used steroids!", and that this was an outrageous ethical failure on Boswell's part. This is kind of rich, given that Boswell was among the first, if not the very first, to raise the alarm about doping in major league baseball. Suffice it to say that the correspondent called Michael in the comments after the Ethicsalarm article got the better of the argument with the author. I find Boswell not guilty of violating journalistic ethics.

The Marc Fisher/Michael Landrum dust-up is murkier, to me. Ordinarily, if I compose an email message and send it to someone who then publishes it without my consent, the one who published it has infringed my copyright. But Michael was writing to a journalist in response to a story that had run in the journalist's newspaper, which might be taken to imply a permission for the journalist to publish the email (like a letter to the editor). It would certainly have been a courtesy for Marc Fisher to write back to Michael Landrum "Do you really mean this? May I share your email with my readers?" -- but then, for all Michael's sterling qualities, his email in this case was far from courteous, to say the least. I'd say this was a breach of etiquette by Fisher, not of ethics.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Post replied that since he didn't attend the game he wouldn't write a column. (what the hey?)

He could be on vacation (if this is the case, it would explain the Matt Williams column which could have been written in advance - Tom has enough inside connections to know whether or not this was going to happen before it actually did).

Link to post
Share on other sites

You know.... years ago, I was dating a serious baseball fan. I was a casual, go to a few games every now and then, type.

He made me read "Why Time Begins on Opening Day." Went a long way toward convincing me that baseball was cooler than I realized.

Having married the serious baseball fan, I'm glad I decided that baseball was cool, or... I'd spend a lot of the summer alone!

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

From Boswell's chat today (note: We do not have a thread on Cal Ripken, Jr. - can someone please make this happen?) - Ripken's streak represents 16 1/4 years without missing a game. His consecutive *innings* streak represents nearly 5 2/3 years without missing an inning. 

---

“...were the last generation who were lucky enough just to be at the top of the sport while having it only as a recreation.” I remember as a small boy my father telling me “Some Englishman just broke the four minute mile.” No Sports Center back then, so we probably learned of it days after the fact. It seemed quite grand to me. A simpler time in athletics and in many ways better. No question Bos, just a remembrance of a fine athlete.

A: Thomas Boswell
 

I'm too young to remember (those are my favorite words) Bannister's record ('54).

[Read: The Washington Post's obit on Roger Bannister]

But I remember when, about a decade later, Jim Ryan (U.S.) became the first HIGH SCHOOLER to break the four-minute mile! That's how fast sports evolves once somebody shows how to do it -- and that it CAN be done. The psychological barriers in sports are just as difficult to defeat as the physical ones. The DiMaggio (56) and Ripken (2,632) records may still be boggling mind in 100 years. My "forever" record is still Ripken's. It's not the most important, but it's the most incredible. Was recalling with a friend the other day that the night Cal tied Gehrig felt much cooler than the night be broke it. She mentioned that the second night there were a lot of dignitaries, but the night Ripken tied the record, Earl was introduced to the crowd and Joan Jett -- who loved the O's --sang the national anthem.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

"National Fans Get Their Boos In, But Bryce Harper Has the Last Word" by Thomas Boswell on washingtonpost.com

I am officially neutral on Bryce Harper leaving DC for Philly (I'll miss him, but it's his life and his decision). That said, I think it's so awesome that he took the Nats fans' boos, and shoved them right up their asses. If they had shown some class, then no comment, but since they booed: Ha, Ha, Ha!

(BTW, in the films I saw, *everyone* who was booing was also laughing while they did it - but I doubt Harper found it funny. Oh well!)

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Al Dente said:

At $45,000 per plate appearance, I think he can tolerate some hostility.

The Nats are paying him $0 per plate appearance - his allegiance is with his team. Things could have been warm and fuzzy; the fans chose to create a hostile, 13-year-long rivalry, and so that's now what we have - maybe it's for the best. I see "The Flip" as "The Flip(-Off) Heard 'round the World."

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

The Nats are paying him $0 per plate appearance - his allegiance is with his team. Things could have been warm and fuzzy; the fans chose to create a hostile, 13-year-long rivalry, and so that's now what we have - maybe it's for the best. I see "The Flip" as "The Flip(-Off) Heard 'round the World."

Contrast that with the return of Albert Pujols to St. Louis in a couple months (you should probably mark this on your calendar).  Yes, more time has passed, but I know the St. Louis fan base - the man would have gotten a standing ovation if his return was on Day 1.

As an aside, the best Cardinals fan story I can tell is from my teen years.  A utility player named Mike Laga fouled a ball to the first base side, with the ball sailing out of the park.  The crowd immediately jumped to its feet for a several minute standing ovation.  Everyone there knew this was the first time a ball was hit out of the old Busch Stadium.  Mike Laga?  He was completely baffled and a coach had to run out and explain things to him.  Hey - we're weird but knowledgeable and loyal. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, silentbob said:

The Harper and Pujols situations aren't remotely comparable IMO.  Pujols left the Cardinals at age 32 (i.e., already well on the downside of his career) and after having won two rings.

Both left their employers because they were offered a better package elsewhere. I've done so several times and no one boos me (although they might do so before I'm out the door).

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, DonRocks said:

The Nats are paying him $0 per plate appearance - his allegiance is with his team. Things could have been warm and fuzzy; the fans chose to create a hostile, 13-year-long rivalry, and so that's now what we have - maybe it's for the best. I see "The Flip" as "The Flip(-Off) Heard 'round the World."

Bryce is not blameless in this.  He left town without a single word of thanks to the fans that watch him launch his career.  You've seen other players in similar situations reach out shortly after their move and at least feign some gratitude; a full page ad in the WaPo is relatively cheap.  Instead, other than the slip up at his press conference, there was zilch about the organization he was leaving until the instagram post early this week that was dripping with "my PR team made me do this".  Everybody in this situation has been selfish all around (and, yes, I include Nats fans in this).  This after a couple years of him draping himself in the DC flag and waxing on and on about his "home".  It was all window dressing as a sales tactic aimed at the ownership; it seems clear his loyalty wasn't with this city at all (unless it was accompanied with gobs of money).

As the way in which the negotiations evolved has leaked out via some good reporting in the past week it was clear that the Lerners didn't really want him back and Harper realized that and didn't even bother to negotiate further.  Yet he could have done a lot more to not come across as a selfish a@@hole who just wanted to ink the biggest contract ("Only $20M a year with the rest deferred, what does that do for my family?!?").  He got that biggest contract prize (only barely, and not via AAV) only to see it eclipsed in absolutely comical fashion by Trout barely 2 weeks later.

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, DonRocks said:

The Nats are paying him $0 per plate appearance - his allegiance is with his team. Things could have been warm and fuzzy; the fans chose to create a hostile, 13-year-long rivalry, and so that's now what we have - maybe it's for the best. I see "The Flip" as "The Flip(-Off) Heard 'round the World."

This is not the fault of Nats' fans. They have never behaved this way towards anybody else. Not even close.

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, zgast said:

Both left their employers because they were offered a better package elsewhere. I've done so several times and no one boos me (although they might do so before I'm out the door).

I was simply explaining why Harper and Pujols would elicit completely opposite receptions from their respective former home team’s fans.

If the Nats had won a WS during the past several years (where Harper was instrumental to the title) and then he left for the Phillies or even the Yankees, he likely wouldn’t be booed the way he is now and some might even applaud. Fans tend to be more forgiving when their teams have won championships.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I correct that Harper went 2-2 today with 3 walks? If so, that's 8 straight Appearances with a 1.000 OBP (and an OPS of 2.800).

(And if so, why is there *nothing* about this on the internet, other than the Google box score?!)

It's a good thing the Nats won today; there would have been a mass suicide if they hadn't.

Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Am I correct that Harper went 2-2 today with 3 walks? If so, that's 8 straight Appearances with a 1.000 OBP (and an OPS of 2.800).

(And if so, why is there *nothing* about this on the internet, other than the Google box score?!)

It's a good thing the Nats won today; there would have been a mass suicide if they hadn't.

This is on the internet, Don.

I was glad to see Soto got his mojo back. He is under such a huge amount of pressure, especially now that he's really the Nats' biggest power hitter. And he's not even 20 1/2 yet.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...