Baseball has the power to teach in a way that no other game can. Plays are made. Lessons are learned. And the stories? They live on forever. As a sports broadcaster, I’m in the unique position of getting a front row seat to modern-day legends in the making. As a keynote speaker, I also have the privilege of sharing those lessons with audiences across the country. They always want to listen, and they’re always applicable. Because baseball is the timeless teacher.
Babe Ruth called his show in 1932. Nearly a century later, it’s a reminder to always believe in yourself. The Pine Tar Incident of 1983 was a lesson in defining moments, which are always happening and all around. And what baseball fan could forget the excitement of the 2015 Fall Classic when the Kansas City Royals taught us that small plays, gains, wins can all add up to championship-sized results. The lessons transcend barriers and we will tell the stories for generations.
But for all of baseball’s heroes and glory, no history would be complete without mentioning the most prolific – and arguably most forgotten – man in baseball. The Hustlin’ Ted P. Sullivan was the legendary founder and unrivaled huckster considered at one time to be the granddaddy of the game. His name was practically synonymous with it back when the West was wild and The Show was even wilder.
So who was this Irish rogue who was once regarded as the greatest baseball mind in America? My podcast Rounding the Bases recently hosted Tom Coffman and Pat O’Neill, hobby scribes and co-biographers of the book Ted Sullivan: Barnacle of Baseball. Together they told his tale, and even some facts, to lovers of good baseball and blarney alike.
SINGLE: Business and Baseball
Our main character’s story began long ago, but the telling of it started with the serendipitous meeting of two professionals who can now call themselves authors. Pat was an entrepreneur who had his own public relations and marketing firm. Tom hailed from the more glamorous industry of solid waste management. Business brought them together, but shared Irish heritage and a love of baseball made them friends.
Pat was working on a project about Major League Baseball’s first team when he happened across some information about a man named Ted Sullivan. Intrigued, he shared some of what he had found with his baseball-loving friend. “We talked and thought, well, maybe there’s a book here,” Tom shared. “And turns out five, six years later… there was.”
DOUBLE: In a Pickle
Every story has a conflict. What’s different about those of the biographical variety is that the authors don’t get to choose what it is. But conflict is also where lessons tend to hide. Tom and Pat dug deep in their quest to learn who the real Ted Sullivan was. They discovered incredible things about the man who evangelized baseball in its infancy, including his creation of the American League and the initial concept of a World Series. But then came something deeply troubling that left them with more questions than answers.
They learned that Ted Sullivan, who fled to the US as a marginalized immigrant, was a marginalizer himself. More specifically, an avowed racist. And his sports media contemporaries, regardless of their personal viewpoints, were all complicit. As biographers, Tom and Pat had a responsibility to provide an honest account of their subject’s character. But as decent humans, they weren’t sure how. So they started by following the information, and it led them straight to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Pat consulted the president and past Rounding the Bases guest, Bob Kendrick. He asked him, “What do you think I should do with this, Bob? I don’t want to offend anybody.” The advice he received in response was simple: Tell it like it was. And so they did…honestly, delicately and accurately, challenges and all.
TRIPLE: Baseball’s Beginning
It’s hard to imagine a time when baseball was anything other than the way it is now. But during its pioneering days, Ted Sullivan used his influence to shape the game in big ways, even if most people don’t realize it. “It’s hard to create a legacy when everyone’s forgotten,” Pat noted.
As the first professional scout, Sullivan deserves credit for finding many of early baseball’s greatest players, including some of the first Hall of Famers. He was even rumored to have pulled some of them right out of the bushes, something I would have been curious to see play out in real time.
He was so skilled at finding talent, in fact, that before long, a minor league system was created. If you were wondering whether he is responsible for that too, the answer is yes, and included the still-operational Southern League. He is also credited with taking many of those same players to Mexico as part of the first spring training. But Sullivan’s favorite project was advocating for the elimination of pitchers at bat, calling them, “washer well hitters that nobody wanted to see.”
His list of innovations continues, even if it somehow managed – until now, anyway – to fade from our collective memory. “That was one of the fun parts of writing this book,” Pat told me. “This is our story. Nobody else has this.” He added, “It took a long time, but it sure was fun doing it.”
HOME RUN: A Passing Score
The best stories takes time, especially when it’s being held to academic publishing standards. It’s a lesson Tom and Pat learned well while working to deliver. “I was pretty proud of how deep we went into this,” Tom said.
They followed breadcrumbs from library to library across the country in pursuit of Ted Sullivan’s story. Their years-long research project even led them to study obscure 1897 publications such as the Deaf Mutes Journal and the Vegetarian Times. When all was said and done, the book had more than 800 pages of end notes, a testament to the thoroughness of their work.
“We finally passed our college test,” Pat quipped. And not too shabbily, either.
Listen to the full interview here or tune in to Rounding the Bases every Monday and Thursday, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Learn More About Lessons from Baseball from Joel
Book Joel Goldberg for your next corporate event. He draws on over 25 years of experience as a sports broadcaster. In addition, he brings unique perspectives and lessons learned from some of the world’s most successful organizations. Whatever your profession, Joel is the keynote speaker who can help your team achieve a championship state of mind.
Joel Goldberg 0:00
Welcome into Rounding the Bases the podcast about culture and leadership with the baseball twist presented by Community America Credit Union: Believe in Unbelievable. My name is Joel Goldberg, quick shout out to my friends at Chief of Staff Kansas City. I mention them on every episode because I got a great partnership with them. Actually have an event coming up with them this fall, but they believe in people, they believe in culture, everything that I speak about. Great people over there, whether you’re looking to be hired, hire someone in Kansas City, or all over the country. I say it over and over again, at minimum, they’re a great resource and that costs you nothing. But they’re really good people to know. So check them out at ChiefofStaffkc.com, ChiefofStaffkc.com. My guests, I’ve got two of them today, have written a book in the last year or so. And this is great because I say this over and over again that baseball, whether you like baseball or not, I think a lot of people that listen to this podcast do even though this podcast itself is not about baseball, I live in that world every day, six, seven months of the year. And baseball one, as Buck O’Neil said teaches all the lessons. I believe that because it’s a sport rooted in failure, handling failure. It’s also every day, so there’s an incredible grind to it just like life. But also one of the beauties of baseball is just the storytelling aspects. Because there are a lot of characters in the game. That’s the case right now, that’s always been the case. And those stories they live on forever. And so that’s a little bit of the focus today. Baseball tales are full of notable figures, but history will be incomplete without mentioning the most prolific and arguably most forgotten man in the sport. The Hustlin’ Ted P. Sullivan was the legendary founder and unrivaled huckster considered at one time to be the granddaddy of the game. His name was practically synonymous with it back when the West was wild and The Show was even wilder. So who was the Irish rogue who was regarded as the greatest baseball mind in America? Joining me today are authors Tom Kaufman and Pat O’Neill, hobby scribes and co-biographers of the book Ted Sullivan: Barnacle of Baseball. Together they’ll tell his tale and even some facts to lovers of good baseball and balarney. Like I want to read the preface this was written by Pat or at least a piece of it because just right out of the gate, it kind of sums up this unique character it says in his day, T P. Ted Sullivan was considered the best baseball mind in America somewhat so far as to call him the daddy of the sport. He was early baseball’s town hopping bandleader, the ringmaster of the minor leagues, a George Washington, a Harold Hill, and a PT Barnum all rolled into one. Damon Runyon dubbed him, the Barnacle of Baseball. That right alone, teases me to want to hear some of the stories. And so I’m joined right now, by the authors of this book, who I just mentioned, they’re sitting right together. Pat O’Neill and Tom Coffman, join me, gentlemen. Thanks for the visit.
Pat O’Neill 3:25
Hey, it’s good to be here.
Tom Coffman 3:26
Thanks for having me. Yeah.
Joel Goldberg 3:28
So before we even get into this unique character, right in the front cover, too, it’s got a picture that looks very old timey-esque, I guess, you know, he’s from the 1800s. So that would make sense. It says the life of the prolific league founder, scout, manager and unrivaled huckster. Tom, let me start with with you. This isn’t your guys profession, you guys have lived other careers. What What brought you together to, to research and write about Ted Sullivan?
Tom Coffman 3:57
What what brought us together is before Pat retired? Sure. Anyway, he was doing a lot of public relations and marketing stuff. And the company I worked for, in the glamorous solid waste industry, we had a need for Pat’s services. So we met over that and then you know, hey, you’re Irish. I’m Irish. I like baseball, you like baseball. Next thing you know, we’re kind of, Pat’s working on the story about the first major league so called major league team in Kansas City, tells me about running into a guy in some research he’s done named Ted Sullivan. And that ended up being Ted and we talked and thought, well, maybe there’s book here and turns out five years, six years later, there was
Joel Goldberg 4:42
I mean, we’re, we’re not talking about about some guy, that’s a household name. We’re not talking about a guy that’s from this generation, or any previous generations. I mean, way, way, way back, right. How did this fascination develop?
Pat O’Neill 4:58
Well, again, when like Tom said, I did a piece for the Kansas City Star years ago about baseball in the spring in Kansas City. And I went back to 1884 and happened to see this Ted Sullivan character. And then we as I was curious about that, and years later, when Tom and I were talking about story ideas, I mentioned this Ted Sullivan. And I said, he’s the guy that coined the term fan for fanatics when he was with the St. Louis Browns, when he’s managing the St. Louis Browns back in the 1880s. And so we had this infatuation with number one, Irish and Blarney. And, and so we thought, well, there is a book but it took us you know, all we knew about or knew about him was that he was a prolific at starting leagues and teams all over the country. And we knew he coined the terms fan for fate for fanatics and can for take your lunch can and go home. And so Tom and I actually, being former c+, c- students in college, we would learn how to research and we went all over the country and explored files in libraries and microfilm, and then all the portals to old newspapers. And before we knew it, we had more in more about this guy that we ever thought we would, because it started off I think we start off the book with a quote from the Abilene Daily Reporter, which had in 18, 1920 said, Ted Sullivan needs no introduction to baseball fans for to introduce him would be to introduce baseball itself. Mr. Sullivan is so well known in the baseball world, that if you should in the blissful blissfulness of your ignorance plainatively ask, who is Ted Sullivan, you would thereafter be shunned and avoided as a person of unsound mind. So that was a challenge to us. It’s like, Oh, really? Oh, yeah. So So anyway, the attachment, like you said, we’re kind of amateur hacks, both of us are all former news, weekly newspaper guys. And so we, we just set out to just find out more and more information, had fun with it, we just Tom and I, we didn’t do this for a living, we did it for fun. And but at the same time, we’d have it from a business standpoint, you still have to sell books, and you still have to get your money back at least get that penny an hour that you’ve earned over the last four years. And so that’s where we are now is, is we’re actually now close to 570. We’ve sold 500 books on which on a very reputable a little press, but just us. Yeah, just the two of us, we’ve sold some to about 500.
Joel Goldberg 7:29
But I think there’s something to that. And I want to get deeper into Ted Sullivan story, just because we could probably go days and not tell all those stories, you guys went how long crisscrossing the country and researching all of this, and I’m sure pleasantly being surprised over and over again, by this guy’s interesting adventures, I guess would be a way to put it but but now he who you guys are, you know, in the I don’t even know if I call it latter part of the career, post career or whatever it is. And you’re, and you’re selling this book. And you’re you’re onto this new endeavor, which has to be incredibly invigorating to have this purpose and this passion about something that maybe you never thought that you would Tom, but what have you learned about, about publishing a book about about writing a book and, and putting this out there?
Tom Coffman 8:22
There’s some days I don’t think I learned a damn thing about publishing. And we both get asked a lot, what are you going to do next? I don’t know. But it was a gas. I mean, I learned that I really, really dig the research part of it. And I’m lucky enough to be able to hang a few words together and be able to tell a story and write a story and Pat’s kind of the same way. So we just kind of stumbled in it together. And it’s kind of like a one off once in a lifetime kind of thing, I think. An experience I’ll have.
Pat O’Neill 8:56
Yeah. And you know, it’s, we did learn that, you know, I’ve written a couple books locally on my own under Seat of the Pants Publishing, which is, of course, a worldwide conglomerate of one: me. But we learned from a national getting our book published on the national press and sports oriented press that which which has an academic slant, which really threw the two of us so he went to KU and it’s like, they threw in some academic requirements. And then we both looked like, really? What we did, what we learned was that, you know, a publisher, unless you’re James Patterson, or something, the work really falls back on you. I mean, this is our publisher helped us we, you know, did a good job with the editing, although we gave him a pretty good script to start with, or manuscript, but, you know, we were on our own to try and get out and hustle these books. And, you know, Tom and I said, you know, if you’re looking at writing a book, do it for fun, don’t expect a lot in return, unless you have you know, happen to hit that, you know, that million sell or whatever. But you might as well just if you’re going to, look at it for money, you might as well just go into selling black and white TVs and pet rocks. You know, I mean, there’s not alot of, a lot of money in it. But we, but we have made enough over the times when our wives aren’t around when people pay cash, so at least we can buy a beer in there.
Joel Goldberg 10:13
Yeah, yeah. Nobody, nobody will know. At all, they’ll never know. Oh, man. You can’t get rid of them right? You said something, though, there. I think that that really resonates with me, Pat, because I think about this, even every day that I go to the ballpark. There are days where I just start talking to people and stumble upon stories or ideas that I never knew existed. So you, you, you go down one path, and end up somewhere completely different, which I think is the fun of the research and the curiosity to it. I’m curious about that with both of you. Pat first and then Tom, about where this curiosity took you? Or how, how wide ranging of an adventure. This was for the two of you once you started going down that path?
Pat O’Neill 11:06
Well, it was. As Tom and I like to say we we’d call each other you know, like, late at night, go, Hey, look, what I found down here in the rabbit hole. You know, because like you said, you’ll, you’ll be looking for stuff. You know, when we went through three different portals old newspapers, and we ended up finding two to 3000 articles, either about the guy, by the guy, or mentioning the guy. I mean, no, that’s it. That’s what that repeats, you know, and, but we hit sweet. We called it the going down into the, into the into the goldmine if you would, and it was it was kind of a treasure hunt. And we’d laugh we’d find something, you know, 10 o’clock, and it can we go check this out, you won’t believe I found and it was word combinations. I mean, every word combination, you could think of Ted Sullivan and baseball, Ted Sullivan and Blarney, Ted Sullivan and Tales, Ted Sullivan and Kansas City, Ted Sullivan and St. Louis, Ted Sullivan and Washington DC, Dubuque Iowa, whatever it was. And the next thing we know, we have more than we knew what to do with. But again, going back to the academic part of it, which was that was the achievement for us. It was not just the fact that we wrote the book, but we wrote a book that would clear, would pass muster with an academic oriented press. So again, when they said you needed end notes, we both looked at each other go, what’s an end note? Yeah, you know, and then we ended up with almost 800 of them in the book to document everything we’d found.
Tom Coffman 12:24
Yeah, but that, that really tripped our trigger, because we both enjoyed that. And still to this day, we still find stuff. Yeah, we were in Dubuque, Iowa, the place where Ted started his first league just last week or the week before. And we’re running into guys who tell us stories about Dubuque baseball that involved Ted Sullivan. So we’re still learning new stuff that is exciting to us. And yeah, yeah.
Joel Goldberg 12:49
So let me start. If this is possible, from the beginning, or wherever you want to deem the beginning of Ted Sullivan’s journey. I’m and I’m not talking necessarily from birth. But But, Tom, how would you describe this guy early on in baseball, or what really stands out? Because he sounds like just truly one of the great characters of his generation.
Tom Coffman 13:13
One of the things that still interests me and has throughout this whole process is that Ted’s like, it’s hard to overstate how huge he was in the baseball industry, such as it was in the mid eight until 1800s. And, and then, like, from the second he died in 1929, he started to fade from the publics consciousness. He’s just like this ephemeral figure that changed so much, and it’s 50 years. And it’s, that’s a great story, especially since he came to America when he was like three or four years old when his parents immigrated. He was born in 1848, died in 1929. And was raised in Milwaukee and just kind of assimilated and became an American. And I don’t know, it’s just a cool, it’s a cool journey in one guy’s life.
Pat O’Neill 14:03
Yeah. And it’s, Tom said it was it was quite a journey, and it covered different eras in baseball from the dead ball era, up until, you know, the development of the World Series. He was involved in the formation in the American League. And but, Joel, one of the things we as old reporters, we ran into about halfway through our research is the fact that Ted Sullivan as colorful of a character as he was, and as a as a likable character as he was, and and he was kind of a, you know, we call them you know, town skipping Harold Hill of baseball. But we also ran into the fact that he was a an avowed racist, like almost every other player and manager and owner in the game was in 19, in the 19 teens and 20s.
Tom Coffman 14:47
And geez, the sports media, too. They were,
Pat O’Neill 14:49
They were complicit. The newspapers told he gave after dinner speeches in the Negro dialect. He wrote a series of plays and books on stories from the plantation. He, there’s an Irish word amadan. And he used that word often, which was foolish or childish. And that’s how he referred to African Americans in the game. So his only association with them was using them as foils, like the, you know, the Cuban giants were, you know, the typical foil of the day, because there were supposedly African Americans from Cuba, so they could actually play in American ballparks when they were really just a bunch of guys from, from upstate New York people, hotel workers who would go out and speak Pig Latin or pig Spanish, you know, just make up words. So people would think they really were from Cuba.
Tom Coffman 15:33
And when we crossed that when we, when we encountered that we kind of thought, Jeez, what are we going to do? Now? So but we, we wanted to be honest about this. And we wanted to be legit biographers. And so we just wouldn’t embrace it, but we followed it, where it led. And then for Pat, it led down to the Negro Leagues Museum.
Pat O’Neill 15:51
Yeah, I went, saw Bob Kendrick and I laid out a couple of these chapters, I said, What do you think I should do with this, Bob? I mean, I don’t want to offend anybody. And they said, he said, tell it like it is, tell it like it was. And so that’s what we did. So it was kind of a social challenge for us to explain how a guy that comes from a marginalized country, but marginalized by the English and they were emasculated and kept down and starved to death practically, could come to the United States, and then turn into a racist himself. But as you mentioned, earlier, I think, you know, the kids in those days in the late 1800s, the way to assimilate into America was to play baseball, you know, play baseball and take on the, the attitudes and the mores of your of the native born kids you were playing with. And that’s, so, it’s not an excuse, but it’s really, it’s, that’s really how it evolved. That’s why it took so long for Jackie Robinson to get in the game. There were all these subtle barriers, not just the color line. But just all these psychological barriers that were created by people that did so
Joel Goldberg 16:53
Emotionally, though, Tom, and you kind of alluded to it, that that must have been a serious roadblock. Because I mean, I don’t know if you’re expecting to stumble into that. And now suddenly, this beloved figure has this, you know, this, this thing that just would not play or should not play today. Shouldn’t have played, of course, back then as well, that suddenly you’re seeing this major checkmark against him. This, this, you know, this hero of yours suddenly has another side.
Tom Coffman 17:25
Yeah, that’s exactly how it worked out. And, you know, we were, we spent a year or more just laughing our asses off at Ted Sullivan stories and comparing notes, and then we hit this. And so then we pursued it, though, and we looked at some of his speeches and stuff. And then he wrote vaudeville things that we tried to chase down and stuff that actually do a piece about this, because we wanted to be honest about it. But no, we were certainly not prepared for that. But then we opted to just be honest,
Pat O’Neill 17:53
We stayed with it. And it’s, at one point, even finding a relative, a descendant. He was a single guy, never married. But we found a descendant in Ohio, who actually had one of a copy of we had a copy of a couple of his books, but we found one that was probably the most racist book. Yeah. And then the relatives sent us send us that and we included it in the book.
Joel Goldberg 18:17
Well, he, regardless of all of that was truly a character. I don’t know how much we I’m not saying you guys have romanticize this or maybe you have, but I feel like everybody in that time period was a character. I feel like everything was was celebrated. Yeah, those characters were so you know, now you got to be careful what you say on social media and this now. It’s a totally different world, even than when I was coming up, and everything’s different, should I think everything’s different at the ballpark today than it was when I got to Kansas City 15 years ago. It’s just, that’s just the changing of the generations. You know, Bobby Witt Junior coming up now is different than an Alex Gordon coming up 17 years ago, or whatever that was, and so now you go back to the 1800s. But it sounds to me like the media. The writers just loved this guy. Damon Runyon dubbed him the celebrated carpetbagger of baseball. I love that you guys, reading the back cover here cunning, witty and sober, Sullivan was the game’s first player agent, a renowned scout who pulled future Hall of Famers from bushes, an author, a playwright and a baseball evangelist, who promoted the game across five continents. So he was obviously an ambassador for the game, but he was I don’t know if you mentioned PT Barnum. It sounds like there’s some Bill Beck in him, in terms of just someone that was unique and different, not afraid, trying everything pan out. I don’t there’s not a modern day version of this man. But what made him so, so talked about, so beloved, I guess.
Tom Coffman 19:55
Well, I think I you know, I’m a career public relations guy in Kansas City, and a publicist. And I think he had almost invented that sport, public relations, because, you know, he was far enough he traveled. He was ubiquitous. He traveled everywhere around the United States. He was in every little town in America and managed teams in different cities and started leagues everywhere. But he had a habit of first stop in every town was to go to the newspaper, put his feet up on the desk next to the spittoon and regale these writers, these reporters with stories. And they hated and Tom and you know, I started in the newspaper business in the broadsheet, you know, the big big broadsheet newspapers, and that’s a lot of space to fill. So these guys love to see him coming. And they would tell his tales that he would change. He was known to change the location of his story, depending on where he was at the moment, you know, one of the one of our favorites, the tall tales is what drew us in early on he because he could stretch out of state he was very, very literate guy, which is kind of brings back one quick quick kind of vignette and is a is he went the Jesuits. Well, he went to college in St. Mary’s, Kansas at St. Mary’s College, which was a Jesuit college started initially to help educate the path of patrimony Potawatomi, Indian population in the area and 18 set 60s and 70s. So he got a really good education. He’s very articulate, and he could tell a tale and he could stretch it like most Irish people can from two paragraphs into five pages easy enough. So the newspaper guys really loved him. One of the one of our favorite stories that Tom and I came across and he says it was in Kansas City that he, he was he pitched he had the only dead pitcher, dead man to pitch a game. And according to him, he was in Kansas City, his his twirler was getting hammered. And he had to figure out a way to get them out. And those days you couldn’t, you just couldn’t, you know, send in a new pitcher whenever you felt like it. It’s like he was in there until he got injured, injured yet and got hit. So he comes up with a plan to get this guy out. He tells the pitcher he goes, now, you next time you go out there before you get any hits, get hit by a ball, drop dead. And though and he called on a Kansas City doctor that they knew up at the, fan, up in the stands brought him in. The doctor pronounces them dead. The umpire says I’m sorry, but you can’t you started bringing a new pitcher. best pitcher. I’m sorry, you can’t bring in a pitcher. He goes, Why the man’s dead? Because the rules say he has to be injured. So he said wouldn’t you know it goes, I put him on a pitcher and go back into the locker room while the dead pitcher smoking a cigarette waiting for the Undertaker’s wagon to drag him back into the game. And wouldn’t you know we got we got word. Yeah. But I mean, there’s so many stories, phenoms that he claimed to have found that could throw baseballs through, you know, six inch barn doors. He had all these, and the newspapers ate it up. Yeah. And some of them would just do it faciciously. Just have fun with it. Others will take him dead serious.
But then there’s newspapers that adored him, and then he skipped town and leave everybody stranded on. Oh, and money, you know, for the new ball field they built and stiffed on their season tickets and everything. And so they go from adoration to like the Wichita paper said he should have been chloroform, you know, on the space.
Pat O’Neill 23:23
It’s Yeah, usually, usually the headline in July is he did the old Ted Sullivan. Yeah, means he skipped town.
Joel Goldberg 23:31
So he was beloved until he wasn’t? Is that, is that safe?
Tom Coffman 23:36
It’s about right. Ted had a little larceny in his heart. So he come and they were all excited. The famous Ted Sullivan is going to be bringing big time baseball to our town. And he’s going to start this, this league and all these other towns are going to come and play us and it’s going to be amazing. Yeah. And then by June, July, he’s added there, you know, as he’s not making any dough, and then they were cursing Ted Sullivan. Now, three months later, in another town, he’s doing the same thing.
And they’re worshipping him when he gets off the train. But you know, Tom and I being Irish American guys, we’ve been to a lot of wakes and funerals in our day, right? And so even the most, the most notorious characters have nice obituaries. And so, when Ted died, you know, there were still a lot of praise for him, righ, and all that. If he was even remembered. But he did, you know, he made a lot of innovations in the game. I mean, he has to be credited with finding a lot of, a lot of great ballplayers, pulling famous Hall of Famers out of the bushes, and he also was innovative. I mean, he, one of his favorite projects was to try to get rid of the the pitcher at bat almost essentially advocating for the designated hitter.
Years before there was a designated hitter Ted Sullivan was saying, nobody wants to watch those pitchers hit they’re just a bunch of whimper well swingers. So eventually, there we are.
Joel Goldberg 25:00
Yeah, and it took until a couple of years ago to make the the H universal. So yes.
Pat O’Neill 25:05
When the results
Tom Coffman 25:06
all by getting rid of that, yeah, he was up he was anti-reserved plus but he’s you know he took he did some pretty major things. He was innovative in spring training, he set up spring training for the White Sox because when I mentioned St. Mary’s and him going to St. Mary’s College in Cambridge, Kansas, he brought along a freshman named Charlie Kaminsky. And Charlie Kaminsky, and he actually introduced Charlie Kaminsky into the professional baseball and trained him as a as a first baseman, who was one of the Kaminski was the first first baseman to play off the bag. Do that. Yeah. And so and he was he, he, he and Charlie Kaminsky were best friends forever. So he would take Kaminsky seems to be the first one to take a team to Florida for spring training. He took them to Mexico, tourism Mexico. He took ’em to Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Yeah. Firstly, when the White Sox in there for their first season. Was was in it was an Excelsior Springs. Yeah. And then then his big thing is he took the White Sox and The Giants on a tour of the world. In 1913, 1914. He was the manager, he put it all together from friends. And they played in front of kings and key Ives and lower minions of all over the world. But so he became famous for that. And then later on, he took tours too. He claimed early on that someday there’ll be a real World Series. And he might be in it might include Japan, because he says Intel baseball was coming along in Japan as early as 1912.
South America, he thought it was going to be ripe for big league players. So.
Joel Goldberg 26:42
Well, I mean, it’s not too far off with that, right? I mean, you look at look at some of the players over the years now we’ve had from Japan, obviously, the Latin American presence. Baseball is as big as it’s ever been. And some of the greatest superstars in the game, we see it every single night. And so yeah, maybe well, well ahead of his time. Before I, I get to my baseball themed questions that I just want to ask you, I mean, in terms of everything that he did, and he just talked about the innovation, it’s fascinating, because here’s this guy that upset a lot of people. Yet, he created a spectacle everywhere he went. He was the Traveling Circus, from from what I’m understanding and what I’ve read. And yeah, we always remember people finally afterwards, or at least we remember the best of them. Right? So there was a lot of that. What, what is his legacy? Even if people don’t know about it, you guys have helped obviously, in writing his biography. What is his legacy?
Tom Coffman 27:43
Well, I mean, he started the minor, the modern minor league system, that’s not a bad legacy. He, you could argue he’s the founder of what is now the Southern League and the founder of what is now the Texas League and they’re still in operation. That’s not a bad legacy. He was the first professional scout, he created that industry. And he was a first player agent. And so I mean, he did a lot of stuff. I mean, and he helped found the American League.
Pat O’Neill 28:06
Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard to create a legacy when everybody’s forgotten. I mean, it’s I think that was one of the fun parts of writing this book is like, This is Our Story. I mean, nobody else has this. Nobody’s dealt in. There’s plenty of little articles about him. And by saber writers and things, you know, there might be five or 6, 10 paragraphs long, but, but this is the first full story and it took us because it took us a lot of work to, you know, to, we went to Dubuque and went to St. Louis, and we went to Paris, Texas, Texas, you know, we we checked it all out. And it took a long time, but it was sure fun doing it. Yeah.
Joel Goldberg 28:40
Let me get to the baseball theme questions then whether it be regarding the book, Ted Sullivan, Barnacle of Baseball, whether it be about Ted himself, or your careers, whatever it is, how about a home run? What would you guys go with a home run?
Tom Coffman 28:55
I’m thinking I’m gonna go back to the research piece of this. Because we spent a lot of years doing that. And it was harder to do during the pandemic to have access to libraries and stuff. But we were digging out stuff from the Deaf Mutes Journal, The Vegetarian, The Vegetarian Times and 1897 this stuff made it into the book. Not just throw away snot. Yeah, I was pretty proud of, of awesome, how deep we went into this. That was a homerun for me.
Pat O’Neill 29:23
That was that was all rough meaning of academic requirements, you know, almost 800 in notes, three or four or 500 in the bibliography all those things and so I guess it’s like, okay, we finally passed our college test. You know, that was our big swing.
Joel Goldberg 29:42
Took a little while but you got there, right.
Tom Coffman 29:45
I mean, we got we got nominated for the Thought Men Award. So really, Joel, you’re talking to a couple of award nominated guys. We’re big time but yeah, we’re the acknowledged experts.
Pat O’Neill 29:55
But we’re on the peculiar battery.
Joel Goldberg 29:59
I mean, this is the first big time peculiar guests. Or peculiar-related guests. How about a swing and a miss, whether it be the process or with that of swinging a miss and what you learn from it?
Tom Coffman 30:14
I think maybe I’d go with, it’s something we already kind of knew. But it was reinforced to us. And I’ve never forgotten it. We were having a lovely conversation with the area of filmmaker of some renown. And talking about, you know, tests all of it, and hey, we got this cool book and make it great is a wonderful character and blah, blah, blah. And we walked away pretty quickly after we did that. And with the idea that, yeah, okay. It’s like everything else in this world. As you see you got enough money, anything can happen.
Pat O’Neill 30:49
Filmmaker said, Come back to me with you’ve got a bunch of money. Yeah, we’ll talk about it.
Joel Goldberg 30:53
You need two things. I think. I don’t know a lot about filmmaking. You need two things. I’m guessing. One, you need a great story. And that story isn’t anything without the money. Yep. Yeah. And 10 is gonna have all the money by the way, you could have all the money you could do whatever the hell you want with it. You put out a crappy story with no money. Nobody, nobody’s gonna watch
Pat O’Neill 31:13
the money. Actually, they say they used to claim he had bought the most money in baseball. He was because he had real estate he bought he had places in little estates here and there land, he made a killing on some copper investments.
Tom Coffman 31:27
Mines. He had lumber industry stuff. Yeah, he was everywhere.
Joel Goldberg 31:31
Fun, fun, fun stuff. Last of the baseball theme questions small ball and I wanna ask this just about the project in general. And maybe it comes back to the research or maybe it’s something more, but as you both know, and you knew this beforehand, this doesn’t happen overnight. And it is an incredible process in putting something together. And and I would think too, there’s an added element when you’re working with someone good and bad, I imagine because you’ve got to be able to feed off of each other and you have to have that relationship. But what is small ball to both of you and putting this book together? What are the little things that added up to the big results that maybe people don’t see?
Pat O’Neill 32:08
Well I’d like to start with that. Because I think small ball in a case like this was how do you how do you sell a book? That’s basically a small press, it’s not getting a lot of national promotion from your the publisher. And how do you be a couple of older guys trying to adapt to social media because that’s, you know, that’s to publicize the book. You know, Joel, it’s like I’ve had I, you know, had some local books over the years and had just lots and lots of publicity was easy to get, you know, I don’t know if there was more, there was more newspapers, there was more TV space, there’s more radio space, in books, sections, book editors, lifestyle section, business sections, all that you could get, you could get some, some media for from that, which is very difficult to do. Now, we have we’ve had some national stories in some national magazines and things like that. But small ball is just working at work and at work and it finds your niches, finding your audiences and try to, you know, try to find the people that would be interested in this book. And it’s that you think it’d be easier with the social media because you can narrow down niches and stuff, but it’s not that easy. And especially if you’re not spending a lot of money on advertising.
Tom Coffman 33:20
And I like this, I also think that we stuck to like our first principles that we both are pretty shoot straight kind of guys, you know, we’ll tell you as much of the truth as we can, as we are as we allowed to. And we try to treat our readers with that kind of respect to you know, we don’t want to be too clever. We don’t want to be boring. But we don’t want to you know, we just want to tell you a good story. And that’s what’s important to us. Yeah.
Joel Goldberg 33:46
And there’s so much of that in here. I’ve got four more questions I want to ask you, we’re going to do just some bonus rounding the bases questions, which we’ll throw on over to YouTube so we’ll wrap up the audio portion of this, but simplest question now for the book. How can people find it? Where can they get it?
Pat O’Neill 34:03
In the trunk of my car?
Joel Goldberg 34:06
Everybody visit visit Pat O’Neill’s car.
Pat O’Neill 34:10
So if you see me driving by in a beat up pickup truck, Ram truck with a Benedictine college sticker on the back, just stop me I’ll have one.
Tom Coffman 34:21
Pat, you can probably go to Amazon, you can go to just regular bookstores, you can go to the McFarland website too.
Pat O’Neill 34:28
MacFarlane publishing and then Tom and I just locally just we have I just use my well we have a Facebook page, Ted Sullivan: Barnacle of Baseball. That’s probably the best way to find out how to get a book and wherever
Tom Coffman 34:42
we’re going to be doing stuff and
Joel Goldberg 34:45
otherwise just just follow Pat’s car with the Benedictine sticker on it. Barnstorming America, Ted Sullivan.
Tom Coffman 34:54
Yeah, but you’ll end up in Atchison, Kansas a lot.
Joel Goldberg 34:57
Maybe you could buy him a beer or something like that. He is Irish after all.
Pat O’Neill 35:01
If my wifes not around we barter, I mean.
Joel Goldberg 35:07
Hang tight because I want to ask you guys some fun questions over on YouTube but Ted Sullivan. Barnacle of Baseball: The Life of the Prolific League Founder, Scout, Manager and Unrivaled Huckster. It’s a great gift for anybody that’s looking for it. If you’re looking for something Irish themed Irishfest is coming up in Kansas City as this is airing or St. Patrick’s Day, or should it be a good holiday gift or start a baseball season? You name it. It’s just fun stuff. Pat O’Neill and Tom Kaufman. Gentlemen, thanks so much for spending time.
Pat O’Neill 35:39
Thanks for having us.