Q&A: Local Author Writes About Baseball's Bad Teams
Local author teamed up with an Ohio native for a book on baseball's worst.
Michael Aubrecht, a Spotsylvania resident, teamed up with Eric J. Wittenberg from Ohio to write a book on baseballs' not-so-finest.
The book, You Stink! Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players, is a collaboration between Aubrecht and Wittenberg after the two met through their published works as Civil War historians. They have collectively written over 20 books and are currently working on four more (two of them together).
Patch caught up with the two via email to ask about the book.
1.) What prompted you to want to pen a book on so-called "terrible" baseball teams?
Eric: The book is the culmination of an idea that I had when I was 13 years old. I had always wanted to pay tribute to the really terrible teams and not just the great ones. I grew up as a Phillies fan during an era when the Phillies were particularly bad, so I understood losing and understood what it was like to root for terrible, hopeless teams. That empathy directly led to the idea that became You Stink!
2.) You mention a mathematical approach to deciding on the worst teams, how did you come to that "formula?"
Eric: We began with an examination of the won-loss records of some of these teams, and then evaluated them in the context of their competition in their respective seasons. We initially identified a large list of candidates and then pared that list down in order to insure that we were only focusing on the worst of the worst. Part of what we did was to look at statistics, but those statistics were not the only the criteria. Some of it was just feeling like a given just deserved to be recognized as being in the pantheon of really awful baseball teams. Those really awful baseball teams provided us with endless entertainment as we researched and wrote this book, and we hope that they will do so for you too.
3.) How did you come to rank the "Hall of Shame" teams?
Eric: Our determinations were based on statistics, placing these teams in the context of their leagues that year, and then going by what felt right or wrong. We had a lot of fun sorting these things out.
4.) How long did it take to write the book, and where did the idea come from?
Eric: I came up with the idea in 1974 as a 13-year-old Phillies fan. I knew that the great teams, such as the 1927 Yankees, were celebrated for their greatness. And when I received a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia for my birthday year, I spent hours and ours compiling statistics on these awful teams. I decided that I wanted to write a book about the worst teams in the history of Major League Baseball, and I set out to try to figure out how to do so. And then I realized that I was 13 years old and had no clue about writing a book, and the idea was shelved until 2008, when I met Michael and we decided to collaborate on this project. Consequently, it's fair to say that it took 38 years to write this book. We hope you enjoy the fruits of those labors.
5.) Where is your book available locally and online?
Michael: You Stink! is available online direct from our publisher at Kent State University Press, as well as most of the major book sellers including Amazon.com. You can order autographed copies from our blog at www.youstinkbaseball.wordpress.com. I would like to add that You Stink! will be released in the very near future as an eBook and we are currently working on the follow-up titled Baseball’s 'Could Have Beens': Major League Mishaps, Misfortunes, and Mistakes. This study features mini-bios of ballplayers who had a ton of potential, but whose careers ended prematurely, as well as histories of MLB teams that finished far below expectations.
6.) Any thoughts on the prospect of professional baseball coming to Fredericksburg?
Michael: Obviously as a baseball fan, I would love to see a professional baseball team come to the area. It’s a tremendously popular sport in the region. All one has to do is drive past any of the baseball field complexes in the surrounding counties on a Sunday morning to see how many local kids are playing the sport. However, I am not sure that the area can financially support a professional baseball team. My fear is that there will be much excitement at first, followed by a steady decline in attendance numbers after the first season concludes. Anyone remember the Richmond Braves?
7.) Any guesses as to who play in the World Series this year?
Michael: Wow what an unpredictable season this has been so far! So much parody is going on this year. We have perennial playoff teams stinking it up while some of the bottom-dwellers are playing at the top of their game. Most of my predictions from the beginning of the season have been dashed already, so for me to make an educated guess (even as a baseball-historian) is not very dependable. I will say this in regards to the “local” MLB teams…BOTH the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles are playing very well and one of them could go the distance.
8.) What is your favorite thing about Fredericksburg?
Michael: As a historian I am absolutely captivated by the history of Fredericksburg. I also feel very privileged to live in a place surrounded by so much hallowed ground. Two of my previous books were written about the region: Historic Churches of Fredericksburg and The Civil War in Spotsylvania County. I commute to work in Washington every day and every afternoon I can’t wait to get back here. Fredericksburg truly is a great place to live and raise a family. We have train and highway access to DC and Richmond, but can still live in the country, free from the daily stress of city life.
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