Ask an Author: Lincoln Mitchell
Lincoln Mitchell's book, The Giants and Their City, comes out on March 2. As part of our weekly author Q&A, he sat down with our Newsletter Alchemists to answer some questions about it.
Want to get these Q&As delivered to your in-box? Sign up for the PBBC newsletter on the homepage.
The Giants and Their City: Major League Baseball in San Francisco, 1976-1992
Kent State University Press, March 2, 2021
How do you describe your book?
The Giants and Their City is about the San Francisco Giants on and off the field during the Bob Lurie ownership era, from 1976 to 1992. In recounting memorable and not-so-memorable baseball seasons, the book is a study of the Giants’ struggle to stay in San Francisco, as well as the affects on the team of free agency, the 1981 strike and other changes in baseball during that time. The book draws on interviews with former players, managers and executives, and is written from the perspective of a lifelong Giants fan who is deeply familiar with San Francisco history and politics.
Why this book? Why now?
My intellectual pursuits have, in recent years, shifted from US democracy promotion and the former Soviet Union to San Francisco’s political and baseball history. This book gave me an opportunity to probe a period in Giants history that is hugely important and largely overlooked. Lurie, who in 1976 saved the Giants from moving to Toronto, had just turned 90 when I began the project, and I very much wanted to hear his perspective. Lurie was extremely helpful and generous with his time, and this book ultimately re-centers him a bit in Giants history.
What is something you learned during research?
When the 1989 World Series was interrupted by an earthquake, Major League Baseball did not know quite what to do. Then-commissioner Fay Vincent proposed completing the World Series in San Diego—a detail about which I had either forgotten or never known. When Vincent proposed the idea, Lurie and San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos were flabbergasted. Agnos didn’t even have time to tell Vincent what he thought of the idea before the usually mild-mannered Lurie interjected that such a thing would happen only over “my goddamn dead body.”
What surprised you?
The book discusses Peter Ueberroth’s 1985 decision to reinstate Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, after which the Giants hired Mays as a special assistant. In researching that period, I was surprised by just how foolish Bowie Kuhn, the commissioner who suspended them, was, and the extent to which Kuhn was overmatched by the changing world of baseball.
How long did the book take to complete?
Two years and two months, from my first interview, which was with Bob Lurie in January of 2019, to publication.
What’s the most memorable interview you conducted?
There were several. Vida Blue was very generous with his time, told great stories and, with no prompting, signed a ball for me. Bob and Connie Lurie were extremely helpful and friendly. Former executive Corey Busch spent hours with me, and answered all of my questions in great depth. John Montefusco, the Count, kept Fox News on throughout the interview, which was a little disturbing. My most memorable interview was with Will Clark, who recounted his rookie season, the 1989 NLCS and the earthquake. We did the interview in the dugout of what is now Oracle Park, which was an extraordinary experience for somebody like me, who has always loved baseball but never had much access at the big league level.
Do you have a favored work routine? Has that been affected by the pandemic?
I like to work with my research assistant, Isis the dog, nearby. I write better when she is with me. My routine has been affected by the pandemic because I also like to write in cafes, particularly when traveling. Of late, both cafes and travel have been knocked from the equation.
Buy The Giants and Their City here.