In an SI exclusive, syndicated columnist George will admitted last week that when Sam Donaldson is rattling on about some foreign policy issue on This Week with David Brinkley, Will's thoughts sometimes stray to his and the nation's favorite pastime. "When Sam goes on and on about the Middle East, my mind occasionally wanders up the interstate to [Baltimore's] Memorial Stadium," says Will. "Frankly, there are times when I'm talking about the Middle East that my mind wanders to baseball."
Will, a Chicago Cubs fanatic and a member of the Baltimore Oriole board of directors, has been a baseball fan all his life. "It's axiomatic," he says, "because there is no life before baseball."
That's why he devoted three years to writing Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (Macmillan, $19.95), an excerpt of which starts on page 54. The book examines four elements of the game through the eyes of four masters of those elements: San Diego Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn on hitting, Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. on defense, Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser on pitching and Oakland Athletics skipper Tony La Russa, the subject of our excerpt, on managing.
Will, who estimates he sees 40 games a season, is no novice around the batting cage, despite his buttoned-down image. "It surprised me how well he knows baseball," says Athletics shortstop Walt Weiss. "Some people don't understand the lingo baseball players use when they talk, but he was joking around with us in the dressing room."
March 12, 1990
To illustrate Will's piece, SI design director Steven Hoffman commissioned graphic designer April Greiman, who has pioneered a computerized method of blending aspects of photography, airbrushing and typesetting. She also created the cover portrait of La Russa. "He is known for his analysis of baseball using data sheets and statistics from a computer," says Greiman. "I've tried to convey a man who has a sort of geometric mind."
Will, too, takes a Pythagorean approach to work—except when he's at the ballpark. He describes writing a book about baseball as the ultimate labor of love. "It is said that some men are like mountains: The closer you get to them, the bigger they become," says Will. "That's what these baseball men became for me."