A few years ago, Steve Scarpa and I shared a few of the ideas each of us had for potential nonfiction book projects. Steve, a former newspaper journalist and current marketing and communications director at Long Wharf Theatre, told me about the New Haven Elm Citys, a professional baseball team that suffered through one miserable season at the Howard Avenue Grounds.
Since January, Steve’s been blogging about the hapless squad, serving in some respects as the team’s beat reporter, never mind that the “New Havens,” as the team was then nicknamed, played in 1875.
Steve’s blog, which can be found at spelvin56.wordpress.com, offers a fascinating and delightfully subjective glimpse into the team’s organization, players, and directors, who met regularly at the Tontine Hotel to figure out how a New Haven-based major league (the league at the time was the National Association of Professional Baseball Players) baseball team could make money.
During a telephone conversation earlier today, Steve described the New Haven Elm Citys as a “fantastically bad” team that put together, in one season of play, an embarrassing 7-40 record.
As much as he finds himself rooting for the team, Steve’s interest in launching the blog was in writing about something that didn’t have to do with theater or his day job.
“I was sort of looking to write in digestible chunks,” he said, “and to have a discreet project.”
The blog, in other words, is as much for Steve as it is for its readers.
“Getting involved in this little world is fun,” he told me. “You end up learning about the city itself … There was sort of an aspirational quality to the town.”
The blog has also given Steve a chance to explore the journalism of the time, by way of the New Haven Daily Palladium, which covered the inception of the New Haven Elm Citys at a time when “the sport was new.”
Through his blog posts, Steve is telling a story not just about the formation of a big-league ball club but about the City of New Haven during the late 19th century. Steve’s storytelling focuses as much on the soap opera that was the New Haven Elm Citys as it does on the men behind the scenes.
For Steve, telling the story is the inspiration, the blog a vehicle through which he can write without being restricted by journalistic rules and deadlines.
Having read Steve’s posts, I, too, find myself rooting for the chance to luxuriate in a well-told story, if not for the team on the field.