Longtime sports journalist Peter Gammons recounted stories from his four decades of experience covering baseball and the Boston Red Sox, touching on topics ranging from journalistic ethics to steroids use at the First Church in Cambridge Congregational’s Lindsay Chapel last night.
William M. Polk, Cambridge Center for Adult Education president and Gammons’ close friend, opened the event by asking the 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee about the 2010 prospects for the Sox.
Gammons lauded the Red Sox for improving their pitching and shoring up their defense by adding center fielder Michael T. Cameron and third baseman Adrian P. Beltre.
One audience member asked Gammons how he reconciles being a fan and covering games.
“We’re all human beings, and therefore we have the right to like people,” Gammons said. “But we’re journalists, so we don’t have the right to dislike people.”
A pioneer in sports journalism, Gammons became one of the first print sportswriters to move to television and eventually the internet after joining ESPN in 1988. Gammons, who started his career at the Boston Globe, inspired a generation of sportswriters with innovations such as his “Sunday notes” column.
“It was a life change,” Gammons said of moving to ESPN in an interview after the talk. “But it was still the same thing. It was reporting.”
Gammons recently left ESPN for the MLB Network and MLB.com. He said in an official statement last month that he was looking forward to working for a network “devoted to baseball, and baseball only.”
In response to why journalists didn’t dig deeper to expose use of performance-enhancing drugs before it became a national scandal, Gammons responded, “I always suspected it, but I didn’t know. There’s a great deal of remorse for a lot of us for not pushing it.”
Gammons also spoke candidly on broader issues affecting the sport, including professional baseball’s role in Latin America.
As Major League teams are spending more in the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries, Gammons mused over the possibility of Cuban players in the Majors should U.S.-Cuba relations improve.
Gammons, who traveled to Havana in 1999, described a culture of suspicion among Cuban players driven by social factors such as “snitch lines”—government incentives for citizens to provide incriminating information about their neighbors.
“Trying to break that down is going to be fascinating,” he said.
The discussion, which took place at the First Church in Cambridge Congregational’s Lindsay Chapel, was the first installment of the CCAE’s Home Run in Harvard Square speaking series, which ends in May.
—Staff writer Loren Amor can be reached at email@example.com.