Friday, I posted my thoughts on a damn fine read, Odd Man Out, which is about lefty washout pitcher Matt McCarthy's experiences as a farmhand in the Angels organization. The post led to a lively debate in the comments section about the accuracy of McCarthy's reporting. Among those who questioned many incidents related in the book was Stephen C. Smith, who runs the FutureAngels.com website. Among the many things Smith has done as a chronicler of Angel minor leaguers was attend, film and report on the on- and off-field exploits of the Provo Angels, the team that once included McCarthy in its pitching rotation and is the main source of Odd Man Out's action.
(After the 2004 season, which Smith created a created a documentary on, the Provo Angels relocated six miles west to a new ballpark where they became the Orem Owlz. The move out of what McCarthy called "Mormonville" allowed the team to play on Sundays and serve beer. Meanwhile, small world: I did not discover until Monday, when I fished a personal email from him out of my junk folder, that he is the same Stephen C. Smith behind the Irvine Tattler, the on-hiatus website that is very critical of the Larry Agran-led power bloc on the Irvine City Council.)
Smith has posted a new comment on the Odd Man Out post that I want to make sure anyone interested sees. It is about "Errors Cast Doubt on Baseball Memoirs," a story by Benjamin Hill and Alan Schwarz in today's New York Times. According to the piece, "statistics from that season, transaction listings and interviews with his former teammates indicate that many portions of the book are incorrect, embellished or impossible." There is also a sidebar matching excerpts from the book with contradictions uncovered by the reporters.
Confronted with this, McCarthy stood by his book, saying the stories were drawn from detailed journals he kept during his year in the minors--journals he declined to produce.
The Times reporters kept pressing, reciting back to McCarthy direct quotes from people in his book that included incorrect facts about the speakers' own lives, as well as passages that included teammates who were not even on the team at the time of the incidents. The author then tossed a change-up, saying that while he kept detailed, daily notes in the journal he would not share, he did have to recollect some events six years after the fact.
A rep for Viking Press, the book's publisher, said it relies on its writers to check facts and tell the truth. She would not elaborate on Viking's internal fact-checking for Odd Man Out. But Chris Stone, the baseball editor who was instrumental in Sports Illustrated publishing a long excerpt of the book in its Feb. 16 issue, said that the identified errors made him concerned about the book's overall truthfulness.
Smith has been around the minors enough to know the tone of Odd Man Out was pitch-perfect, if not some of the facts, but one thing he could not wrap his head around was why he could not recall a Matt McCarthy. "The book did bring back a lot of memories," Smith says. "When SI called looking for photos, I didn't remember him so I looked in my photo gallery and say I had so many photos of him. Usually that happens when a player or his parents ask me to take a lot of photos and they'll buy them. Maybe he was planning the book even then, who knows?"
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That would explain why a minor leaguer kept daily, detailed notes. It would not explain why the finished book apparently deviates so much from the facts, although book agents, publishers and even magazine editors have been known to send back drafts with notes to "pump up" or "flesh out" stories to make them more compelling. One of the things that is so compelling about Odd Man Out is the glimpse it allegedly gives of future Angel stars.