Jericho Scott Has A Cold


Over at Deadspin, I’ve got a long feature on Jericho Scott, the 9-year-old baseball player banned for being “too good.” I wanted to explain how and why this became the worst-covered sports story of 2008, but I also wanted to track the kid down—not to interview him, which I never did, but to watch him play. He became my 9-year-old, 58-pound Moby Dick, and, when I finally found him, he was pitching for a spot in the PONY World Series.

Anyway, after almost 3,000 words, you’d think I’d be out of material. But the topic of youth baseball is just that rich. Here’s a few bullet points that didn’t make the cut.

  • First, some closure: CBC went 2-1 at the PONY World Series—very respectable, especially when you consider that, after all the rain outs, they finished up in New Haven on Monday afternoon, then boarded a 6 a.m. Tuesday flight out of LaGuardia. Caguas, a team from Puerto Rico, won the whole thing.
  • Back to the New Haven tournament. The weekend’s best game actually came in the losers’ bracket—Stratford sent it to extra innings with a bottom-of-the-sixth home run, with CBC ultimately winning 9-8. But the real fun came afterward, as I briefly mention in my piece. I didn’t see who or what instigated it, but two men testosteroned at each other until one took a verbal cheap shot at another, older man in a wheelchair. At this point, everyone began lunging, restraining, or screaming, as was their wont, and a New Haven official made a panicked call to the cops. The whole time this was going on, Mark Gambardella was calmly rechalking the field.
  • Most of my game notes (like the one above) focused on parents and coaches—and rightly so. After each game, the kids just climbed trees or played on dirt piles.  Still, from the beginning, the CBC players seemed much more tense, tearing up after every negative outcome. Is this related to the fact that CBC coaches retied their players’ shoes for them so they didn’t have to remove their batting gloves? I think so.
  • Last week, the New Haven Register ran its own one-year-later story on the Scotts, the first item I’ve found that doesn’t date from the original uproar. The story repeats the errors I describe in my piece and adds a few of its own, starting with a description of Gambardella’s “Little League all-star team.” When I mistakenly said “Little League” in our first interview, Gambardella corrected me: “We’re not Little League—we play real baseball.” The man is a municipal treasure.
  • While we’re talking about the Register: they were one of the many dead-ends in my attempt to find Jericho, which took multiple months and was much harder than I expected. In fact, Jericho’s most lasting legacy might be making it impossible for future generations to find a baseball team. (If you Google “new haven little league,” you get a bog of blog posts, but no contact info. For posterity, then, the organization’s online presence is here.) Some highlights from my quest included emailing the Scotts’ lawyer (his reply to my email read, in full, “They decided to move on and not pursue the matter”); calling the national PONY offices (someone answered as if it were a personal cell phone); and asking a New Haven school district about a principal and baseball coach (the secretary immediately started screaming, “No! No! No! He no longer works here!”).
  • Finally, if you’re in the mood for another instance of the sports media bringing a story to life only to kill it, check out my old interview with banned student sportswriter Michael Daly.

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
This entry was posted in Features, Sports, The Media. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Jericho Scott Has A Cold

  1. Jake says:

    That article is killer. I really enjoyed it a lot. Really good work.

  2. Freddie says:

    Responding to a questionable narrative with old media/new media axe grinding is not progress. You know, the worst kind of bias in journalism isn’t political, or partisan, or ideological. It’s the bias that pleases your publishers, your employers. And what Deadspin loves is a story, any story, that says that the old media failed. And you’ve not only given them that, you’ve given them straight-up editorializing in the middle of a reported story. Doesn’t it make you even a little uncomfortable to be writing a piece for a major publication that is so thoroughly in keeping with their biases and so flattering to their ego? Isn’t that the definition of a conflict of interest?

    • Hi Freddie (based on your blog link, I think you’re the same Freddie who also wrote for the late Culture11? If so, good to re-meet you):

      I accept your description of Deadspin’s ideology, if we want to call it that, but my piece is anti-sports media, not anti-sports old media. For example:

      Old media and new media — both followed the same pattern, praising Jericho, mocking the LJB, and lamenting the everyone-gets-a-trophy contagion.

      Or how about:

      (The blogosphere arguably outdid their print brethren. See this post, lovingly titled, “The Tale of Jericho Scott: Trophies For All! Let’s Turn Our Kids Into Sissies! Why Not Socialism, Too?”)

      In fact, one of the most interesting things about the Jericho saga is how everyone got this wrong. Deadspin’s two Jericho posts from last year, one of which I link to in my piece, are just as silly as a number of printed sports columns.

  3. mcbias says:

    Liked the story, Craig. There’s a right way and a wrong way to point out news media biases, and I thought you were quite fair in explaining how the story got so far away from the truth. Good work!

  4. Freddie says:

    Fair points, for sure.

  5. Bob Cook says:

    Excellent article. I linked to it here, and include how another media outlet played up the “too good” angle ONE DAY after your piece appeared:

    As a youth sports coach, parent and blogger, I see this sort of conflict all the time. Usually if adults act like adults, this sort of thing never blows up. I know this first-hand from, with another coach, arranging the transfer of one basketball player to another league where his physical advantage wasn’t overwhelming and where, actually, he stood a much better chance to improve.


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