Thomas Wolf at Home: On Baseball, Writing Projects, and his Pit Bull

Thomas Wolf has written numerous articles on baseball history and is the coauthor of Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland. His most recent book is The Called Shot: Babe Ruth, the Chicago Cubs, and the Unforgettable Major League Baseball Season of 1932 (Nebraska 2020).

Your book covers the excitement of the 1932 baseball season. What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope readers will appreciate the excitement and recognize that the story of a baseball season is more than just what happens at the ballpark. The Called Shot chronicles the events of that year, both on and off the field. It was a year of fantastic baseball. The greatest players and managers of the game—Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Hornsby, McGraw, McCarthy—dominated the sport. Dizzy Dean appeared on the scene as a rookie with a dynamic personality and blazing fastball. Off the field, a Cubs shortstop was shot in a Chicago hotel room by a disappointed girlfriend. The season ended in spectacular fashion at Chicago’s Wrigley Field where Babe Ruth hit his most famous home run.

But baseball wasn’t the only thing that mattered or occupied the minds of Americans. I wanted to tell that story, too. The nation had drifted deeper into the Great Depression and reeled from social unrest. Bonus Marchers protested in the nation’s capital. Hoover battled Roosevelt for the presidency. The Called Shot tells the story of one of the most unforgettable baseball seasons during this pivotal time in America’s history. I believe readers will find that to be a compelling story.

What are you working on now?

My current project is completing a true crime book that I’m coauthoring with my wife, Patricia Bryan. The book is titled The Plea and tells the story of an eleven-year-old boy, terribly mistreated as a child, who is sentenced to life in an adult prison for the murder of his parents in 1889. The book focuses on the boy’s rehabilitation in prison and his years-long struggle to educate himself, earn his freedom, and become a productive and responsible citizen. His supporters included prison wardens, a prominent newspaper editor, a renowned college professor, and various elected officials. In the book, we explore issues related to child abuse and the functioning of the criminal justice system in the Midwest in the early 20th century.

What affects have social distancing had on your writing?

I work at home and have almost everything I need for research and writing in my home office. Social distancing makes it harder—impossible, really, if we’re adhering to guidelines—to meet in person and talk with friends and other writers about our lives and work. I miss that. The writing process has become a little more isolated for all of us.

Do you have any pets to keep you company?

Our dog Cody, a five-year-old pit bull mix, holds me to a pretty strict schedule—of his choosing. He expects me to climb the stairs to my office at 10 a.m., to come out for lunch at 2 p.m., and to go for a walk, no later than 4 p.m., after which he gets his dinner and is content to give me some free time.

What were you doing last year at this time? How do you think you’ll look back on this time next year?

I live close to a city park with athletic fields and not far from the high school field where one of my sons played baseball. A year ago at this time, I could walk a few blocks, cut through some woods, and arrive at the park to the comforting sounds of youth baseball games: the chatter of fans, the calls of the umpire, and the clang of metal bats connecting with coach-pitched baseballs. The park is quiet this spring, too quiet. Next year when I take that walk to the fields, when the games are in progress once again, I’ll look back on the odd and unsettling experience of walking past empty bleachers and unoccupied baseball fields in the spring of 2020.

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