When we asked Roy Blount Jr. to do a story on the 100th anniversary of The Sporting News, we knew he would find the story to his liking. "I was just going to read some back issues," says Blount, an inveterate baseball fan. "But when I found myself in Mac's office, I wanted to stay there forever."
"Mac" is Paul Mac Farlane, the official historian of The Sporting News. In Mac's office are mint-condition sets of baseball cards from the turn of the century, letters from Ty Cobb and the original rules for the game as written by Alexander Cartwright. With all those gems lying around and mountains of stats and box scores on the desk, Mac's office reminded Blount of his own cluttered office at home in Mill River, Mass. "Only Mac's is of greater historical significance," Blount says modestly.
Blount, 44, used to have an office at SI—piled so high with books, we couldn't tell if he was in there or not—where he was a writer from 1968 until he left to become a free-lancer in 1974. The author of five books, including Crackers, about Georgia and Jimmy Carter, and Not Exactly What I Had in Mind, he's currently working on a book about hair. That may seem an unpromising subject, but readers know him as a humorist who approaches whatever he writes about from unexpected, and always fascinating, directions.
Blount's look at the Bible of Baseball also put him in the company of Lowell Reidenbaugh, who was able to write The Sporting News: First Hundred Years, the publication's official history, even though he is legally blind. Every word he read or wrote during the two years he spent researching and writing the book had to be enlarged and projected onto what looks like a big television screen. Blount also visited James (Cool Papa) Bell, who is only the fastest baseball player "of all time," as Bell himself tells it. Blount is only one of the slowest baseball players to ever shag a fly in the state of Georgia, as he tells it. "It's always been my weakness in sports to not be fleet," says Blount. "I've been slow but fortunate. I ran back a blocked punt in a high school game between boys from the north side of the tracks and boys from the south side. When I looked back, only one kid was chasing me. He was the only person in Decatur slower than I was."
Blount scored a touchdown on the play. Obviously, his approach to stories isn't the only thing about him that's full of surprises.
FOR AVID FAN BLOUNT, WRITING ABOUT THE BIBLE OF BASEBALL WAS PURE PLEASURE