As yet another baseball season begins and new faces appear at spring training, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED welcomes a new player to its starting lineup. Associate editor Hugh Delehanty joined the team on Jan. 2 and has been assigned to assist senior editor John Papanek with our baseball coverage. For this issue, Hugh has edited stories on Mets' newcomer Gregg Jefferies, beginning on page 40, and the promising rookies of '88.
A native of Hamden, Conn., Delehanty as a kid was "an incredible sports nut." When he was eight his family moved to Weymouth, Mass., not so very far from Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. But Delehanty's loyalty had already been fixed by then. A few years earlier he had seen his first major league game—the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Giants—and had become a devoted Dodger fan. In Weymouth, Delehanty played Little League ball, collected baseball cards and displayed a literary bent. "For me, baseball has always been closely linked with literature," he says. "The first real reading I did was sports literature."
But when Delehanty went off to Brown University, where he majored in English, he lost touch with sports. After graduating in 1971 he took a job as assistant director of Project Relief, Inc., an organization that raised funds to aid India-Pakistan war refugees in Bangladesh. Delehanty moved to California in 1972 and worked for The (Oakland) Tribune covering high school sports, doing general assignments and working on the copydesk. "Living in Oakland got me interested in baseball again," he says. "The A's were like the old Brooklyn Dodgers—an exciting and unpredictable team."
After a stint as editor in chief of Professional Sports Journal, Delehanty worked as a free-lance writer. When money got tight, he would turn to the box of 5,000 baseball cards—dating from 1950 to '65—that he had brought with him to the West Coast. "I'd sell some to pay the rent," he says.
In 1982, Delehanty started dating playwright Barbara Graham. Neither she nor her 10-year-old son, Clay, had any interest in baseball. Delehanty presented the boy with a copy of Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Clay was hooked. Barbara was a harder sell. "The first time we went to a game," says Hugh, "she brought a George Eliot novel along and read it through the last out." They were married in 1984, and Graham soon found herself left out of dinner table conversations when the talk revolved around batting averages. "She had to learn baseball in self-defense, says Delehanty. "Now she's hooked, too."
To Delehanty, baseball and lit fit.