Remembering Sal Bando and the shortest interview in sportswriting history

I was saddened to learn today that Sal Bando, one of the mainstays in the great success of the Oakland A’s in the 1970s, died Friday.

I watched Bando a lot on television during those great A’s years, and I also got to see him play late in his career when he came over to the Milwaukee Brewers. I was in grad school at Marquette University then.

The summer before I started working toward my master’s degree in journalism, I’d worked as a reporting intern at the Chagrin Valley Times in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a few miles from Cleveland. Somehow I found out that Bando’s wife was from Chagrin Falls, and I figured I might be able to get a story out of that for the paper back home in Ohio.

Interview Sal, watch the game and report on how he did. What could possibly go wrong?

As I recall (and I don’t recall much, as memory has been kind), I called the Brewers’ p.r. office and got permission to come to County Stadium during practice one afternoon before a night game.

I found my way to the dugout, sat down next to Sal and introduced myself.

“So how do you like Chagrin Falls?” I asked.

His answer was brief: We’re not there very often, so I really can’t say.

I paused, could think of absolutely nothing in the way of a follow up question and said: “Well, thanks, Sal. Good luck tonight.”

As I made my way out of the stadium, I felt like a schmuck. A failure. A loser.

But at least I could watch the game that night from the press box!

Then I looked at the pass the Brewers had given me. A check was next to the box for on-field access at practice. But for the press box or even the game itself?

Nope.

Mighty Danny had struck out.

On that day more than 40 years ago, I hadn’t even started my career. I learned a valuable lesson about preparing for interviews. I later realized that I had the thinnest of pretexts for an interview with a major league player, a veteran who probably laughed at me for a moment and quickly put me out of mind.

The kicker to that lesson is that in doing some basic research on the internet tonight, I learned that Bando grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Warrensville Heights. Had I known that on the day of the interview, I might have been able to improvise a few questions on his background and at least have had a decent conversation with him, if not a story.

But I was as green as the County Stadium grass, lacking in confidence and experience.

In the end, though, even if it was at my own expense, I got a story.

Thanks for that, Sal. Rest in peace.

5 thoughts on “Remembering Sal Bando and the shortest interview in sportswriting history

  1. One day I’ll tell you (if I already haven’t) about my 1976 interview with Jimmy Carter, when no one was giving him a chance of winning the presidency.

    I still feel the embarrassment in my gut. He is probably still laughing.

  2. What a great name for a town – Chagrin Falls as in the distress goes away. You were in Milwaukee at the perfect time Dan. Those late 70’s, early 80’s teams were the golden years. It hasn’t been that wonderful since. Nice tribute to a great player, a great leader, and from what I remember, a great human being.

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