August 29, 2007

12 questions with Sam Carchidi

Staff Writer

Sam Carchidi has been covering sports for Delaware Valley readers from high schools through the pros. He is also an author, having written books about the recovery of Penn State football player Adam Taliaferro from a spinal injury and another about the career of Philadelphia sports icon Bill Campbell.

On Saturday, Carchidi, who owns property in Ocean City, experienced a much-publicized confrontation with Phillies' pitcher Brett Myers while covering a Phillies game with San Diego. He answered questions about that incident and some related topics.

1-How long have you been covering the Phillies?
Carchidi: As the backup guy for the Inquirer, maybe since 1986. But before that I worked for some other media groups. I think I've been writing stories about the Phillies since 1975.

2-In the time you've been covering the Phillies, has the relationship changed between players and the media?
Carchidi: It has definitely changed. Players have become more guarded and you really can't fault them. When I first started covering games you might have 10-15 writers and broadcasters there. Now you have more like 50 on a regular basis. The Internet has changed things completely. There wasn't always sports talk radio. As a result, players are almost afraid to say anything. They are more guarded and defensive. You get more stock answers. They try to be politically correct. Although Brett Myers certainly wasn't politically correct on Saturday. As a result, it is difficult to get a feel for the personalities of the players like you used to. If you go back 40 or 50 years it was even more different. Bill Campbell talks about how friendly he was with players. They'd go to dinner together. You don't really see that now.

3-After the confrontation that most people have read about, were you still able to conduct more interviews in the clubhouse Saturday night?
Carchidi: No, and that really upset me. I complained to Larry Shenk (the Phillies vice president of public relations) because Brett Myers unquestionably provoked the whole thing. I was escorted out of the locker room after it happened. I asked to go back in and they wouldn't let me back in. So it was difficult to do my job without access to the other players. I also told Larry Shenk that I wanted an apology from Brett Myers.

4-When you look back on the incident, is there anything you would change?
Carchidi: I might have been able to use a little better judgment. He called me a 'bleeping retard' and said I knew 'bleeping nothing' about baseball. That was after I answered his question. He gave up two home runs in the ninth inning and he asked me if I thought both of them were out of the ballpark. He thought they were pop-ups. So he asked me if I thought they were out. I answered honestly, the first I thought was out of the ballpark, the second one I didn't. That was when he called me a 'bleeping retard'. I responded to that by saying, 'How do you spell retard?' In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have said that. But it is very difficult to just stand there after someone calls you a name like that in front of your peers and is leaning toward you. I probably should have bit my tongue but I guess the Italian came out in me.

5-Has anything like this ever happened to you before?
Carchidi: I've been covering the Phillies for more than 30 years, I've done well over 1,000 interviews. Saturday night's confrontation was the second problem I've had in all that time. The other was four or five years ago with Ed Wade, then the general manager. It was the day before the trade deadline and I asked him if there was any news on the trade front. He said, 'Sam, if you were here every day, you'd know I just addressed that yesterday.' Of course, things change from day to day and if I had been there the day before I'd probably have asked the question anyway. So I told him that if he wants to become my editor and arrange my schedule I'd be here every day. He responded with an obscenity. It was unprofessional but he apologized later. I give him credit for that.

6-Is this Phillies clubhouse generally a little more intense?
Carchidi: I think it's actually a pretty good clubhouse. The players are accessible, for the most part. The ironic thing is, Brett Myers is one of the most accessible. Win or lose, give him credit, he comes out after a game. Saturday he had just lost one of the biggest games of the year for the Phillies up to that point. But he came right out, was at his locker when the game ended and was answering questions. I totally disagree with what he did with me but he seems like a standup guy. I think it's really a pretty good clubhouse. The players are accessible and forthcoming.

7-Does the beat writer, the guy who is with the team on an almost daily basis, have a different role than a guy who covers the team a couple games a week?
Carchidi: I don't think it's any different. I still ask the same type of questions the beat writer asks. I take it seriously but I still try to have fun with it. I do my research. I am prepared. On Sunday, Brett Myers told our beat writer (Jim Salisbury) that I cover high schools and I come there and try to stir things up. If asking a question is stirring things up, them I'm guilty. As far as being a high school writer, I love being a high school writer. Believe me, the people you cover on the high school level are classy. It's rewarding to see the young people on the way up and they don't have the attitude that some of the professional athletes have.

8-Will it be difficult to treat Brett Myers fairly after this?
Carchidi: Not for me. I always try to be professional and I will cover him objectively. I don't think it will be difficult. The thing that will be awkward will be the next time I go into the locker room. If he is there and hasn't apologized, hasn't put this behind us, that could be awkward. But I don't anticipate any problems covering him fairly.

9-What do you think the media's role is in covering sports?
Carchidi: First and foremost it is to inform. And we are also there to entertain. We aren't there to be part of the story. And that's what bothers me the most about this. The game on the field, what goes on leading up to the game, what the outcome of the game means - that is what people care about. They don't want to read about the writers, they want to read about the athletes. Sports is supposed to be an escape. But it isn't what it used to be. Professional sports has become much more involved and isn't as much fun. That's why I love high school sports because it is very refreshing.

10-What do you think will happen to the Phils in the final month?
Carchidi: When they get Chase Utley back - he's supposed to be back for the series with the Mets - he will energize the lineup. Tadahito Iguchi did a great job filling in. He was a tremendous pickup for Pat Gillick. They say he can't play third base and that's a shame because it would be great to keep him in that lineup. And he's a great No. 2 hitter - he hits behind runners, can hit to all fields. But Utley has a tenacity and professionalism that he brings to the field and the locker room. I think he will energize the lineup. A lot has been made about the Phillies pitching being down, and it has been. But the lineup, at least before the 14 runs they scored Sunday, has not produced the past few weeks. Utley will get right in the middle of things and improve that situation. I think they have a decent shot at the wild card spot but I think they're out of the race for the National League East. The last two years they've come up just a little short but they have played well in September. The bullpen will also be a big factor. Before Sunday, the bullpen had a 15.15 ERA over four games. They really need Brett Myers to be effective, to shut the door. And Tom Gordon has struggled since he came off the DL in July. If he keeps struggling, they've got problems. They may have to win games 7-5 instead of 3-2 but Utley gives them a better chance to do that.

11-Have you heard from Bill Campbell about the incident on Saturday?
Carchidi: Actually I did. He left a message for me and I got back to him. He told me he knows what I'm going through and to hang in there. He said he'd been through it himself a few times and just stay with it and things will get back to normal. I've received hundreds of calls from people and tons of e-mails. I'd say about 95 percent of them have been supportive. I can't thank them enough.

12-Any new books on the horizon for you?
Carchidi: Nothing definite. We are exploring one connected to the horrible shootings at Virginia Tech. And another related to Philadelphia sports history. I really enjoy writing books because you are always so limited with space in the newspaper. It's really great to have the freedom and all that space to write about something. Within a year or so I'm hopeful that we'll start working on something.