Earlier this year, I received an interesting email response from Tim Dierkes – the creator and owner of the independently owned baseball website MLB Trade Rumors. I had written a few stories for mlbtraderumors.com last year, and I was looking forward to getting some early season writing opportunities.
Tim said he was planning on increasing the number of original articles on the MLBTR site and had an attention-grabbing thought for me. He wanted to gauge my interest in doing a longer-form oral history piece, saying that he enjoyed reading articles in which the author gained access to everyone involved. “With your connections, I wonder if you could retell an interesting trade or free agent signing from a bunch of points of view like that. Does anything like that seem possible?”
The more I read, the more I envisioned a neon “Open” sign in my brain.
“Off the top of my head,” he wrote, “what about the story about how Jim Hendry signed Ted Lilly from the hospital room? I know that was covered a bit at the time, but you could probably snag Ted Lilly and Jim Hendry fairly easily, plus you could try to get Ted's agent … and anyone else relevant to the story.”
What about the Jim Hendry/Ted Lilly story? Heck, I was right in the middle of it all week. I saw Jim fighting all of us who tried to get him to see a doctor. I watched as he went through rolls of Tums – and even took some of my prescription Prilosec. I was purposely asked by Jim to hide in his hotel room (which was attached to the main suite) while he conducted business with agents – just in case he needed more 7 Up or antacid tablets. I was there that Wednesday morning when Jim told me he was afraid the night before that if he closed his eyes, he wouldn’t wake up. For two days, he was convinced he had gall stones; he never let on to anyone how awful he was feeling. We were all stunned when we found out there was a heart issue.
And then when we all found out that the Cubs landed Lilly while Mr. Hendry was attached to an EKG was … well … that was so Jim.
Writing that story was too large of an endeavor to do for my own site. But the thought of putting it together under the MLBTR banner – in an oral history format, no less – was all the incentive I needed.
From the time I started conceptualizing the story through this week – when the article was posted on MLBTR – I spent more time on this piece than any research project I did in school. And it was a lot more enjoyable than any school project, too!
I’m going to link you to the story at the end of this post. But I need to do some “Thank You” notes.
First off, a big “Thanks” to Tim Dierkes for providing the nudge to write this story – and for allowing it to appear on the MLBTR site.
And, of course, I need to thank the people I interviewed for the story who were so gracious in both their time and recollections:
I realize … the story is lengthy. So grab something to drink – along with a snack or a sandwich. I hope you enjoy reading the oral history of the Ted Lilly/Jim Hendry signing as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.
Please click here for the MLB Trade Rumors story link: