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August 29, 2008 3:59 PM

A Lawyer Blogs About Baseball, and Finds an Audience

Posted by Zach Lowe

Craig Calcaterra, 35, is a senior attorney at Thompson Hine, where he's been since he lateraled in 2003 from Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. He's a litigator who's represented elected officials in alleged corruption scandals and contested elections. But, at least among sports fans in the blogosphere, he's better known as the man behind Shysterball, the baseball blog Calcaterra started last year. We spoke with him about posting ten items a day while holding down a full-time job.

Did you expect to post every day when you started the blog?
Absolutely not. It started as an offshoot of a legal blog I had, called Shyster. I realized that to blog, you really have to have a passion for what you're writing about, and it just wasn't there every day with the law. So I started writing baseball items, and I figured I'd write one every two or three days. But every day there seemed to be more things I wanted to write about. At the end of last season, I was up to three posts a day. Now, if I don't get to six, it's a terrible day. Some days it's as many as ten.

Did you tell your bosses about your decision to blog about baseball?
There was never a meeting with the firm. When I started writing about baseball, I made the decision not to write about legal topics--and to use my real name.

You post either very early in the morning or at night. Occasionally you post during work hours. Did you talk to the firm about this?
That is a conversation we've had. I think the firm realizes there is not a lot of functional difference between a lawyer reading The Wall Street Journal or checking his fantasy team during a break, and me taking ten or 15 minutes to scan the news and do a quick post. The firm is really good about giving associates and nonpartners autonomy--as long as you do your work and take care of your cases.

So how do you manage to post so often?
I wake up really early in the morning. I've got two small kids (ages 3 and 4), and I'm not a morning person. But I try to wake up before they do. The vast majority of it is done between 5:30 and 7 a.m., and after work. I'm usually in bed by midnight.

You have some prominent readers, including Rob Neyer of ESPN.com. When did he start linking to your blog, and what did it do for your traffic?
It was last July. He linked to a post I did about the number of blacks in baseball. Every year some university does a study saying baseball is less inclusive because the number of black Americans playing is not the same as it was in the 1970s. It's misleading, and I challenged the alarmism of it. Neyer linked to it and the hits just went off. At that time, I was probably up to 100 hits per day. That day, I got 5,000.

You've landed freelance gigs at The Columbus Dispatch and AOL's Fanhouse blog, and even a book review with the New York Post. Did you tell the firm about the gigs?
Before my story for the Dispatch, I did ask for permission to write it, and for them to use my photo. But not for Fanhouse; it's just indistinguishable from what I'm doing at Shysterball.

All very interesting, but let's get to the important stuff. You lived in Michigan until you were 11, and then moved to West Virginia. Who's your team these days?
Now it's the Atlanta Braves. My baseball DNA is the pre-1985 Detroit Tigers. [The Tigers won the World Series in 1984]. I still have a great affection for that team, but when I moved to West Virginia, thanks to [TBS], I probably watched every single Braves game--most of them losses.

And your favorite players?
Before the Braves, it was [Detroit shortstop] Alan Trammell. The fact that he's not in the Hall of Fame is a travesty, on a personal level. I've also grown to love Greg Maddux.

 

Photo: The Columbus Dispatch

 

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