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Interview with writer Stephen Steinberg

We were told at the reception that an American writer from Seattle called Stephen Steinberg, who was working in his new book, was coming to stay at Hotel Sauce for two weeks. We started imagining why he was here: “Maybe he´s writing an epic novel about the battles between Arabs and the kingdom of Castilla”, Giuseppe said. “Or a love story between a Muslim king and a Christian princess full of secret meetings in fancy castles”, Saray said.

We decided to look for hints on the internet. And we discovered that he came to Zaragoza to write… about Baseball! What is an American baseball writer doing in Zaragoza? We absolutely needed to speak with him and find out!

I write about unfairly forgotten baseball players. Zaragoza it´s a little bit the same: It´s an amazing city, full of history, and in America it is not known!

Zaragoza has a strong tradition in football, basketball and swimming, but you write biographies of baseball players… What brought you to Zaragoza?

I wanted to get away and go to the end of the world to concentrate in my work. I fancy the idea of waking up in a place where I know nobody and nobody knows me. At the beginning I thought about Siberia, but my publisher told me I was crazy. My wife and me we came to Spain –Andalucía- in our honeymoon. And in 2006 we came with our kids to Barcelona, so we already knew Spain. But I didn´t know Zaragoza. I write about great baseball players of the past who were unfairly forgotten through the cracks of history. I found that Zaragoza was a little bit similar: It´s a wonderful city, full of history and amazing places to visit, but nobody in America knows it. In the American guidebooks of Spain there´s not even one page about it. So I had to come; it fits the spirit of what I write.

We investigated and discovered that you became a writer when you retired, not so long ago. How did that process happen?

I used to work in retail. Like many people my age, I didn´t want to retire because my life was my work, and I didn´t know what to do; I had a very difficult time. I have to admit that, while I was working, I didn´t read a book maybe for years. But when I retired, I started reading a lot of biographies of past baseball players. And I started writing, overall about the Yankees, because they were the most famous team. I wrote a book called “The colonel and Hug”, about the relationship between the owner and the manager of the Yankees of the twenties, and it got the attention from al the media, national TV etc…

Who are you writing about right now?

I´m working on Urban Shocker, a very famous baseball player back in the twenties, even if nobody remembers him now. It´s a very sad story. Shocker started in the Yankees at a very young age and he was traded away, but he always wanted to return to his team and they finally got him back. He was temperamental, but when he came back he was more quiet, and that´s to be part of the story of this book. Every author has to fill in some of the blanks because he doesn´t have every answer. My theory is that when he came back to the Yankees, he was already sick. He played in the 1927 Yankees team, the most famous team of all times, and no one knew at the time that he was dying. He had a heart disease, a micro valve failure; something that can be healed nowadays in half an hour. He died shortly after the 1927 season.

Did Hotel Sauce help in your job?

Yes, the hotel is wonderful, I think I got fortunate. I love to have a room with a balcony. It´s too narrow to sit outside but it brings in a lot of light through the two windows. I love to sit in Plaza de España to have a coffee and watch the people pass by, and I have also been working in some other cafes, but the most of my work I did in the room of the hotel, where I found the perfect atmosphere to work.

Americans say Baseball is the perfect game, while Spanish say football is. What do you think?

Football is floppy. Players tend to trick the referee. Basketball is the same, but at least the final score is always 90 to 80: but usually football games end up 1-0 or 2-0. And the referee doesn´t know what´s going on, it´s very hard for him to know. In baseball for example there is the rule not to throw the ball at the head of the batsman, it doesn´t matter if it´s intentional or not: you do it, you´re out. Plus baseball is one of the few sports that it´s not controlled by the watch. It finishes when it has to finish!

How did Zaragoza inspire you?

As I said, I like to visit undiscovered places, and Zaragoza is undiscovered for the Americans. I don’t understand these people who say: “You have to come to this city in Mexico. It´s totally like America!” Why would I want to go to a foreign country to feel just like in America? I came to Zaragoza and I discovered that it´s full of History. In America, if you see a building 80 years old you´re so surprised! And maybe they tear it down because it´s ugly. Here I find that Goya is amazing… I went to the Palace of the Aljafería and I felt like in the Alhambra of Granada on my honeymoon. And then I went to the Tapestry Museum at the Cathedral de la Seo and found two huge carpets that tell the story of Esther and the Jewish people, which were apparently donated by the archbishop at the time of the Inquisition. So intriguing! I´ll probably come back with my wife because there´s so much to do here!

 

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