A baseball fan dives deep into the untold story of Ken Caminiti | Literary
Ken Caminiti was a serious, larger-than-life Major League baseball player, most notably for the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres during his 15-year big league career that ended in 2001. Two years after making a groundbreaking admission of steroid use in Sports Illustrated Magazine in 2002, Caminiti died aged 41 of drug-induced cardiac arrest. As a fan of 1990s Caminiti-era baseball and knowing there had to be more to the story, Dan Good embarked on what turned out to be a 10-year journey to get to the bottom of the game. ‘story.
What Good uncovered from its beginnings in 2012 until writing most of the book “Playing Through the Pain: Ken Caminiti and the Steroids Confession that Changed Baseball Forever” in 2020 was more shocking than it ever had imagined, while he learned a lot about himself along the way.
“The biggest thing was internal,” Good said. “As I hadn’t done it before, I had to prove to myself that I could do it and there was a lot of doubt there. Then it was the feeling of getting people to trust me to tell the story. ‘story, to get people to join.
Good, a Garth Road resident, will host a book launch for “Playing Through the Pain” (Abrams Press, $27) at Bronx River Books in Scarsdale on Sunday, June 5 at 5 p.m. Good called Bronx River Books “our spot.” as he and his wife Susan Lulgjuraj, well known in the world of baseball card collectors, often wander there. The two have presented at the Scarsdale Young Writers’ Workshop over the years, with Lulgjuraj’s nieces having participated in the program.
Good grew up in Pennsylvania and worked in television news for a few years there before moving to New Jersey to work at The Press of Atlantic City as a feature editor, breaking news reporter and editor. He moved to New York in 2012 when he was hired by the New York Post as its front page editor overnight.
He was later at ABC News, New York Daily News, NBC and back at the Post before a pre-pandemic decision to be more home with his now 5-year-old son led him to write ghost books. He worked on the Caminiti book, and after writing so many book proposals for people who thought they had interesting stories to tell, he realized he needed to probe his own project. Through various contacts, he ended up at Abrams Press with a book deal in 2020 and finished writing in January 2021.
While at the station the first time, Good found himself with free time and nothing to do all day. “I was bored and I was like, ‘You know what? I think it would be really interesting to write a book about Ken Caminiti,’ he said.
Good found Caminiti’s style the ball player – “that presence he carried with that scowl, diving all over the place, throwing players off his butt, changing punching power, playing an MVP season with a rotator cuff torn” – to be intriguing, piled on with the events of his post-game days, including the admission of steroids which was “a really gritty and honest and genuine thing to do” and his death which was “so sudden and shocking”.
“You think there’s so much more out there that hasn’t been said and as a baseball fan, this is the book I wanted to read,” Good said. “I was interested in reading a book about Ken. I decided to start getting rid of it. Ten years later, here we are. It took a long time and I’m really proud of how it turned out. turned in. It was a long journey, a difficult journey.
A three-time Gold Glove third baseman, Caminiti played 15 years in the majors with the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves from 1987 to 2001. In 1996, he was the National League Most Valuable Player for the Padres when he hit .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs. During his career, he was a .272 hitter with 239 home runs and 983 RBIs. Drug addiction was also a big part of his life.
Good interviewed 400 people for the book. Many people didn’t want to talk to him about the book for various reasons, including Caminiti’s ex-wife, but she gave friends and family the go-ahead to talk to Good if they wanted to. wished, which Good was “respectful and grateful to.”
“Not having these key people helped me dig deeper and find other people to tell me these stories,” he said.
Many people Good spoke with were “guilty” in some of Caminiti’s issues and often had their own culpability for it, incriminating themselves along the way.
“I think it’s a chance to let some air out of the room, to say that this guy was great, but obviously had his struggles and struggles,” Good said. “But he is someone who is remembered, someone who is important for us not to forget.”
Bruce Bochy, Caminiti’s manager with the Padres, was “the best” interview for Good, but it was also an adventure to be had. Good tried to reach him from 2013 through the San Francisco Giants, of which he was the manager, and after Bochy’s retirement, Good finally decided to use a phone number he thought might be Bochy’s. . He was called back a week and a half later with a “gravelly” voice at the end. It was Bochy and the two spoke for 45 minutes. “It was a great conversation,” Good said.
The closest and most important source was Caminiti’s steroid supplier Dave Moretti, a childhood friend, who broke his silence for the book. Good hooked up with Moretti in 2015 and was told that if he came out in California, Moretti would tell him “everything”.
“Not knowing what he was going to say, I took a chance and walked out,” Good said. From the moment they met, Moretti began to empty his guts. Good admitted it wasn’t what I expected. With Sports Illustrated in 2002, Caminiti took full responsibility, without naming names.
“Dave, I think he really felt the need to be honest, to fix the record and to be open,” Good said. “I think it was the reality that Ken’s story really needed to be told, the warts and all.”
Moretti didn’t give Good any other names, just sticking with Caminiti, but Good started putting pieces together and talking to other players and sources who connected more dots and the story network has seemed to corroborate what had happened over the years.
Another great interview was with ex-Caminiti bandmate Greg Vaughn, but Good also had fun chasing “random masks” like Andy Stankiewicz, Casey Candaele and Billy Doran. Then there was Hal Lanier, who was Caminiti’s first manager with the Astros, his motorcycle supplier and the teenager “at the center of Ken’s fatal last trip” to New York in 2004, whom Good spoke to through a prison phone system.
“It was interesting reuniting with people and hearing these stories that for the most part had never been told before,” Good said.
The biggest “whoa” factor after Moretti’s franchise was the lead that led Good to discover that Caminiti had been sexually abused in college, which turned out to be a little-known trauma that led Caminiti to substance abuse for “blurring inner pain”.
“It was devastating to learn of this, devastating to piece this together and even to try to figure out what happened, when and how,” Good said. “You look at the college years. You go back to the mid 70s.
“The problem for Ken was that he isolated different parts of his life from different people. He wasn’t an open book for everyone, didn’t share the same stories with everyone, so everyone world has slightly different pieces. That’s what’s hard. He’s kept it contained and walled off for years and years and years.
Good called it “tragic” as many people tried to help him, including managers, teammates and friends, but they weren’t sure what the source of his pain was likely to be.
Throughout, Good wondered if he was being too intrusive, but he found out that Caminiti had met Dan Patrick in 2003 about a possible book collaboration.
“Ken was somehow interested in telling his story,” Good said. “That really resonated with me because I think any time you get into a project where people are reluctant or concerned, you’re like, ‘Am I encroaching? Am I doing something that I shouldn’t be doing? Am I digging through someone else’s laundry? Is it going somewhere weird? For me, knowing that at some point he was interested in telling his story meant a lot to me and kind of kept me going.