EPISODE #30: The Senior Professional Baseball Association with Author David Whitford

Inc. Editor-at-Large David Whitford (Extra Innings: A Season in the Senior League) joins host Tim Hanlon to retrace his journalistic odyssey covering the inaugural season of the short-lived, Florida-based Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) in the winter of 1989-90.  Whitford recalls the early-career events leading up to his plum writing assignment, and the process by which he went about chronicling this unique, but ultimately ill-fated eight-team circuit for former pro players over 35 (32 for catchers).  Despite half the franchises folding after the first 72-game season (and the rest of the league mid-way through the second), the Senior League, in Whitford’s view, afforded dozens of former big-league players and managers a "life-after-death fantasy" – one that attracted both stars and journeymen alike for a chance to either stay fresh for one last shot in the Show, recapture past on-field glories, or simply earn some needed money.  Whitford highlights a wide array of characters he met while covering the SBPA, including:

  • Founder Jim Morley , the thirty-something hustler who erroneously believed a senior league could generate cash flow sufficient to sustain his debt-ridden real-estate empire;
  • Commissioner Curt Flood, the indefatigable player’s union representativewho broke Major League Baseball’s reserve clause, but sacrificed his career in the process;
  • Pitcher Wayne Garland, the former Cleveland ace and early free-agent beneficiary who risked permanent shoulder damage by coming back to play pro ball after a five-year layoff;
  • Ex-Padres/Astros fastballer (and pioneer descendant) Danny Boone, who reinvented himself into a knuckleball specialist, and improbably made it back to the bigs with Baltimore in 1990 following the SPBA season; AND
  • A veritable who’s who of former big-name major league stars – each with their own personal reasons for returning to the diamonds:  Bobby Bonds, Joaquin Andujar, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Ferguson Jenkins, Dave Kingman, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Graig Nettles, Mickey Rivers, and even manager Earl Weaver – just to name a few.

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Extra Innings: A Season in the Senior League - buy book here