Sportswriting is often done by the numbers. Too many stats can drain the passion from the writing. But Terry Pluto rarely breaks out his calculator. In fact, the longtime Akron Beacon Journal columnist is one of the finest sports scribes in the country. He's been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize, and he's snagged the Ohio Sportswriter of the Year award six times. Among his 19 books are The Curse of Rocky Colavito (a fine history of Cleveland Indians baseball) and When All the World Was Browns Town (an equally fine history of Cleveland Browns football).
His latest, The View From Pluto: Collected Sportswriting About Northeast Ohio, is a compilation of columns from the past 13 years. In it, Pluto riffs on everything from the Tribe's stellar seasons and the Browns' heartbreaking move to Baltimore, to fan favorites Mark Price and Omar Vizquel. "There are a lot of obvious stories in there," he says. "But stories of Cleveland misery are also expected in this kind of book."
We queried Pluto on the Tribe, the Cavs, the Browns, and all of the players who have filled his pages over the past decade. Here's what he had to say:
On baseball: "My favorite baseball game ever is the 1995 playoff game between the Indians and Seattle," Pluto says, referring to game six, when 40-year-old Dennis Martinez beat Randy Johnson. "It put them in the World Series for the first time in 41 years." Pluto says that the Indians' appearance in the Series that season is the best story he's covered in his 25 years as a sportswriter. And baseball is his favorite sport to cover. "It writes the best," he says. "The season is so soap opera-ish, because it goes on for so long, and you really get to know the players."
On basketball: "My favorite thing to watch is a really good basketball game, at almost any level," Pluto says. Indeed, one of his all-time favorite interview subjects is former Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens. "He was [unlike any] modern person you find in pro sports," he says. "He was humble, and he believed that less is more. He wasn't a great interview, but I just respected him so much, because of the way he conducted himself, as a man and as a coach."
On football: "The whole Browns move, from beginning to end, was so ugly," Pluto says. "From the way the deal was cut to the fans' behavior -- let's just say that Browns fans can go over the top sometimes -- was bad." Pluto names the 1964 Browns -- the squad that won the NFL championship -- as the city's best team ever. "I remember going down to the old stadium with my dad and seeing those guys," he says. "Jim Brown remains the greatest running back I've ever seen. You look at old films of him, and [he] is playing the way the NFL does today. He could do anything."