The Diamond Angle Story
In June 2005 we lost James Floto, our founder. This is the story of how
he started the magazine
by James Floto with David Marasco
IT ALL STARTED AS A DARE. Summer of '89 and I was visiting my lifelong friend and
fellow baseball fanatic, Randy Rosenblatt in L.A. I showed him some of the new baseball
"'zines," small, irregularly published newsletters. Desktop publishing had hit the hidebound
world of baseball, but the early results were not especially promising. I kept grumbling to
Rand that I could do better. Finally, his patience worn as thin as Will Clark's hairline,
he yelped, "Great. You don't like this stuff, you can do better, do it already. I'm tired
of hearing about it."
Uh oh. Old Man Pride nibbling at my ego again. Now, to save face, I had to deliver. I
knew nothing about putting a magazine together, although I had published poetry and short
stories. I knew I wanted something fresh. Baseball from a different angle. The Diamond
Angle. Now I had motive and a title. I had a manual typewriter at home in Hawaii, but
in California, nothing. I asked my mom if I could use her IBM Selectric. After explaining
what I was doing, she said, "Why don't you just take it? I don't use it, and I have one at
the shop if I need to type something." Good old mom.
Went to the local stationary store and bought typing paper, White Out, a cheap little
folder and some index cards. Don't know why I bought the index cards, just one of those
notions we gather from movies and books. I even thought about buying a fedora, but it
was hot in L.A. in August, and that money was better spent on advertising, postage and
I NEVER DID USE THOSE INDEX CARDS, but after typing up some preliminary ideas,
I got down to business on the airplane on the way home. There was a good race between the
A's, Angels and K.C. in the A.L. West, so I started with that, some Yogisms, a proto "Stat's
A Fact" about top players of years ending in "9", by decade. Ultimately, most of the 6-page
rookie issue was about that ALW race, but by the time I deplaned in Honolulu I at least had
an issue under way.
I had about $50 in savings to back the thing, a dozen old friends who would surely subscribe
and, er, no electricity. That is, we had a solar panel that powered our lights and small
appliances, radio, etc., but not enough juice the Selectric. So I did what new editors from
The Sporting News to Baseball Weekly have always done. I marched next door to
my neighbors and asked if, just for the day or two a month I would be putting the issue
together, I could run an extension cord from their house to ours. No problem and my buddy
Russell and I had some laughs as we ran all the extension cords we could round up from his
outside outlet, around his pigpen, through the banana trees that served as the property
line, and on up the side of my house.
Since we as yet had no table upstairs big enough for the Selectric, I had to sit on the
bed, holding each page of rough draft between my toes to keep the breeze from blowing it
away, while sitting stretched out on the bed, typing away. When I finished, I took the
initial issue to town, Xeroxed a couple dozen copies, mailed them to anyone I could think
of, and took out a business license.
EARLY FEEDBACK WAS POSITIVE, if sparse--enough encouragement to keep going. The
A's won that ALW race, and eventually the "Earthquake Series" with the Giants, both of
which were covered in issues 2 and 3. There were articles on teenagers in the majors
(Griffey Jr. had just arrived), reviews of the races in all divisions, card columns,
Yogi's retirement (as a coach), the Cy Young award, our first profile (Dave Stewart),
some trivia. We had grown from 6 to 12 pages, now had about 30 subscribers, and word
was spreading like, uh, a pack of matches.
I contacted the writers in Sports Collectors Digest who put their home address
with their by-line. I contacted Larry Lester, then of the Negro Leagues Museum.
of SCD subscribed, and eventually started doing those wonderful covers and his curmudgeonly
articles. Over the years, Larry has kept us current about the Negro Leagues, and connected
us to his partners, Dick Clark and Lloyd Johnson. My sister introduced some of her friends
to TDA, including Jay Lucas, then publicist for the Dodgers. At last, between Lester, Haag
and Lucas, we had some graphics. A local Molokai man, Benito Pascua, did our first hand
drawn covers, and I signed up a few Molokai subscribers, and eventually, several from the
other islands. To raise desperately needed cash, I offered lifetime subscriptions for $150.
By now I'm losing money on these people, but God bless 'em, they kept us going in those
THINGS CONTINUED THAT WAY, with slow, steady growth into the second year, when
the next major event occurred. I was back in L.A. to help my mom after an operation. To push
TDA I did everything from contacting Jim Murray to handing out copies at Dodgers and Angels
games. One morning I read a letter to the Times' sports editor from a familiar name:
Bob Brigham. He had been my social studies teacher in high school and was a church
friend of my by-then deceased father, so I figured what the heck? I called him up and we got
together. We attended a ball game, and he subscribed. Soon he was sending me short pieces
and letters to the editor. He quickly moved up the TDA organizational ladder, first as a
columnist, then as Assistant Editor. His trivia quizzes became popular items.
The years passed. The
"Stars In Their Time Hall of Fame" became our most popular feature,
Black History Month brought Negro League articles, and we even had a few advertisers.
NICK THE PRINTER. During Year Four the tentacles of the Molokai Ranch had grabbed
the local newspaper and its state of the art Xerox, the only such machine open to the public
on our tiny island. I needed another printer. My buddy Nick Vetter was doing his own 'zine,
Low 'n Inside, plus printing posters and other things, so he was able to get good
prices in Minneapolis. Nick is one of many friends--including several dozen of you reading
this--that I have made over the years through the magazine, but have "met" solely by phone,
letter or e-mail, a phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me. Most TDA issues from the past
5 or 6 years have been printed via Nick the Printer. That probably makes me the only publisher
who sees the finished product after the subscribers do, since it takes the mail about three
more days to get here than it does to you mainland readers.
We picked up more subscribers and more contributors. T.S. O'Connell, SCD's excellent
artist, started sending me a package of his drawings every year or so. Steve Cummings, a
SABR member from Seattle, sent a few columns on his beloved Reds and Mariners, and then
on his vast collection of memorabilia, and, voile, a regular "Memorabilia Column" was born.
Gene Carney, baseball poet and feature writer, has sent us everything from team reviews
to book reviews, and although he doesn't have his own column, he his work pops up somewhere
in every issue. And, going full circle, Steven Rosenblatt, MD, older brother
of Randy, the guy who made the dare that got the whole thing rolling, joined us with
his "Doctor On Deck" column. Mickey, the middle brother was a major help in the early
years, and has done yearly reviews of his team, the Orioles.
By 1994 we came in second in design in the National Federation of Sports Publications'
first contest. Over the next two years we would also receive two seconds in editing, several
best of class articles, and in the second year, the best small baseball magazine overall.
ALL OF THAT DEVELOPED, however, after my mom moved to Hawaii for good in 1993. No
longer able to fly back and forth to the condo she had bought in 1991, she decided to stay.
So in 1991 I was at least able to set up the Selectric on her table and plug in. The days
of pigpens and bananas were over. She was very supportive of TDA, even proof reading issues
for me. But by 1994 she had had enough of my grumbling through deadlines, holding tiny by-lines
with tweezers and attaching them with glue sticks, having to white out or re-type entire
sections of articles, the monstrous amount of time it took me to piece the thing together.
So, for an early birthday / Christmas present, she bought TDA a computer. I don't think that
old Selectric would have won any layout and design awards, but the Hewlett Packard 386 opened
up an entirely new world for TDA.
I could lay out articles with the Publish It program, rather than scissors and glue
sticks. I could file articles away, and with my extra time, I was soon publishing articles
in SCD, Old Tyme Baseball News, A Red Sox Journal, Behind The Bombers, Bleacher Banter,
and Ragtime. In 1997, I became a regular columnist for OTBN and International
Baseball Rundown, both due to the networks TDA has become a part of.
ONE GIANT STEP FORWARD FDR FOR TDA. Now that we were looking a little more
spiffy, and had mentions in Baseball Weekly and The SABR Bulletin I felt
emboldened to go after more advertising (mildly successful), people from SABR and former
ballplayers (very successful.) The biggest move was the decision to award three or four
well known baseball writers each year with a free subscription in honor of their
contributions to baseball writing (and my ever-growing library), with a thinly veiled
hint that they might be called on for an occasional bit of advice in their field of
expertise, and, if they felt so inclined, a short article.
Which ties in with another realm the computer opened up, e-mail, and a web site.
Both venues have sent new subscribers, samplers, people interested in particular back
David Marasco. I don't remember quite how it happened, but one day there was a
message from David on the screen. As with Bob Brigham, he quickly scampered across
the organizational chart, rising from commentator to dual columnist, to Assistant Editor.
He was a perfect balance to Bob, who is a peppy senior citizen, and the Flow, born right
after WWII. David is in his early 30's, so now we had an editor for each generation,
which pretty closely matches the demographics of our readership.
THE LOST GENERATION. It hasn't all been growth and success, however. The '94 Strike
cost us many readers, fed up with the hype, the bratty attitude of certain players, the
astronomical salaries, the idiocy of most of the owners; you know the litany. We survived
'94 by covering baseball's past, and continually hammering on the good things about baseball.
We made it, but let's just say we are high on the list of those who were relieved when the
games resumed. It was one of the many deciding factors in our reduction to four issues per
year; for the past several years we have been a quarterly.
The strike and the flight from baseball of many fans weren't the only losses in recent
years. One of those elite who received a copy of the first issue, my partner Benjamin
Thomas died, as did our great artist Ken Haag. And, only six days after it was announced
that he made the Hall of Fame, long-time TDA subscriber Leon Day, with whom I had the
pleasure of speaking several times, also died.
In the last few years, however, we have also had the privilege of two new artists
gracing our pages, Thomas Salomon, noted national "Collage of the Greats" artist, and
John Anderson, who draws in the old newspaper style, something those of us over 40 miss.
Although no one can replace Ken Haag, these gents have softened the loss and strengthened
In the late 1990s the writing staff grew. We added a pair from upstate New York, Bob Palazzo
and Lou Parrotta. Adam Ulrey
jumped into the mix and has been a constant voice in our publication. Closer to home,
Hawaiian Paul Wysard contributes both book
reviews and feature artcles.
In 2001 we launched our own webpage. This allowed us to cover baseball in realtime, and to
reach a much larger audience. The wider readership gave rise to more writers, like Robert Nishihara and poet Dan Taylor. The latest pair of rookies,
Charles Curtis and Tom Renbarger, reside in
The Bullpen. The internet has allowed us to make available our large
photo library, one of the best around. How many people have stopped by the website?
Read the counter:
The TDA family has been remarkably cohesive. We lost one columnist in a dispute,
otherwise every single columnist we have had still writes for us, or is at least still
a subscriber. Virtually all our articles are written by subscribers, with the occasional
piece from our sister 'zines. We have had well over a 50% renewal rate every year, which
I am told is excellent for any publication, especially for one that expands by word of
mouth and goodwill.
THAT VERY GOODWILL, as old-fashioned and cornball as it may seem, is what has
kept us going. Baseball has brought together, in TDA, several hundred fans, writers, and
players, people of different ethnic, occupational and generational backgrounds. People who,
outside of baseball and TDA, probably have very little in common. But the love of the game
and the understanding that on the pages of TDA one can express his/her opinion, share his
knowledge, ask her questions, contribute or just enjoy and learn, bonds us in a simpatico
and ever-expanding family.
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Tributes to James
Fame and Cooperstown
By James Floto - December 28, 2002
What do we mean by fame? And who belongs in Cooperstown?
By James Floto - November 30, 2002
A short biography of one of the movers and shakers in Hawaiian baseball history.
The Amazing Alous
By James Floto - November 21, 2002
James investigates baseball's greatest international family.
My First Opening Day
by James Floto - April 3, 2002
James takes us back to a magical summer when the Dodgers arrived on the West Coast.
A Double Duty Book Review
by James Floto - January 7, 2002
James takes a look at the
biography of Negro Leagues legend Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe.
An Interview with Don Mossi
by James Floto and Randy Rosenblatt - December 23, 2001
James and Randy
touch base with this workhorse of the 1950s and 1960s.
An Interview with Charles Alexander
by James Floto - August 13, 2001
TDA has a sit-down with Professor Alexander, noted baseball
biographer and historian.
An Interview with Wendell Kim
James Floto -August 4, 2001
The long-time coach answers some questions
The 2001 All-Star Game
by James Floto - July 10, 2001
Ichiro, Cal and Tommy LaSorda were there in Seattle. A run down
of the goings on...
Wally Yonamine - The Nisei Jackie
by James Floto - May 9, 2001
Jackie Robinson had to overcome centuries of racism to play in
the major leagues. But his people never dropped atomic weapons on major league cities, nor
was he seen as a traitor by the local fans. Hawaiian-born Wally Yonamine faced that and
more as he played in the Japanese Leagues after World War II. Yet he overcame the
ugliness and went on to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
by James Floto - April 10, 2001
A looks back at Pops, who he was and what he meant to the
2001 Opens in Puerto Rico
by James Floto April 4, 2001
James talks about baseball in Puerto Rico
Toronto 8, Texas 1
by James Floto April 4, 2001
Floto's spin on the what's and why's of the first game.