Tammy Lechner

Author, Adventurer and Baseball Aficionado



Tammy Lechner was born in Batavia, New York and raised in Saugerties, New York. She studied photojournalism and magazine journalism at the University of Missouri. She has published two books on professional baseball, and currently works as a freelance writer and photographer from her home-base in Laguna Beach, CA. Lechner received the Michigan Understanding Award for her documentary project about displaced Goodyear workers (1985) and was Kentucky News Photographer of the Year (1985). While on staff with the Los Angeles Times (1987-1994) she shared honors in Pulitzer Prize awards. Lechner is noted for her extensive documentation of the lifestyle and atmosphere of professional baseball. She is the author of "IN THE CAL: Pastime Goes Primetime In California's Minor League," (1994) and "OUR TEAM - OUR DREAM: A Cubs Fan's Journey Into Baseball's Greatest Romance." (2007)



Interview

What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done? Following the Chicago Cubs and Cubs fans through fifteen years must qualify as the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. From my home-base in California the journey took me to Chicago during all seasons of the years, to Arizona every spring, and to many baseball stadiums from St. Louis to San Francisco. I covered many miles by plane, train, car, and on foot following the Cubs from 1993-2007 until the project was finally published as the book Our Team-Our Dream: A Cubs Fan’s Journey Into Baseball’s Greatest Romance.


What are you afraid to do? Although I love the ocean and live near the Pacific I have a fear of sharks, and so I am afraid to swim, surf or snorkel in the ocean – all things I would really enjoy doing.


What biggest fear have you overcome in your life? Leaving New York to go to college in the Midwest. The reason I chose the University of Missouri was because it offered one of the best journalism educations in the world. Yet, until I left home to begin my freshman year in August 1976 the furthest I’d traveled outside of New York had been Toronto and Boston. Most of my childhood friends chose colleges in New York or New England. My decision to go to Missouri was my Robert Frost moment when two paths diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled, and that made all the difference.

How did you get hooked on baseball? I grew up in a family and a community that loved baseball. My hometown, Saugerties, had a recreational park named Cantine’s Field that included several baseball diamonds where people gathered on summer nights to watch Little League, Babe Ruth, or men’s and women’s softball. Both my brothers played baseball at Cantine’s Field, and everyone in my family played in various softball leagues. This is where my love of baseball took root.


What attracted you to write a book on the Chicago Cubs? I wrote a book about the Cubs to answer a couple of questions I’d been asked throughout my life: Why did someone who grew up in New York become a Cubs fan? Why would anyone want to be a Cubs fan and follow a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908?

I became a Cubs fan in 1969 – the year the New York “Miracle” Mets upended the Cubs late in the season and went on to win the World Series. I hadn’t picked a favorite baseball team up to that point, and the excitement of the race between the Cubs and the Mets attracted my attention that summer. While watching a game between the Mets and Cubs I decided to root for the underdog Cubs. It was another one of those Robert Frost moments, I suppose, when you decide to be a contrarian and do the opposite of the crowd.

Why do people love the Cubs? See, here you’ve asked one of those questions that motivated me to write the book. In a nutshell I think the journey is the reward when it comes to being a fan of the Chicago Cubs. It’s a fun and unique experience, laced with the hopeful faith that one day our ship will come in. The Cubs home stadium, Wrigley Field, is a shrine of the game, and it’s set in the midst of a colorful neighborhood known as Wrigleyville, that celebrates all things Cubs and baseball. Every fan of the game, no matter what team they support, enjoys seeing a game played at Wrigley Field and partying with the Cubs fans of Wrigleyville because there is nothing else like it in the sports world.


Would you rather watch the Cubs or the Yankees play and why? I’d much rather watch the Cubs play than the Yankees because I am a Cubs fan! Yet, I should say here that while growing up in New York I did watch the Yankees play a lot, and preferred watching them to the Mets. I could root for the Yankees because they were in a different league (American) than the Cubs (National) and I wouldn’t have minded the Yankees and Cubs meeting up in the World Series (which hasn’t yet happened in my lifetime.)

What was the most surprising thing you learned about the Cubs while writing the book? The kindness of strangers was the thing that surprised me consistently while I was working on the Cubs book, and that would include players, fans, and even non-baseball related people I met along the way. The narrative of the book is filled with anecdotes of simply magical occurrences that came from just putting myself in the midst of humanity with one common thread: believing in a dream.

Will the Cubs ever win the World Series? Ah… this is the million-dollar question, most often asked by Cubs fans themselves. And, I predict that one day they will indeed. During my lifetime they came close several times: 1969, 1984, 1989 and 2003. It was darned exciting every time, and darned heartbreaking too. Perhaps heart wrenching is more like it… Well, anyway, yes… One day the Cubs will win it all, and so then what? I suppose then we just start all over again!


What adventure stories did you read as a girl? I loved to read the Hardy Boys. I know most young girls back in the 1960s read Nancy Drew, but I found the Hardy Boys to be more exciting. I also like reading anything about pioneers, especially women, or animals, especially dogs and horses. And I loved Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Who is (are) your female role models and why? I admire several strong women I’ve known and loved in my life, some are family relations and some friends, one being my mother, and another is my aunt, no longer with me, who dedicated their lives to hard work both in the home and in the world. In all cases they are women who by choice or by circumstance did not rely on men for their accomplishments and their strength. From history my female role models include Joan of Arc and Virginia Woolf.


What is your next project? My next project is a memoir about my friendship with one of the women I referred to in the last question/answer. Her name is Rose Smith, and she is a psychic clairvoyant Tarot card reader I met in Jackson, Michigan more than thirty years ago. Through the decades she has strengthened my own awareness of the power and purpose of life’s experiences. The working title of the book is: Readings By Rose, and it twines segments of her life story with segments of my own.


Name one place on the planet you’d love to visit and why? I’d love to visit France because I studied French for several years in both high school and college and learned a lot about the culture and geography while studying the language. I’d love to see whether I could converse with the French people, though I lost my fluency in the language years ago. Perhaps I could recover some abilities with studying French again. I would enjoy that…


What do you always take in your suitcase? I have three colored glass stones that I keep in a small oyster pearl case. They represent the three dogs I’ve had in my life at different times, all passed away. I always take them with me when I travel… and on short trips sometimes I put them in my pocket.


What is the best advice your mother ever gave you? Rely on your self and trust in God.


What is your motto in life? It all counts.



For more information please visit www.stillpro.com the web site of STILL Productions, Inc., a media company which Lechner co-owns and co-directs with business partner and photojournalist Adrienne Helitzer. (Autographed copies, or bulk quantities, of Our Team-Our Dream are available at a discount by contacting the author: stillpro@stillpro.com