In 1986, Erik Sherman was standing outside the Sheraton Boston Hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the National League champion New York Mets. Armed with a pennant and a pen, Sherman collected the autographs of many of the team’s stars.
Thirty years later, as the Mets prepare to honor their 1986 World Series champs, the 50-year-old Sherman, a 1988 Emerson graduate, will release his fourth book—a detailed look at the stories of those very pros he admired as a young collegiate ballplayer. After traveling over 30,000 miles by air, train track, and highway, and with his pennant now complete, Sherman said he hopes to enrich the baseball community’s understanding of the historic club.
“A perfect storm”
Sherman’s familiarity with the 1986 Mets stems from his time as both a baseball fan and writer. His third book, Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets, which he co-wrote with fan favorite Mookie Wilson, gave him the access and recognition to start thinking about what would become a diary of the entire group’s current status.
“Mookie was, and still remains, the most respected player on that ’86 team,” Sherman said. “Everybody loves Mookie. I think they respect him enough that if he chose me to work on his memoir, I was good enough for the rest of the guys.”
Sherman said he requested 45-minute interviews when preparing to speak to the different personalities from the team, but his chats ended up averaging four hours, with some even taking up to seven. Sherman said his ability to conduct the sit-downs in the players’ habitats gives the book a more personal feel.
“I think that’s what separates this book from the others that may have been written about the ’86 Mets,” Sherman said. “I think conducting these interviews in their environments really added a lot to the flavor of the book.”
Kings of Queens is scheduled for release on March 22, just ahead of the Mets’ season opener on April 3 against Kansas City. The Mets fell to the Royals in the Fall Classic last year, but Sherman said the team’s recent success, and their plans to honor the 1986 club with player visits and commemorative uniforms, gives the book a boost ahead of 2016.
“The Mets have not won a World Series since ’86, yet they’re very much back in the driver’s seat here in New York,” Sherman, who now calls the state home, said. “It’s just a perfect storm for a book like this, so I have very high hopes that it’s going to do well.”
From behind the mic to behind the scenes
Sherman majored in mass communications at Emerson, hoping to enter the field of broadcasting despite his start in print. He wrote for a community paper near his Westwood, New Jersey home as a 14-year-old, and edited the sports section for the Berkeley Beacon as a college freshman. The reality that he couldn’t secure a worthwhile job in the television or radio industries led him back to the notebook—a twist of fate that Sherman said was for the best.
“I was getting voice work, but it was very inconsistent,” Sherman said. “Eventually, I focused more on my writing, and I think that was always my strength anyway. I think I was a better writer than a broadcaster, so everything worked out as it should have.”
While at Emerson, Sherman was learning his trade under 20-year journalism department chair Marsha Della Giustina and professor Bob Hoyt. Della Giustina, who still teaches at the college, said Sherman impressed her in a variety of ways as a student.
“Erik was a bright, shining star. Not only was he a star on the baseball team, but he was a star in the classroom,” Della Giustina said. “What I particularly liked about Erik was that he thought out of the box; he was creative. He was professional and he took his work seriously, but he had a warm sense of humor.”
As an author, Sherman said he focuses on topics that delve beneath the surface of wins and losses, including titles on Glenn Burke, baseball’s first openly gay player, and Steve Blass, whose struggle to find the strike zone after success as a Pirates pitcher captivated the baseball community.
“I choose my topics based on how the stories transcend baseball,” Sherman said. “It helps if they were a talented ballplayer, but that’s not my chief concern. In Kings of Queens, I profile the guys you would suspect, but I also profile guys like Ed Hearn, Danny Heep, and Doug Sisk, because those stories are riveting.”
Because of the time commitment required of a professional wordsmith, Sherman said he looks not only for intriguing tales, but those that will occupy his attention for months.
“I look for topics that I have a little bit of an obsession with,” Sherman said. “When you’re writing a 100,000 word book, you better love what you’re writing about, or else it’s going to be torture.”
All paths led to baseball
Sherman’s passion for baseball also led him to wait outside of Fenway Park in anticipation of early morning American League Championship Series ticket sales in October of 1986, and found him manning the hot corner as the Lions’ third baseman.
Teammate Rob Ruzensky, who also graduated in 1988, remembered waiting for tickets with Sherman at around 5 a.m. before game 6 of the ALCS. He said being in the city of Boston, where part of the World Series would eventually be played that year, was exciting for young fans.
“The city was pretty pumped up, and, as baseball fans, we were pretty pumped up just to be a part of that and be in school there,” Ruzensky said. “Just to be in Boston and to be a part of that whole atmosphere was really, really awesome.”
On the field, Sherman’s said his play at third base allowed him to start during each of his four seasons with the Lions. Sherman described himself as a strong defensive player and a spray hitter with a tendency for line drives, and said he never stifled his excitement.
Sherman said the opportunity to learn and understand the game while playing allows him to speak the language of those he now interviews for his books.
“I can relate somewhat to hitting and pitching and fielding, and the psychology behind the game,” Sherman said. “My playing all these years really helps me understand the psyche of the major leaguer.”
Darrel Caneiro, who pitched for the Lions at the time, said the personality that he saw on the field has carried over to Sherman’s interactions with professional athletes.
“I think they’ve taken a real liking to him, and he’s an engaging sort,” Caniero said. “He’s easy to like—very nice guy, sincere, and his enthusiasm shines through. These guys see it; he’s knowledgeable about it, and they’re happy to talk to him.”
Sherman’s previous writings, including the Burke and Blass books, are already on sale at Emerson’s Barnes & Noble bookstore. With Kings of Queens expected to join them on the shelves, the alumnus said he desires for the college’s writers-in-training to draw inspiration from his rise from student to featured author.
“To hear that those books are at the Emerson bookshop, the place where I went to college; it makes me feel good,” Sherman said. “I’m hoping that some current students at Emerson College will be able to look at those books and it will motivate them.”