WM contributor Tom Pedulla sits down with bestselling sportswriter and Sleepy Hollow denizen Wayne Coffey to discuss Coffey’s latest work, They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: The ’69 Mets, New York City and the Most Astounding Season in Baseball History, as well as life and times in the 914.
Why was it important to you to write about the ’69 Mets?
I grew up on Long Island, rooting for the Mets. I was at Game 5, with my grandfather, when they won the World Series, so this is really in my DNA. The chance to re-live the greatest sporting year of my childhood was impossible to resist.
Approximately how many interviews did you do, and how many miles did you travel during your reporting?
Scores of interviews and about 20,000 miles. I got to as many people on the team who were willing to cooperate, which was most of them, over two and a half years.
headshot photo by corey sipkin
Does one interview stand out?
My time with [third baseman] Ed Charles really stood out. It may have been the last interview he did before he passed away. He grew up in crushing poverty, in the segregated South of Daytona, Florida. He really never imagined there would be a chance for him to have a pro baseball career.
What did that World Series victory mean to the players?
Every single one of them knew they were making history. They went from the laughingstocks of baseball to World Series champions in a single season.
Which of your books was the most difficult to write, and which are you most proud of?
Above the Line, Urban Meyer’s leadership book, was the most difficult. Urban was great to work with, but we had a very tight deadline and had to make a number of late changes to get it right. It was the writing equivalent of a two-minute drill.
For most dear to me, I’d have to say The Boys of Winter, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. I traveled the country to track those guys down. I even went to Russia to interview some of the Russian players. Often, books come and go, but that one keeps chugging along.
Do you and your wife, Denise, have any local go-to eateries?
We have a couple. Bridge View Tavern [Sleepy Hollow]. They have craft beers and good food. Lefteris [Tarrytown] is another go-to place and we’re never, ever disappointed.
Where around here do you go to unwind?
We live near the Rockefeller State Preserve. That is just a magical place.