Staffing was another problem. The quality of newspaper sportswriting did not strike the editors as exceptional. Instead, staffers were recruited from within the company, educated and literary types but not particularly sports-minded fellows. Certainly the staff was not grounded in sportswriting conventions. According to The Franchise, Michael MacCambridge's history of the magazine, one writer went to a baseball game to provide copy for an early test run and saw Duke Snider hit a home run. "How far was that?" he asked the press box population.
"Well, about 390 feet."
To which he replied with, one likes to imagine, an exaggerated sigh, "Exactly, please."
Now do you see why newspaper writers simply wouldn't do?
It was plain to see it would take some additional time and experience before these young Ivy Leaguers could develop what their lesser brethren liked to call a nose for news. In the spring of 1954, still in the spirit of practice, two writers were sent to spring training and disappeared into that baseball hubbub for three weeks. According to MacCambridge's book, one of the writers finally wired the office (one likes to imagine he wired laconically, though that is clearly not possible): "Not much happening here."
Editors were no less clueless. In an early scouting report one of the writers correctly tabbed as a comer was the young Roger Kahn, and, indeed, he was eventually hired from the baseball beat at the New York Herald Tribune to bolster the magazine's reality quotient. But when an editor insisted he prefile a story on a Yankees-Indians doubleheader before the games were played, Kahn realized, as he later wrote in The Boys of Summer, that the early deadlines of a weekly magazine didn't fit his rhythms.
Kahn knew he'd have to quit, especially after he drew the assignment of ghostwriting a story for a football writer—the very writer who once proposed to write about "the time he fell on a cigar butt while wrestling Jimmy Londos."
When Kahn told his boss he was resigning, he was met with that unique mixture of brio and obliviousness that is unique to magazine editors. "All right," he told Kahn. "Some of your newspaper work was fine. Some I would have laid a heavy hand to. Meanwhile, I've been invited to a small private party for a ballplayer and his wife. Would you join me?"
Kahn knew he couldn't work at the magazine any longer but realized, too, that he was now ruined for most employment opportunities by his brief experience there. "I had seen carpeted offices," he later wrote, "and Marilyn Monroe."