Like every one of the more than 1,000 students at Torrington High School, Jerry Beach spent his lunchtime in the overstuffed, teenage- energized cafeteria. Or at least that was the usual scenario. Except on this late fall day in 1990. The venue this time around was the Principal’s office with a couple of friends, the Principal, and football coach.
The office had taken on a new persona as `the woodshed’ this day and Beach and his friends Mark Arum and Eric John had been instructed to appear. Aspiring young sportswriters, the group had created an all-sports school newspaper called `Grandslam’ and in the throes of less than scintillating football season had written some less than flattering commentary, incurring the wrath of coach Chris Medve.
Beach admits there was a lot of teen testosterone involved in the football coverage and more than a little ego.
“Torrington was fairly small back than and it seemed like everyone read Grandslam, which made us feel like celebrities and inflated our already inflated egos,” laughed Beach. “I wrote a column called `My Two Cents’ and thought everyone should know my opinion. Our desire to get people to talk to us impacted our sardonic coverage of the football team. Three knuckleheads, but it was a great experience.”
The power lunch produced volumes of indignant steam but hardly a meeting of the minds. Grandslam survived for a brief period, five issues in all. But what could have been an ending was just the beginning. The writing torch had been ignited.
FAST forward 30 years, Beach, now 46, is in the midst of an admirable sports writing career and relishing the release of his third book – The Subway Series: Baseball’s Big Apple Battle and the Yankees-Mets 2000 World Series. The book follows, Fighting Words: The Media, the Red Sox and the All – encompassing Passion for Baseball in Boston, released in 2009 and Godzilla Takes the Bronx, The Inside Story of Hideki Matsui, published in 2004.
You might say Jerry Beach is a long way from Principal’s office.
“Writing is a passion for me,” says Beach. “You want to tell a story. I’m not going to buy a house or get a pension for a lot of it, but it feels great to see your name on a book. I remember in 2009 when I walked into Barnes and Noble and saw my book and just thinking, hey, that’s my book. At our 20th high school reunion (2011) Arum got a copy of the Red Sox book and had classmates sign it. That was pretty cool.”
Just a little side note here. Like his Beach buddy, Arum hardly disappeared into the heat that was Grandslam. A future subject for this magazine, Arum is a traffic and talk show host for News 95.5 in Atlanta and was inducted into the Georgia Radio of Hall of Fame in 2017 with former pitching great and Atlanta Braves announcer Don Sutton. A couple of talented righthanders (ask former Torrington coach Gerry Carbone) and quite a journey from the woodshed.
Back to the Beach. His most recent book is another high point in a sporting life. He has had just one job outside the sports world since his high school days and that simply reaffirmed his desire to stay in the sports world. It has been a colorful journeyman’s travelogue.
He has traversed a mighty scope from community to college to professional. He has been on the big stage and the equally passionate smaller stage. He has written columns, features and game stories and books for newspapers, team publications, and a variety of internet sources.
You want scope how’s this: “I was doing a feature on the Yankees trying to repeat in 1997 and had a pass to Yankee Stadium on Sunday morning. I drove back to cover a Tri-State baseball game that night. That was a hell of a day.”
Beach has witnessed three no-hitters (Clay Buckholz, Max Scherzer and Chris Heston), covered the Yankee-Red Sox classic playoff series of 2003 and 2004, wrote the game-clinching World Series victory for the Royals over the Mets in 2015, conversed with Red Sox owner Larry Luchino, former GM Theo Epstein, Pedro Martinez and Jason Veritek.
He interviewed David Cone in Norwich in 1996 when he was on the comeback trail from an aneurysm, covered the 2013 All-Star game and Home Run Derby, a number of Hall of Fame inductions and spent his share of time with the New York sports scene and the Islanders, Jets, Mets, Nets and Yankees.
He has scrambled and hasn’t gotten rich but he has gotten happy.
“This is a hard business. It’s fun but if you don’t feel like you are working, are you working?” said Beach. “I’m fortunate. A kid from a small town in Connecticut doing this. It’s been very cool, a great ride.”
Beach demanded the ride with a lot of that teen-age testosterone and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned chutzpah. During the Grandslam days he wasted little time in expanding his writing horizons.
“I saw (Register Citizen editor) Gerry deSimas at a volleyball game and said I’m going to ask that guy if I can write for them. I was full of you know what,” Beach laughs.
DeSimas, one of the better newspapermen you will find anywhere, surprised Beach by giving him some work. By 1992 at the age of 19 Beach was on the Housatonic football beat. While attending Hofstra University (1993-1996), he continued to work for the Register Citizen during the summers.
In 1995 deSimas gave Beach one of the plum assignments he would ever get. Women’s basketball, No. 1 vs. No. 2, a game that changed the face of the game, UConn vs. Tennessee. Welcome to the big time. He was one of two reporters assigned to the game. I was the other. It was a lasting memory. He was the kid in the candy store and he saw something and learned something he wouldn’t forget.
“It was the moment when UConn became a national powerhouse, the place was crazy,” remembers Beach. “It is still a top 10 all-time game for me. I remember at the press conference after I asked a question and Dick “Hoop Weiss” waited for me and I was thinking, wow this is crazy. It was cool; I said I can do this. I felt comfortable asking Geno a question.”
“Jerry (Beach) was eager to learn, go cover events and he listened to the editor,” said deSimas. “He was patient, he didn’t come in and tell us to send him to UConn. He was enthusiastic and willing to learn. It’s a good way to start.”
Beach learned his lessons well and sees the Register Citizen as providing a solid foundation.
“Gerry and the guys there had patience and Gerry in particular taught me a lot of things including organization skills and how to score football games,” said Beach. “Nothing teaches skills like covering prep sports.”
Along the way Beach made a pretty seamless transition from prep sports to pro sports, although he still does both. Not an easy switch, like playing in two different ballparks.
‘When you are covering local sports everyone knows you, it’s easier to get to know people,” said Beach. “In the pros it is more regimented. You need access and it is not as easy to build relationships. In the preps you are one of two or three people. There is a pecking order in the pros. You understand that the first time you cover something don’t ask the first question.”
Beach does his thing from Long Island these days, having moved there in 1997 after attending Hofstra and meeting his future wife Michelle. They have a precocious seven-year old daughter, Morgan Lilly, otherwise known as Molly, the name a celebration of his mother Maureen a long-time kindergarten teacher at Forbes School who died in 2009 and his wife’s grandmother Lillian
Through the last two-plus decades Beach has worked for a smorgasbord of media outlets including New York Mets Inside Pitch, NewYorksports.com, Long Island Press, Scout.com, Diehard Magazine (a Red Sox publication) and Field Level Media. He currently writes for FloSports.com and Forbes.com as a freelancer covering Hofstra sports and the Mets.
He describes the journey like this – “I’ve cobbled together a living.”
A highlight of the journey has been the books. The first book on Matsui Beach calls “my longest research paper”. He didn’t have a lot of access to players and sources.
“Teams aren’t in the business of giving most writers access for books,” said Beach. “It was a good experience. It taught me that if you are going to keep doing it you don’t want to do unauthorized biographies.”
The idea for the second book on the relationship between the media and the Red Sox was born out of the 2003 American League Championship Series and is an especially proud accomplishment. He had access to Red Sox players and management because he had covered the team for four years.
“When you are around the team it helps,” said Beach. “Pedro (Martinez) was phenomenal to talk to and it was fascinating to watch Theo (Epstein) go from a Generation X kid to a wary media guy. The book was everything I wanted it to be.”
The most recent release of the Subway Series was a book a friend was supposed to write but didn’t have time for and the publisher contacted Beach.
“I had the notes and a good base,” said Beach. “I had contact numbers with the Mets including Bobby Valentine and Steve Phillips and I was in a good position to get it done quickly.”
The book is set up by game with different themes. Game 1 is the history of the Yankees, Game 2 is Mike Piazza vs. Roger Clemens, Game 3 is about the subpar history of the Mets, Game 4 is Derek Jeter’s ascent and Game 5 is a general ending, putting the Yankees dynasty in context. Interspersed in it all are the games as they were played with the Yankees winning the series, four games to one.
Chalk it all up as another success in a successful career. A big-time book on a big-time event.
Jerry Beach has been here, there and everywhere over the last 30 years. He has been in the middle of it both on a big scale with the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and the New York and Boston sports scenes and on a smaller scale with passionate world of prep sports.
His presence has touched a lot of venues and the scope and volume of work has been enormous. But if you don’t feel like you are working, are you working?
Jerry Beach would tell you no. it’s all about passion and there is much more of the road to be traveled. Into the future on Passion Lane, miles, decades and a lifetime away from the Principal’s office.