“What is it you do?” he asked.
“Well, I’m the senior executive editor of our adult trade division,” said Susan.
“Adult? You mean, like, porn?” he said with a chuckle.
Everybody laughed. Then Susan explained her role in the sculpting of his story.
Our writing process was simple and structured. Terry and I would meet, usually in a hotel coffee shop or restaurant. I’d record a couple of hours of conversation, then disappear for a few weeks to write. When a chapter was finished, I’d e-mail it to Terry, and he’d call back with corrections, clarifications, and occasionally a deletion.
“Do we have to call Heathcliff Slocumb ‘useless’?” he’d say. “Let’s take that out.”
“I know you don’t like Schill, but we’re not going to call him a blowhard in my book.”
Fine. Schill is not a blowhard. Not in this book, anyway. We agreed it would be good to soften my wise-guy commentary and let Terry’s voice emerge. As the process unfolded, the manager became increasingly engaged. He stopped seeing me as the enemy. He let me in.
In the early months, we usually met in the coffee shop of the Courtyard Marriott near Coolidge Corner where Terry lived throughout the 2011 season. When he went to work as a baseball analyst for ESPN, he was a little harder to find. Sometimes he’d come to Boston. Sometimes I’d drive to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. One time we met in the middle: the Charlton rest stop off the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Our meeting in Charlton occurred in April 2012, when the Bobby Valentine Red Sox were already in free fall. As I set up my tape recorder and notepads at a booth in the McDonald’s, I was approached by several Sox fans who wanted to chat about the state of the franchise. This made me uncomfortable. It was too public. It felt as if there might be a total fan frenzy when turnpike drivers spotted Terry. I called to warn him.
“Tito, this might be a little tricky here at McDonald’s,” I told him. “There are a lot of fans around. We might have to do this interview in your car.”
“No way,” said Terry. “We’re already two guys meeting at a rest stop. We’re not going to be two guys in a car for two hours!”
“Got it,” I said.
Fortunately, I found a private boardroom next to the rest stop’s sunglasses seller. It was one of our better interview sessions.
When Terry hit the road with ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball crew, we managed to connect at hotels in New York, Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco. He seemed to enjoy the process more every month. In July and August, he started calling me, offering new stories and new people for me to interview. By the end of the baseball season, he was ordering my lunch.
“I’ll have an iced tea and a chicken salad,” Terry would tell the waiter. Then he’d point at me and say, “And this guy will have a lobster roll.”
He was happy with the finished product.
“I’ll deny this if you ever repeat it to anyone, but you’re actually a pretty good writer,” Terry told me.
Here’s what he wrote in the book’s acknowledgments, on Page 346: “If you had told me on September 1, 2011, that by November of 2011, I would be jobless and writing a book with Dan Shaughnessy, I would have told you . . . that this would happen as soon as a 200-pound hog jumps out of my ass.”
Wish I could write like that.
Dan Shaughnessy is an award-winning Globe sports columnist and author of 12 books. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy. Francona: The Red Sox Years will be published on Tuesday by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Also on Tuesday, read the Globe’s review of Shaughnessy’s book in the G section.