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  • Brian Fishbach

Author Jeff Pearlman on Life in California & His Favorite Sports Memoirs as a Kid

While driving to pick up one of his college-aged children from San Diego, author Jeff Pearlman spoke about how even as a native East Coaster, he loves the allure of being an author in California.

He reflected on his first ever visit to California with his family as kid himself in the early 1980s.

"We went to universal studios and the big TV show was 'The A-Team'with Mr T. and I remember we walked around universal studios and there was this [attraction] where you could pick up a car like Mr. T," Pearlman told Rock Music Life. "I know that sounds stupid, but I remember that as like this vivid, 'holy shit, I'm in Hollywood picking up a car, like Mr. T from 'The A-Team' sort of moment. For me, the California moment also came from watching TV. I remember being very little on watching the Super Bowl in 1980 when the Rams played the Steelers. The Rams had a quarterback in Vince Ferragamo who was like a really good looking cool guy, and the game was played in the Rose Bowl, and I remember— I still get like the feels from...the sun reflecting off the Rams' helmets in the Rose Bowl. It was really different. I recall it like the magic of LA, the magic of Southern California, seeing those Rams helmets under the Rose Bowl."

After decades in the business, he is still a massively in-demand ghostwriter for sports memoirs. This past spring, his book "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s" was adapted into an HBO miniseries, "Winning Time."

It's Pearlman's first book to "go Hollywood" and turn into a television show. Even after details from the book were fudged in the show for added Hollywood drama, Pearlman is still enthusiastic about being in Southern California."

"Every now and then, you'll read some article about like, 'California lost its luster,' or 'California, the magic is gone,'" Pearlman said. "Not to me. I'm all in on the magic in California."

He's far from where he grew up in Stamford, Connecticut where as a kid, his father would pick up sports memoirs for him at the public library. To this day, he still thinks of the sports memoirs that made an impression in back then:

"The Bronx Zoo: An astonishing look at the World Champion New York Yankees and their coas-to-coast rivals"

Written by Sparky Lyle with Peter Golenbock. Lyle was a pitcher who won the 1977 and 1978 World Series with the Yankees over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story"

Written by Ron LeFlore with Jim Hawkins. The story of All-Star center fielder Ron LeFlore and how while in prison, the Detroit Tigers gave him a try-out.

"Bo Knows Bo"

Written by Bo Jackson with Dick Schaap. When it was released in 1990, Jackson was a sports phenomenon, simultaneously playing for the Kansas City Royals in baseball and the Los Angeles Raiders in football.

And this fall, Pearlman is teaming up with Bo Jackson to write another memoir: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson."

"The thing is I didn't realize as a kid, everything is funny, like I always thought the athletes were writing the books," Pearlman said. "I didn't know it would be like, 'by George Brett with,' and I just assumed George Brett was sitting down with his pen and writing the book."

Fortunate for Pearlman and other ghostwriters, that's not always the case. Pearlman is the author or ghostwriter for several bestsellers, including "Sweetness" about Walter Payton, "Gunslinger" about Brett Favre, and "The Bad Guys Won" about the 1986 New York Mets.

"The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson" hits bookshelves on October 25, 2022.


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