A Lancaster boy is now a man living in New York on track to make it big in the literary world. Dan Good, a Manheim Township alum, is also a husband and a father who has spent the majority of his journalism career working in the Empire State since his graduation from Millersville University in 2006.
And now he’s written his first book. Well, that’s not technically true. Since 2019, Good has ghostwritten about a dozen books. And the last book with Good’s name on the front he considers, “part of a business profile series put together in four months.”
But Good’s latest project is his own, a 10-year effort with countless hours of research and more than 400 interviews. And the subject matter should be familiar to baseball fans, and several more sports fans.
“Playing Through The Pain: Ken Caminiti and the steroids confession that changed baseball forever.”
Caminiti, the 1996 MLB National League Most Valuable Player, died in 2004 after extensive drug use. He was also the first pro player to pull back the curtain on steroids in baseball.
But this isn’t just another baseball story about steroids. It’s a complex, heart-wrenching book about a man who was loved by most of his teammates, who tried and failed many times in his battle with drug addiction, which may have been spurred by childhood trauma, all while gritting his teeth through several injuries to stay on the field over the course of a successful 15-year pro career.
Good now works full-time as a manager of manuscript development for Book Launchers, a New York-based publishing company. He will be in Lancaster County for a book signing of “Playing Through The Pain” at the Barnes & Nobles bookstore just outside Lancaster city on Fruitville Pike on Aug. 21.
Here’s a recent Q&A with Good conducted by LNP|LancasterOnline sports reporter John Walk. This has been edited for length and clarity.
Did you always have a desire to work in New York or did it just happen that way?
“It just kind of happened, I was interested in journalism since my junior year of high school. …I wanted to move people with my words. I did TV work at FOX43 and WGAL for about two years. I got to a point in 2008 that I realized I wanted to do deeper work and deeper reporting. …I saw a feature writer job at The Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey. I drove to the beach and decided to apply for it. Got hired. …In 2011, I felt like it was time to look bigger. New York spoke to me. My wife is from Yonkers. That helped give me a sense of some connection. I got hired by the New York Post as a (website) homepage editor.”
When did a book about Ken Caminiti come to mind?
“He came out (about steroids) in Sports Illustrated in 2002, then in 2004 he passed away. …I was really moved by it. It stuck with me over the years. As time passed, I’m always expecting someone else to write this book. No one ever did. By working as a homepage editor at the New York Post, I didn’t have an opportunity to prove myself and tell my stories. So separate from the newsroom, I had all this free time on my hands to do something that’s special and I care about.”
So you began research for the book in 2012, and began interviews in 2013. What’s the behind-the-scenes work of bringing this book to fruition over the next decade?
“I’d interviewed the bulk of the subjects in 2014 to 2016, and filled in gaps from there. I had done some writing but I wasn’t committed to it until I got an agent and publisher lined up, that came in 2020. By that point I had written about 20,000 words mapping things out.”
What do you say to the folks who might think it’s just another book about the steroid era in baseball?
“Many people have solidified their feelings about steroids in baseball and even about Ken. It’s important for people to have an open mind. Ken’s life was more complicated. …there are a lot of layers to him, complexity to him. It’s important to approach his life with sympathy and compassion because that hasn’t been done. …there are so many complexities about steroids in baseball in general. …We know about the big names attached to steroids. …but what about the relief pitchers or fourth outfielders. It’s tough to pick one over the other. It’s tough to look back and try to parse out blame. That’s a difficult thing.”
You wrote about a subject who is no longer alive. What challenges does that pose when putting together a book?
“It’s really tough. On top of that, even when he was quoted he wasn’t always honest. You go back to the Tom Verducci SI article, he’s giving these half-truths about driving to Mexico for steroids. But he didn’t go to Mexico by himself. …he would have had a tough time going to Mexico by himself and getting the right things. It’s not feasible. I would go back to articles from 1997, 1998, one where he talked about drinking himself into the hospital as a high schooler. I went back and found everyone I could talk to from that time and I found nothing on that actually happening. I wish I had been able to call him and just ask, ‘Did this really happen?’ On the same token, I think that not having him here forced me to dig deeper and find people to talk about the areas of his life I would not have found otherwise. Because of that it’s a better-rounded book in the end.”
How many games did you go back and watch over the course of putting this book together?
“It was one of the coolest things about this project. I go back and look at the 1996 Padres or Ken’s Astros years. The Astros put a video out in 1990, a team video with some awesome plays by Ken. I’d take a highlight video of those plays and match it up with newspaper accounts. One of the frustrating parts is MLB doesn’t have the full video of Ken’s debut game. …but a lot of games are available on Youtube. Sometimes people will upload a game before it’s taken down after a year or so. Sometimes MLB will put stuff up. Some playoff games are up. I did buy a DVD from some website years ago that sold baseball videos. And I bought some videos from MLB.com.”
You interviewed more than 400 people for the book. I was blown away by the amount of candor expressed by some of those folks.
“I was, too. There was a group of people who decided to talk to me out of respect for Ken. They wanted his story to be told accurately and connect with his story. There were so many people I reached out to and said, ‘No.’ Some were emotional about it. They respected what I was doing, but they couldn’t talk. Others accused me of trying to burn the guy. …Ken is a sympathetic figure, which makes it sadder. It was difficult to get some people to open up. There are so many people who all these years later carry these feelings of sadness and regret who wish they could speak about him.”
Do you care to share the behind-the-scenes dealings in your attempts to get the Caminiti family to talk?
“I was hopeful we would have something work out. Nancy (Caminiti’s wife) is a private person. His death certainly impacted his family in many ways. His parents are getting older. I reached out to them in 2012. …I understand the reasons for not talking for the book. I respect it. It’s a delicate balance. He’s obviously a celebrity. But in terms of them, they’re private people living their lives who happen to be related to someone who is famous. That was a difficult thing for me as a writer to balance, how do I get this right without involvement with them?”
How challenging was it for you personally to keep your sanity while being in the depths of such sensitive subject matter?
“It’s not easy. I’m still grappling with it and coming to terms with it. When I finished the first draft I was an emotional wreck. …There are still parts of the book I’m not ready to confront. …It’s tough to walk away from it when you get connected to a story like that. As a journalist, you’re supposed to keep this balance in your story-telling. But you can’t help but root for these people. …I’ll admit I put off writing the end of the story - Ken’s death - I put it off for 10 years.”
Do you ever think about what Caminiti would think of this book if he were still alive?
“I have thought a lot about that. I hope he would be grateful. I know in 2003 he sat down with Dan Patrick about writing a book about himself. He wanted his story told and told properly. That’s one of the things that drove me to publish this. …with any project you get to a point of, ‘Can I keep going? Can I pull this off?’ For me it was important to get his story out because people could learn from it.”
This is a book that baseball fans would likely enjoy. But it’s also a book that might benefit those impacted by addiction. Thoughts?
“This guy was the toughest guy in baseball. This wasn’t a toughness or determination issue in battling addiction. This guy tried to beat his addictions and struggled greatly trying to beat them. This can happen to anybody.. …think, too, the PTSD element, that struggle of dealing with trauma, sometimes we need to address these things. …it taught me to be more mindful of others, we don’t know what people are going through.”
You had a section in the book about cheating in pro baseball as far back as the late 1800s up to the latest cheating scandal with the 2017 World Series champion Astros. Will cheating and baseball always be synonymous?
“There will always be cheating in baseball. You think about the Bobby Thomson home run in the 1951 World Series that involved sign stealing. …every single thing you look at can cloud baseball in that way. Steroids in baseball were around as far as back as the 1960s. Greenies were used as far back as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays…the gunk pitchers use to grab the ball. It’s disingenuous to look at the steroids era as somehow worse than everything else. Certainly record books were obliterated, but it’s hard to look down on this entire era when cheating has been rampant throughout baseball.”
This is essentially the first book you can call your own. How cool is that?
“I get people I grew up watching now commenting about the book on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. …it’s awesome. I remember standing at the railing at Phillies games and Orioles games trying to get autographs. My favorite player growing up was Greg Vaughn and I interviewed him for this book. …This book feels so much different than the other books. One of the driving forces to finish this was ghostwriting for other people and them encouraging me to get this book out into the world. It was the universe telling me to do this myself. It does feel different. It’s neat to come full circle.”