The Story of Trolley Dodgers

Back in the mid-1990s, I was writing a sports column for BC Magazine. The publication was owned by the Bloomington Herald-Times newspaper. Most of the content was art, music, and politics. So, my column was both an odd fit and an afterthought to the editors —which worked in my favor!

They didn’t care about sports or what I wrote about, just that I delivered every month. So, I was free to inject my own warped sense of humor into the world of sports. (I once wrote about changing the Indiana University men’s basketball uniforms to plaid.)

In the Summer of 1997, the LA Dodgers were for sale. Jeff Sagarin, the renowned sports statistician, lived in Bloomington and would occasionally stop by for a chat. He told me that if everyone in Monroe County chipped in $20,000, we could by the Dodgers. And of course, you never argue with Jeff’s numbers, so I thought this was gold.

Off I went to write my column for the next issue. Because I had been with BC Magazine for a while and had a reputation for humorous columns, I could usually get people to play along. On this occasion, the mayor’s office gave me a funny quote about being interested in the concept but focused on bringing the Master’s golf tournament to Bloomington (which locals found hysterical).

The story was a tongue-in-cheek appeal for citizens to pool their money together and bring Major League Baseball to Indiana. The issue was a hit and I was asked to be a guest on a local talk radio show. That’s when it got weird. People thought it was real. It was like the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. People were either ready to give money or they were furious that we were going to destroy the small-town vibe of Bloomington with a stadium, baseball team, and everything that goes along with it.

I was both shocked and delighted by the response. I have to confess that having so many people moved emotionally by what I thought was a joke article was entertaining to me.

Fast forward five years later, and I got the idea to turn the experience into a novel. Of course, I embellished it and added all sorts of characters to the mix. People ask if the main character is me. The short answer is no. The long answer is he’s a mix of 2-3 people I knew in Bloomington that is put in some experiences that I actually lived in real life.

Bloomington has changed a lot since then. Back in the 1990s, it had a real Portlandia vibe if you are familiar with the show. Many of the independent and quirky businesses and shops have been replaced by high-rise apartments and chain restaurants. But the weird and the quirky is still there if you know where to look.

Trolley Dodgers was fun to write. And I miss writing for BC Magazine (It shuttered many years ago). Both experiences paved the way for the writing I get to do today. And for that I’m very grateful.

Carry on, Citizens!