One On One: My Journey with Hall Of Famers, Fan Favorites and Rising Stars, By Jane Mitchell (Sweet Dreams Publishing Of Massachusetts, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, 2010, 638 Pages.)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
January 19, 2011 (San Diego)--The foreword to Jane Mitchell's book, One on One: My Journey with Hall of Famers, Fan Favorites and Rising Stars, by San Diego native and broadcast legend Dick Enberg and San Diego Padres' Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, speaks volumes about fellow San Diego native Mitchell and her book. While giving homage to her hometown, Mitchell explores the lives of some of our most celebrated personalities.
"Her voice, writing, and presence were of high quality. She wasn't simply reciting statistics, or the mundane, but was offering insightful player stories,” Enberg wrote. “Men viewed as strong, tough heroes to fans were openly candid in her interviews, sharing not only their victories, but also their vulnerabilities. They seemed at ease in sharing childhood dreams, teenage trauma, professional and personal flaws throughout their major league journey. In 1999, while featuring the San Diego Chargers, there was no surprise she transitioned from baseball to football, seamlessly."
All of this, and more, came across in a phone interview that I had with Mitchell in which I stated: "By the way, fantastic book! It should be a collector's item." When you see pictures of Drew Brees and Ladainian Tomlinson in a group photo with Mitchell and the athletes’ wives, as well as a poignant photo of Mitchell interviewing the late great Ted Williams, plus countless other candid interviews, you can understand why.
Gwynn stated in the foreword to the book: "The fact that she and her show have been around for fourteen seasons? Nobody plays for fourteen seasons for one team anymore, and I should know. Players come and go. Reporters come and go. Jane has been a mainstay for a reason. I remember telling her when she started, that if she did this really well, people will know. And that's exactly what happened. You could ask anybody in town and say 'One on One,'and her name's going to come up, and that's a testament to how well she's done her job."
You don't have to be a sports fan to appreciate what Mitchell has shared with us between the pages of her book, though it helps. Nor do you have to be male to love this book, for One on One: My Journey with Hall of Famers, Fan Favorites and Rising Stars is a true human interest story, told from the unique perspective of a 26-time Emmy Award winner.
Since 1997, Mitchell has been producing and anchoring "One on One with Jane Mitchell," on Channel 4 San Diego, giving viewers an in-depth look at San Diego's top sports figures from young stars to veterans and Hall of Famers.
Mitchell's passion for storytelling stems from her growing up in a Navy family, traveling the world and being encouraged by her mother, who was a teacher, to write about her experiences.
She was never a big sports fan, but fell in love with baseball at her first spring training in '97. She brings her newfound appreciation for baseball and football to the show, peeling back the layers of a player's often rough and tough game-day facade to reveal their struggles, successes, triumphs and tragedies, humor and humility that make them who they are on and off the field. Their vulnerability and strength are revealed in a way that is appreciated by the players, also welcomed by new and die-hard fans. It seems only natural that Mitchell would write this book.
You could say that this book got started with Mitchell's "8th grade epiphany." In her book Mitchell indicated that she wanted to go to Egypt from an early age. "Maybe it was the pyramids and the ideas of seeing where civilization began,” she wrote. “One evening in eighth grade, I sat in our living room, curled up in a big, soft green and gold velvet floral rocking chair. My father was on the couch. We were watching a news report from the peace talks in Cairo. I don't remember what was being said. I do remember distinctly seeing a man holding a microphone standing in front of the pyramids reporting on the story of the day. In that moment, that very moment, I said to my father, 'Wow, that man travels the world, tell stories, is on TV, and gets paid for it. That's what I'm going to do.'" The rest is history, Mitchell's history.
She spoke candidly in her book of broadcast icons Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw, then NBC's Today Show anchors, indicating a chance meeting with them that validated her career. She stated in her book that a two-minute commercial break on July 29, 1981, prompted an exchange between her and the anchors, in which they both encouraged her. She carried that moment with her all the way through college, graduate school, and into her first job.
What started out as a four-month stint, to tell the San Diego and Republican National Convention stories, emerged as what we now know as the Channel 4 TV "One on One" show, and now this book. Some 26 Emmy awards later, we get a sense why people feel comfortable sitting across from Mitchell in the many interviews she would conduct.
An interview with future Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees, in the home of Tomlinson, is perhaps the highlight of this book for me. Mitchell did an update of an earlier interview with Tomlinson and Brees separately, together this time, to reflect on their five seasons playing with the San Diego Chargers. Mitchell indicated that this was a first for her "One on One" TV show, with two main subjects seated next to each other for the interview. She stated, "How they talked demonstrated the dynamic of their friendship, their shared Christian faith, their sense of humor, respect for each other, and for their team and city." Mitchell would reflect on the future Hall of Famers' wives sitting beside their husbands to touch on what they had experienced in the last few years as well.
Tomlinson would state in regard to his interview with Mitchell: "The 'One on One' interview was more personal and in-depth. It wasn't a typical stats oriented interview. Jane had a way of making me feel comfortable with opening up. Unlike some interviews, she wasn't trying to create controversy.Jane was very sincere in asking her questions and wanting to hear the answers."
This book is chock-full of pictures and candid interviews with sports stars and legends such as Dave Winfield, Junior Seau, Antonio Gates, Trevor Hoffman, Adrian Gonzalez, Ozzie Smith, Ted Williams, and so many more.
Future Hall of Famer Adrian Gonzalez observed,"The first thing I remember when asked about doing the 'One on One' show with Jane was, 'Cool, I get to be on the show I enjoyed watching while in high school before I was drafted and left home.' The second thing I remember is my Mom will get her wish and have her son on the show she loved."
That basically says it all about this wonderful book, which is more than just a book about sports stars and athletes. This is a book about human nature, a book that I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, and a freelance contributor to the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.