Author Archive

Remembering Joe Distelheim, a Hardball Times Mainstay

Baseball lost several legends in 2020, and our little corner of the baseball world was not spared. Joe Distelheim, a long-time editor and writer at The Hardball Times, passed away on December 30 from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He was 78 years old. News of his passing only recently reached those of us who worked with him at THT.

Joe left an indelible mark on The Hardball Times during his extensive tenure there. Indeed, his tenure may have been the longest of anyone associated with the site: records going back that far are sketchy, but he worked for THT from 2007 to 2020. He advised, developed, and coached numerous writers and editors, improving their work by drawing on his wealth of knowledge and experience, experience that started well before he joined THT’s ranks.

A Chicago native, Joe followed an educational path to Northern Illinois University, the University of Delaware, and Stanford before embarking on a 38-year journalism career that included jobs in Delaware, North Carolina, Michigan, and Alabama. The Detroit Free Press, Charlotte Observer, and Anniston (Ala.) Star paid tribute to Joe upon his passing, all citing his influence on his colleagues as they began and made their way through their careers.

Joe advocated accuracy, battled bigotry, and cared about the communities in which he lived. Perhaps his most impressive career achievement was the 1981 Pulitzer Prize his staff at the Charlotte Observer received for a series on brown lung disease in the textile mills of North Carolina. In addition, while at the Detroit Free Press Joe hired Mitch Albom, one of the more notable American writers of the last few decades. He definitely had an eye for talent.

But Joe didn’t just hire good writers; he cultivated them. He once told Peter St. Onge, “I don’t want you to tell people what you think. I want you to write about what things mean.” That’s certainly a lesson many of today’s talking heads would do well to learn. And Joe was a stickler for details. Every few months, his fellow THT editors would receive an email reminding us to, among other writing faux pas he had noticed creeping into some posts, spell out zero through nine. Read the rest of this entry »