Tom Haley said writing a book had been in the back of his mind forever, but he never had the time.
“My personality is such, when I’m doing this at the paper, I have to be going full bore,” the longtime Rutland Herald sportswriter said. “The pandemic furlough giving me a five-month window was the only way I was going to do it.”
Haley’s idle time when the Herald had no sports to cover last year resulted in “Maple Mayberrys and Other Sweet Spots,” a collection of stories and tidbits from the places his almost half-century career has taken him. Each of the 48 chapters centers on a different town. Most are in Vermont, but Haley’s wanderings encompass points from Bangor-Orono, Maine, to Salisbury, North Carolina, and Wichita Falls, Texas.
Haley’s sports-writing career began in 1973, when he took a part-time gig at the (Claremont, N.H) Eagle Times while still teaching social studies. He went into writing full-time in 1981 and got a call from the Rutland Herald in 1986, taking a job there the following January. Covering local sports means following the teams around the state, and Haley said he might have added several more chapters to the book had he not been called back from furlough in August.
Some of the entries cover so much territory in their towns that they are a challenge to summarize. The chapter on Haley’s native Proctor — the single longest — opens with an account of how PHS Class of 1946 graduate Bud Tenerani became a key figure at NBC Sports and then zigzags its way around the town’s storied sports history before delving into Caitlin Canty’s transition from self-described “sports girl” to budding music star and the literary endeavors of several Proctorites.
“Believe it or not, my favorite chapter might not be Proctor,” said Haley, whose boosterism for the town is very familiar to those who work with him. “It might be Dorset.”
The Dorset chapter is focused on the time when Haley got to interview one of his idols, war correspondent turned sportswriter and novelist W.C. Heinz.
“He still had an old typewriter,” Haley said. “It was the only thing he had written on. ... This was about 1999. HBO, ESPN, Sports Illustrated — all the national sports outlets, they were beating a path to his door to interview him about sports in the previous century. I went there, the first words out of his mouth were ‘The last couple months, I’ve been interviewed to death.’”
Heinz had at least one more in him, telling Haley about working at the New York Daily News in the 1950s and the research he did for his novels.
The book is self-published, which Haley said he decided was the way to go after reading an article on the subject in the Herald.
“Otherwise, you wait and wait,” he said. “I was in a hurry because I might get called back. I agree with Peggy Shinn when she said you shouldn’t write a book for the money. You should do it because you’ve got a story you’re burning to tell.”
The book is available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and in-person at the Northshire Book Store in Manchester, the Pittsford Historical Society and Franklin’s Restaurant in Proctor. He said he hopes to get it in other local stores.
Haley said he has no idea how many copies have sold.
“I don’t want to,” he said. “I get royalty checks twice a year and I want to be surprised.”
Haley said he has enough material for a second volume, but that won’t happen until he retires — something the 74-year-old says he is not sure he’ll ever do willingly.
“Once in a while it pops into my head, but not often,” he said.