Fan Interference

What is Zisk Zine?

From Mike Faloon:

In one sense Zisk started on my mom’s back deck in suburban Syracuse. My high school friends and I spent hours there hanging out. We seldom watched or listened to or read about baseball at that point—music and comedy and movies were more likely topics—but baseball references were a given. Whether it was great names (Bake McBride, Joe Zdeb) or distinctive hair (Rollie Fingers, Oscar Gamble), we were constantly mining the minutiae we’d gleaned from the trading cards we’d devoured as kids.

In another sense Zisk began on the lower east side of Manhattan. I’d moved to New York by the mid-‘90s. I was playing in bands. Matt Braun and Ethan Cohen were, too. The three of us would hang out before and after shows on the sidewalk outside of the Continental on 3rd Avenue talking about obscure players from the ‘70s. The setting had changed but the conversations were remarkably similar to those in Syracuse.

Matt, Ethan, and I all wrote in some capacity and one of us proposed starting a baseball zine. It seemed like too strange an idea to me, covering mainstream content with an underground publication, but they pointed out that Johnny Ramone was a rabid Yankees fan and Maximum Rock and Roll editor Tim Yohannan was rumored to be a Giants fan. More importantly, Matt had access to free photocopying. Naming our zine was easy. I went back to those high school conversations and proposed my go-to: Richie Zisk.

Zisk #1 appeared in the fall of 1999. We sent copies of the debut issue to every potentially sympathetic soul we could think of. The coup was an interview with our namesake. I can still recall being at work one day when my uber-authoritarian boss said in her subzero Czech accent, “Michael, there is someone named Richie Zisk for you.” I called in sick the next day and conducted Zisk’s first interview.

But Zisk didn’t really take hold until Steve Reynolds came on board as co-editor. He and I were friends from college. Steve was a contributing writer from the start. By issue #8 he was doing all of the layouts and organizing our production schedule. Zisk would have run aground long ago without him.

Since then we’ve met up once or twice a year to battle photocopiers, gripe about the Mets, and marvel over the writing we’ve had the good fortune to publish. Few thrills match that of seeing a new essay from the likes of Rev. Norb (Boris the Sprinkler) or Todd Taylor (Razorcake) waiting in my inbox. Or John Shiffert (The Breaks Even Out and Midnight Comes Quickly for Cinderella). Or Ken Derr (how is it that no one else is publishing this guy?).

What’s surprised me the most over the years is how often I hear a comment like this: I don’t like baseball, but I love Zisk. Our writers are so good at conveying their passion for the game, exploring ideas not addressed anywhere else. Need a guide to the best baseball statues in Chicago? No, it’s not likely that you do, but Jake Austen knew that when he embarked on such a guide. It’s his enthusiasm that makes the piece compelling, along with the precision of this thinking and his humor. Likewise for Nancy Golden’s “In the Pink” or Brian Cogan’s “Rusty Staub: Heroism from Left to Right Field.” I could go on for another 90,000+ words, but then what would be the point of the book?