Hustling Reporter Uncovers Baseball Mystery

By: Joe Strupp

It wasn’t exactly Watergate. Still, Joseph A. Reaves did manage to shake things up at the San Francisco Giants’ spring-training camp when he uncovered the true cause of second baseman Jeff Kent’s broken wrist.

While other beat writers at the Giants’ winter home in Scottsdale, Ariz., focused on the baseball diamond, Reaves, writing for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, used old-fashioned confidential sources, eyewitnesses, and even 911 tapes to prove that Kent broke his wrist riding a motorcycle, not washing a truck, as he had claimed.

The cause of the injury is significant because Kent’s contract bars him from engaging in dangerous activities, such as riding a motorcycle. The Giants are still deciding if they want to dock any of his $6-million annual salary for time lost during the season, which kicks off Tuesday. With Kent making roughly $37,000 a game, the tab could be rather steep.

Reaves, 51, joined the Republic Feb. 1 as a general-assignment reporter — not a sportswriter — with a lengthy r?sum? that included mostly foreign assignments. But he covered baseball for three years, from 1992 to 1995, for the Chicago Tribune. Still an avid baseball fan, he took interest in the Kent story when he heard reports that the 2000 National League Most Valuable Player claimed he was merely washing his truck when the injury occurred March 1. This inspired some humor pieces, but Reaves had another thought. “It didn’t make sense to me,” Reaves told E&P, “because it wasn’t even 50 degrees that night.”

After talking to sources in the Giants organization, Reaves heard rumors of a motorcycle accident, but when he checked with Scottsdale police he found no reports involving Kent. A little more digging, however, led to a detailed tip about when and where the accident occurred. When the reporter approached police again with a specific location and time, they found a pair of 911 calls that matched.

Reviewing the transcripts and listening to the tapes, Reaves found descriptions of a van at the scene with a license-plate number that he later matched with a van in the Giants parking lot. He also spoke to the people who made the 911 calls, getting more damning details, such as the fact that Kent was doing “wheelies” down the street.

“Basic reporting is just basic reporting,” Reaves said after the story ran March 20. He’d held the story a day to allow Kent to comment, but the injured star “wasn’t very happy to hear about it.”

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