Charley Steiner’s freedom to participate in the new ESPN book: Some of the stuff Miller told him was ‘jaw-dropping’

Update Wednesday 5/18/11 at noon PDT: The publishers’ embargo on excerpts has been lifted today (Wednesday). Keep up on the blog posts from Deadspin.com and others on the official ESPN book Twitter account: http://twitter.com/#!/espnbook

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Charley Steiner says he left ESPN on very amicable terms in 2002, after 14 years as a “SportsCenter” anchor to start a new career as a baseball play-by-play man.

Axes? Nothing to grind here. Or even slightly sharpen.

Get the point?

So he’s only got a sense of wonderment about what this new book, “They Have All The Fun: Inside The World at ESPN,” will reveal once it comes out next Tuesday.

“I’m absolutely fascinated by the interest, and how many may buy it and what impact it has on anything,” Steiner said on Tuesday night before doing the radio play-by-play of the Dodgers-Brewers game from Dodger Stadium. “All I know is what I’ve been reading on the Internet. I have no idea what’s in it.

“I just know I’ll have something to read on the flight home from Houston (where the Dodgers play next week).”

Steiner was one of the 500-plus people who talked to author Jim Miller or Tom Shales for his take on the company. Steiner said the only pitch Miller gave him some three years ago was that he was doing something on “how ESPN became ESPN.” A couple of hours later, after their first meeting, Steiner knew Miller’s resume, trusted him, and agreed to talk more. And more.

“He knew more about what was happening to me than I did when I was there,” said Steiner.

He agrees that the way the publishers have coordinated the mysterious release of excerpts only adds to the intrigue that has built in the days before it is available to the rest of the credit-card toting world.

“They’ve done a great of controlling the message,” he said.

So why does he think there’s such a tittering about this book, versus others done on the ESPN culture in the past? It has a lot to do with the previous work about “Saturday Night Live” that these two did years ago, and their track records for being high-level entertainment reporters.

“The previous books were pretty much focused on sexual innuendos – and they weren’t inaccurate,” said Steiner. “How much of that is revealed in this book, I don’t know.

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“When you’re dealing with an oral history, you let the chips fall where they may. It’s not an editorial endeavor but an oral history with people’s names attached to it. We all had the option of saying, ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ But (Miller) was a straight shooter, very thorough. He was very well prepared. I don’t know if there was a question that he didn’t ask.

“Some of the things he asked me were just jaw-dropping. How did he know that? It’s just mindboggling to me, after working there 14 years, all that has come out of Bristol and the face people will now spend money to read about it. They’ve done a great job of keeping things quiet. I was telling Miller that I’ll probably be at the Barnes & Noble at night standing in line as if a new Beatles album was coming out.”

Steiner says he regularly talks to former “SportsCenter” colleagues Bob Ley and Robin Roberts. He said he had dinner last week in New York with Keith Olbermann when the Dodgers were in town to play the Mets.

“It was like having a family there,” said Steiner. “We were together every day for seven years. Now we’re the dinosaurs.”

And you know how much kids are into dinosaurs.

Previous blog posts on the new ESPN book:
== An Entertainment Weekly excerpt (linked here)
== A GQ excerpt (linked here)
== Dan Patrick’s first take (linked here)
== More Dan Patrick on Keith Olbermann (linked here)

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