where the writers are
Tell me a story - San Anselmo's Travers finds his niche in turning out numerous sports books
Date of Review: 
Jul.19.2009
Reviewer: 
Vincent Tannura
Source: 
MARIN I.J.

FOR SEVERAL YEARS in the mid-to-late 1990s, San Anselmo native Steven Travers pursued the Hollywood dream, living in Hermosa Beach and attempting to pen a screenplay that would eventually be brought to life on the silver screen.
He wrote a script for a war movie. He tried his hand at a coming-of-age story. He authored upwards of 10 scripts, some of which were purchased, none of which were ever visualized.

If he ever decides to write another screenplay, he might do well to base the next one on his own life.

Since playing for the Redwood High baseball team that won the mythical national championship in 1977, Travers has been on a roller coaster ride, including stops in minor league baseball, the Army reserve and Hollywood. In recent years, Travers has smoothed things out, finally finding his niche as a sports writer specializing in writing books designed for fans of pro and college teams on the West Coast.

Travers has become a prolific writer, with double-digit titles to his name over the last three years, but the journey to this stable point in his life was a long, rocky one.

Travers' success as a right-handed pitcher on the 1977 Redwood baseball team, named national champions by the Easton Bat Company, netted him an athletic scholarship to the University of Nevada. He pitched for two seasons in Reno, including a 1980 win against Santa Clara, skippered at the time by Travers' former Redwood coach, Al Endriss.

"That was good for him," Endriss recalled, "but not

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so good for us."
After his sophomore campaign, Travers signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals. Two years of toiling in the minor leagues for the Cardinals and A's and one hurt shoulder later, he realized this particular dream would not come to fruition and he hung up his spikes for good.

Pro baseball behind him, Travers applied to and enrolled in USC, where he picked up a bachelor's degree in communications, graduating in 1984.

The struggle

The first 20-something years of his life had been quite eventful, with a high school national title, two universities and a couple seasons of minor-league ball under his belt. But it wasn't until Travers graduated from USC that things really started to get interesting as he attempted to find his way in the working world.
He worked at Charles Schwab Corporation investment company for a brief time, later tried out a law firm, joined the army reserve in 1988 and even went to Germany to help former Redwood teammate Greg Zunino coach a baseball team in 1993. For a brief time in 1994, he tried to be a sports agent, with little success. None of the above inspired him, nor did the attempted careers become fruitful enough for the by-now divorced Travers to support himself and his daughter Elizabeth the way he wanted to.

During his short time as a sports agent, one of his clients was former major league pitcher Bo Belinsky, known more for his antics roaming the Hollywood Hills and dating starlets than for his pitching career - which included a no-hitter during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Angels in 1962. Belinsky told Travers that there was Hollywood interest in a movie on his life, and Travers took the first step towards his calling: writing.

"I said 'Hey, Bo, I studied film at USC film school,'" Travers said. "I didn't graduate in film, but I took several classes, and I've always been a film buff. So I wrote the screenplay and darned if it didn't become a semifinalist in a screenplay contest."

Travers' script about Belinsky's life, "Once He Was An Angel," was never made into a movie, but was purchased by a group that included the son and grandson of "It's A Wonderful Life" director Frank Capra. Travers had the writing bug, and he set out to become a successful screenwriter. Like everything he had tried to that point, it didn't pan out. He got a literary agent and sold a few scripts, but none ever materialized into a film.

However, Travers felt different about this particular failure. He knew he was finally on the right track.

"That got me out of the sports agency," Travers said. "I was hooked on writing."

Discovery

His new addiction showed. By the late '90s he was authoring prep sports articles for the L.A. Daily News and the L.A. Times before landing a job at Street Zebra, a sports magazine that covered everything Los Angeles before going out of business at the end of 2000. Despite his solid work, he was once again forced to start over when the magazine failed.
It was then that Travers made his long-awaited return to the Bay Area as a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner in 2001. Travers struck up a surprising rapport with Giants superstar Barry Bonds once the two discovered they had a mutual friend (Charles Scott, former Terra Linda High pitcher and Bonds' roommate at Arizona State). Travers said Bonds pulled out of having him help pen his autobiography when multi-million-dollar offers for the publishing rights never came, but Travers wrote an unauthorized biography, "Barry Bonds, Baseball Superman." The work received a Casey Award nomination for the best baseball book of 2002. At the ripe age of 43, Travers had finally found his niche.

Although it took several more years of freelancing, living off royalty checks and putting faith in a higher power by reading the Bible every day, Travers eventually broke through with Triumph Books, a subsidiary of Random House that turns out about 100 sports books a year. Triumph has published seven of Travers' titles and continues to use him for everything-you-need-to-know books about West Coast teams.

"He brings the perspective of a former athlete," Triumph publisher Tom Bast said. "He's a good writer É and he's got a real passion for what he does, especially for Southern Cal football, and that's always great to have in a writer."

Travers has contributed to Triumph's Essential series with books on the A's, Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Angels and USC football. With three books slated to come out in the next two months, his total will grow to 16, with most coming since 2006.

"I never dreamed he'd ever be a writer," Endriss said. "Some of the stuff he writes is just wonderful É He just turns them out."

Full circle

These days, Travers is back living in San Anselmo, the site of his promising beginnings. He spends his days doing research for the several books he always seems to be working on, visiting friends and family, reading the Old and New Testaments and volunteering his time as a mentor. He is an annual guest panelist at USC's Annenberg School of Communications and teaches writing through the Marin Literacy Program at Marin County prison in San Rafael. That he can volunteer his time at all should serve as some small measure of his success.
"I've finally arrived at a point where I'm making a good living. It took a long time," Travers said. "I realized way back when I was writing the screenplay about Bo Belinsky that this is what I wanted to do. With everything else, I just punched the clock, looked at my watch and waited to leave.

"You've got to find something you truly love to do and try to make a living doing that."

Recently, Travers even found a way to keep pursuing his Hollywood dream. His book "One Night, Two Teams," about the historic 1970 game between USC and Alabama that effectively broke the color barrier in southern college football, was recently optioned to be made into a movie, and the script is currently being written by the production team that bought the concept. Travers would be brought on as a consultant once production starts.

As for the movie based on his own life, he can probably hold off on developing that one for now. He's got a lot of work ahead of him still.

TURNING THEM OUT

Steven Travers always seems to have a new sports book hot off the presses these days. He has three books slated for release over the next two months. For more info, visit his Web site at www.redroom.com/member/stwrites.
Title Release Date

'What It Means To Be A Trojans: Southern Cal's Greatest Players Talk About Trojan Football' August

'Pigskin Warriors: 140 Years of College Football's Greatest Traditions, Games, and Stars' September

'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly San Francisco 49ers' September

STEVEN TRAVERS