Edward Achorn, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Distinguished Commentary, is the deputy editorial pages editor of The Providence Journal. He has won numerous writing awards and his work appears in Best Newspaper Writing, 2007-2008 (CQ Press). He is the author of Fifty-nine in ’84 and co-author, with Phil Swann, of the book How to Land a Job in Journalism.
Achorn’s “must read” weekly columns often touch on baseball, which he considers the best game ever invented, but usually center on the weird and contentious politics of Rhode Island. He inspired revolutionary change in the state’s Constitution, championing an amendment that balanced power and put an end to a 340-year legacy of inordinate control by the legislature. Pulitzer judges cited his “clear, tenacious call to action against government corruption in Rhode Island,” while Common Cause Rhode Island declared: “Ed Achorn’s clear trumpet turned the tide in this historic battle.” He has also prodded citizens to question the sleazy activities of Providence Mayor “Buddy” Cianci, who was eventually sent to federal prison for running City Hall as a criminal enterprise. And he has taken on the local pimps and club owners who are making money exploiting foreign women and underage girls as virtual slaves. As a reporter, he saw the shuttle Challenger explode, covered press conferences in the Reagan White House and often interviewed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, interviewed President George H.W. Bush, covered Bill Clinton’s triumphant 1992 primary run, visited Cambodian refugee camps on the Thailand border for an award-winning series, toured the Panama Canal and met with two presidents of Mexico. Achorn’s reviews of books about American history appear frequently in the Weekly Standard.
A diehard Red Sox fan descended from generations of baseball cranks, Achorn grew up in Westborough, Massachusetts. He witnessed Carl Yastrzemski’s 3,000th hit and attended the 1967 World Series and all four games of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park, including Game Six, when Carlton Fisk “waved” his home run fair. His grandfather and grandmother, both Boston Braves fanatics, attended the 1914 World Series (also at Fenway). As a child in Westborough, Achorn was astonished to discover that the nearby city of Worcester once had a major-league baseball team. Thus began a lifelong quest to learn more about 19th century baseball—to put flesh on the strange names and statistics found in the Baseball Encyclopedia, none more incredible than Radbourn’s 59 wins in one season. He quickly found there was much more to the story than has yet appeared in books. His intensive search took him to the Library of Congress, the Baseball Hall of Fame Library, the Chicago Historical Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and numerous other institutions where he pored over primary sources and thousands of daily accounts of baseball in period newspapers.
His work as an editor and editorial writer in Providence served to focus his interest, in particular, in Old Hoss Radbourn and the 1884 Providence Grays, as he spent many nights hunched over a microfilm reading machine in the newspaper’s library and at the Rhode Island Historical Society. (An original painting of the Hoss hangs in his fourth-floor office.) He has worked closely with the members of the Providence Grays Vintage Baseball Club, a modern team that plays under 1884 rules and with 1884 equipment (or lack thereof), to better understand the experience of baseball in those times. He lectures about the major-league Providence Grays and Rhode Island corruption as a featured speaker for the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. He is a member of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research.