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Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, will speak in Sonoma Aug. 13

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Scott Simon in Sonoma

NPR newscaster Scott Simon will be the guest for the next Sonoma Speaker Series, Monday, Aug. 13, at Hanna Boys Center, beginning at 7 p.m. He will be interviewed on stage by Amy Wallace.

Tickets are $35. A VIP reception is held at 6 p.m.; tickets are $75.

More on this event and ticket links at sonomaspeakerseries.com.

You can learn more about Scott Simon at npr.org/people/3874941/scott-simon.

Scott Simon has one of the most recognizable voices in radio, probably because he’s occupied the same Saturday morning slot on National Public Radio for 30 years.

As host of “Weekend Edition Saturday,” he helms the two-hour news and information program that carries over the week’s top stories – but includes gentler lifestyle and sports stories as well, to help ease the audience into the weekend.

The radio program is only part of his very busy life. He’s also a television correspondent on “CBS Sunday Morning,” and author of several books including the most recent, “My Cubs: A Love Story,” about his lifelong affection for his hometown baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.

Less well known is that Simon has a close family connection with the wine country, and is a frequent visitor to Calistoga and Santa Rosa: His stepsister owns a horse ranch that almost straddles Sonoma and Napa counties.

Next Monday, Aug. 13, Simon becomes the latest guest in the ongoing Sonoma Speaker Series, fulfilling a commitment made to the series’ cofounder, the late John McChesney, who died in June. In a telephone conversation recently – conducted moments after Simon concluded his Saturday morning broadcast – we talked journalism, social media and baseball. But we began by talking with Simon about his long acquaintance with John McChesney.

The passing of John McChesney hit a lot of locals hard, whether they knew him personally or simply through his work on NPR and, more recently, with the Speaker Series. Were you aware of his illness?

We had dinner with John when we went out there in April. He told me, very bluntly, about his illness. Although he thought he would be with us until the end of the year. And, he said, “Would you come out and let me interview you on stage?” And I said, “Of course.” And then things happened just, as I don’t need to tell you, a lot more quickly than I, at least, thought they would. (McChesney succumbed to leukemia on June 5.)

He didn’t live in Sonoma that long, but he certainly had an impact.

Well, he was a singular personality. There’s no doubt about it. He was gruff and loving and kind and tough, but mostly on himself. Fierce. You know, a man of real convictions.

Did you have a chance to work with him at NPR?

Yes, absolutely. He was my editor when I was on the foreign desk. He was my editor when I was in El Salvador. He was my editor, for a certain period of time, when I was in Chicago too.

You said you had dinner with him. Was that in Sonoma?

It was in Calistoga. At the Sam’s Club. We’re out there a couple of times a year. Our family owns the Mark West Stables in Santa Rosa. I don’t know if I’ll be there for the Sonoma County Fair, but our children love that every year when we go there.

It’s one of our famous family stories, that the first time I went to the Sonoma County Fair, I had one of the huge dill pickles they have there. And my wife, who is French, said, “Oh, they are so good because they are fermented in chardonnay.” And I said, “Really?” And, I believed that for, like, 15 years.

Scott Simon in Sonoma

NPR newscaster Scott Simon will be the guest for the next Sonoma Speaker Series, Monday, Aug. 13, at Hanna Boys Center, beginning at 7 p.m. He will be interviewed on stage by Amy Wallace.

Tickets are $35. A VIP reception is held at 6 p.m.; tickets are $75.

More on this event and ticket links at sonomaspeakerseries.com.

You can learn more about Scott Simon at npr.org/people/3874941/scott-simon.

I can see why you believed it, that sounds delicious.

It wasn’t until two or three years ago, my wife said to me, “I can’t believe that you believe that. Oh my God, it was such a joke!”

Let’s turn to another of your favorite topics, baseball. You’re enthusiastic about the sport on your radio program, and even wrote a couple books on the subject. Did you ever have the opportunity to play the game?

Well, not in any serious way. I mean, I was in little league. And I played in grammar school. Didn’t in high school because I was trying to overthrow the government. I always loved baseball, but I was never good enough. I think you conclude, by the age of 12 or 13, whether or not you can fulfill these childhood fantasies. And I understood that I wasn’t. Loving baseball as I do, every now and then I do regret that I didn’t decide to try and get into the office aspect of it. I think my wife and I have agreed that if I were to win the lottery, I would try and, at least, buy a minor league baseball team.

Well, Sonoma has a baseball team, the Stompers.

I know, I’ve been to a couple of games!

Some of the Stompers might take issue with the statement, “You should know by 12 or 13 if you’re good enough…”

Well, if they at least get into the Pacific Association, they’re better than I. I couldn’t even have the talent to be a minor leaguer. I remember, years ago, when I was still in my 20s, doing a story with the Clinton Iowa Dodgers. Because I was still relatively young and, I guess, looked fit and all that sort of thing, they would invite me just to play catch with them. And, even just to play catch, you saw there was a difference between these kids, there was just a certain smartness in the way they threw the ball. A certain zip that I just didn’t have. Even to play at the minor league level, you have talents at an entirely different dimension from the rest of us.

I’m curious if having a familiar voice is like a familiar face. I mean, do people hear you and say, “Oh, you’re Scott Simon!” And then think they know you.

Oh, yes, it happens every day. But you have to understand, I’m also on “CBS Sunday Morning,” which is a television show. And I write books. So, I do get recognized. My children can’t get over it.

Do you have any idea what the format of the Sonoma Speaker Series presentation is going to be? What do you have planned to say? Or you’re going to be reliant on the interviewer?

I want to make some remarks at the top. I certainly want to introduce my family. I want to let them know that Mark West Stables has a wonderful horse education program, if any of their children are looking for places to ride. But, more importantly, I want to talk a few minutes about John. And, my understanding is, that I’ll be interviewed on stage, by his daughter, Amy Wallace, who is a very accomplished journalist.

Did the horse ranch suffer any fire damage?

No. We were very lucky. I mean, there was a paddock that had some damage. And the grapes, that we grow in the vineyard area, suffered some smoke damage. But, no, no fire damage. My sister-in-law, Virginie Richard, who runs the stables part, had to, with less than an hour’s notice, round up all of her horses. And had to arrange to take them to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. I believe, she stayed there for more than a month, Virginie and her little 8-year-old son.

And, interestingly, we used to get our news updates from our 15-year-old because she has friends out there from the horse camp and they’re Instagramming each other. So she would tell us how things were going. What life was like at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. And who had to evacuate? Who was burned out? And that sort of thing.

Speaking of Instagram, this whole social-media avenue of communication is, kind of, bypassing mainstream media, radio, newspapers, for a large part of the population. What is it going to do to communications and information going forward.

I don’t know if you saw it this week, but there was a video that was going widely around social media of the Cubs’ first base coach flipping a ball to a little boy, who couldn’t hold on to it. And the man behind him, in this 12 second clip, picked up the ball and handed it to the woman sitting next to him. And this man was immediately on Twitter, on Facebook, all social media platforms, for, essentially, robbing a little boy of a baseball. But what the guy from the Cubs’ management learned was that the man there had already caught four baseballs and had given them all away, including to the little boy. And he just kept that last one, as it turned out, to the woman sitting next to him because it was his wife and it was their anniversary. So here was a man who was instantaneously savaged on social media for doing something that he didn’t really do. And the Cubs came to his defense and the family issued statements and all that sort of thing. But, as I said at the end of the report, do people want to be outraged or informed?

And, of course, undoubtedly the savaging will be remembered and the apology won’t.

Absolutely true. I don’t think it ever catches up with that. For years, there are going to be people who say, “No, I saw it. It happened.” Social media is a fact of life. I like it. I enjoy it. I think it’s a great way to learn things. But, as far as I’m concerned, it is not a replacement for the practiced craft of journalism. And I hope people don’t think it is.

Contact Christian at Christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.