ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — When he was a boy, Steve Franzitch stayed up to watch election returns the way others paid attention to extra innings in baseball.
Politics has always been his sport of choice, and it's not an exaggeration to say he wrote the book on the subject. His text on American government has gone through several printings.
"I'm kind of a political junkie," said Frantzich, 68.
The Naval Academy professor's latest book — his 26th — tackles political mistakes and their impact. Frantzich uncovers why some miscues on the presidential campaign trail destroy candidates, while others have few lasting consequences.
"It's a great story to tell about politicians and policymakers," said Lt. Cmdr. Claude Berube, interim director of the Naval Academy Museum.
"O.O.P.S.: Observing Our Politicians Stumble: The Worst Candidate Gaffes and Recoveries in Presidential Campaigns" was published in May and took two years to write and research.
"We all make mistakes, but very few of us make mistakes that are so public," said Frantzich, who has taught political science at the academy for 35 years. "We put politicians, officials and athletes on the perfect pedestal and we love to chip away at that pedestal."
In chapters such as "One Potato, Two Potatoe — Spelling Trouble," ''Bomb, Bomb, Bomb When I Ran," ''Not to be 'Misunderestimated'" and "The Mother of All Fibs," Frantzich chronicles the blunders of everyone from Dan Quayle and John McCain to George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The book begins in 1968 with Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, and continues through present day. Frantzich said he had to impose some kind of time limit and wanted to keep the book as contemporary as he could.
"I'd constantly see the media summarize campaigns in terms of mistakes," said the Gambrills resident. "I wanted to look at whether that was true."
Often, it's a matter of perspective. "I was struck by the fact that what I saw as major mistakes, others saw as slips of the tongue," he said. "We tend to evaluate based on how much we like a candidate."
He ranks Edmund Muskie's infamous crying episode in 1972 and Hillary Clinton's 2008 statements about coming under fire in Bosnia among the worst political gaffes in terms of the effect on their campaigns.
"They get at this whole question of character," Frantzich said. "These gaffes became a way to gauge how they handle pressure, or handle a mistake."
Prior to O.O.P.S., Frantzich wrote about people mentioned in State of the Union addresses. He was curious about what happened to them after the speeches and the ramifications of their brief moments of fame. "Honored Guests: Citizen Heroes and the State of the Union" came out in 2011.
Frantzich enjoys tackling these kinds of topic after years of writing textbooks. He finds them more fun to write and likes the fact they reach a different audience.
"He thinks of these amazing things to write about," said Priscilla Zotti, who chairs the academy's political science department and has co-authored a book with Frantzich. "His books are approachable, just like he is as a person."
He typically works on two or more projects at once. His pending books include one on celebrity testimony before Congressional committees, another on political cartoons, and a third on the Internet and political campaigns.
"Steve is the type of professor whose class I would go into if I had the chance," said Berube, who previously taught in the political science department and also co-authored a book with Frantzich.
"There were days when I'd walk by and hang out at the door and listen. He has such great perspectives on issues."
Berube's favorite book by Frantzich is a biography of C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb. "He's always writing," Berube said. "It's always a good sign when a professor's writing. (And) I can't think of a more prolific person."
Howard Ernst, another academy colleague and co-author, called Frantzich one of the most creative people he's ever met.
"Steve understands that in order for our work to be important, it needs to be interesting," Ernst wrote in an email. "Steve has a long history of writing important academic works that people read, not just because they are assigned in class, but because he captures their imagination."
The walls of Frantzich's office are lined with political memorabilia, including part of his collection of campaign buttons.
He has Teddy Roosevelt pins, an Al Smith puzzle (Smith ran for president in 1928 against Herbert Hoover), and a Benjamin Harrison fence post reflector.
Bunting from Nixon's second inaugural hangs from the main window. He had students work on the inaugural committee as part of a course at Denison University.
Frantzich currently teaches a class on the media and politics and another on campaigns and elections. Prior to academy, he taught political science for four years at Hamilton College in New York and for two years at Denison, which is in Ohio.
He got the Denison job directly after earning his doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Frantzich credits his parents for his interest in politics.
He enjoys the ever-changing nature of politics and said he's not sure he'd succeed teaching a subject that remained largely static. "I've never had a semester when I didn't revise a third of what I teach," he said. "It keeps me on the edge. I'm learning along with the students."
Frantzich won't say whether he's a Democrat or Republican, preferring instead to dissect both sides of an issue. He's never run for office himself, though he came close once in New York when he was offered a nomination for the state legislature. He didn't take it, which was fortunate because he later found out he would have been a token candidate bound to lose.
Frantzich, a grandfather, has no plans to retire, though he would like to work out an arrangement where he only taught one semester a year. He doesn't want to give up teaching entirely because he said it keeps him sharp and in tune with that young people are thinking.
"I'm more productive when I'm teaching," said Frantzich, who has won the academy's outstanding civilian teacher award.
Zotti said his assignments are clever and hands-on, and he's always engaged with the midshipmen. "I've worked with him 22 years and he hasn't slowed down a bit," she said.
Steve Schier, who teaches political science at Carleton College in Minnesota and also worked on a book with Frantzich, said his friend is a "model teacher-author."
In addition to his academy classes, Frantzich has taught on cruise ships and given lectures a variety of venues. He also runs the Parole Rotary Club's Books for International Goodwill. His wife, Jane, is a retired school administrator.
The B.I.G. program has gathered over five million books for donations around the world. "I'm a book person," Frantzich said. "I always have a book under the seat of my car in case I'm caught in traffic, or at meeting."
When he was growing up, he had a book with a poem inside that read: "He who has a book to read will be a king indeed."
"I was raised on the idea that books are the key to understanding, the key to interpreting the world," he said.
The same is said about his own works.