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Archive for the ‘Yankees History’ Category

As it stands now, the New York Rangers are up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. They’re just two wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup. For all of you who were old enough to appreciate the 1993-1994 Stanley Cup Rangers, here’s a trip down memory lane as the champs take “The Cup” to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

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Marty Appel, former PR Director of the New York Yankees, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about our beloved team and his role with the ball club.

Photo Courtesy of Marty Appel

Bill Dickey – Marty Appel – Mel Allen

Q&A with Marty Appel

1) Q: You started out answering Mickey Mantle’s fan mail. You later went on to become the head of public relations of the New York Yankees. You really started from the bottom and climbed your way through the organization. Did you always envision yourself working for the Yankees?
  • A: I was always a huge fan, but the idea of writing to the Yankees for a summer job came to me after a year as sports editor of my college newspaper.  It was just a bolt out of the blue; no grand scheme. And I never even thought I’d get an answer. Also, answering the fan mail wasn’t the bottom of the food chain. I’ll reserve that for the post-game cleanup crew, who used to augment their low wages by drinking the leftover beer left under the seats. I was a few rungs above that.
2) Q: When your mentor, Bob Fishel left the Yankees after the 1973 season, you were promoted to PR director of the ball club. You were just 24 years-old. What was that like?
  • A: George Steinbrenner called me in and asked if I felt ready for this assignment. No one my age had ever been a team PR Director, let alone in New York. But because I had been trained by Bob Fishel for six years, I absolutely felt ready. It was like learning democracy from Jefferson or Madison. I learned from the best and I was ready.
3) Q: Upon meeting George Steinbrenner for the very first time, what was your impression of him?
  • A: Very dynamic guy, and he said all the right things about winning. We were hungry for that sort of direction after all the disappointing finishes in the CBS years. One thing you don’t appreciate at first is the huge celebrity he would become. He was unknown on that January day in 1973 and we didn’t see what was to come. He went out and redefined what owners did, and he made the Yankees a bigger brand than they had ever been.
4) Q: Take us through a day as a PR director of the New York Yankees in the 1970’s.
  • A: Well it changed a lot after 1974 with the Catfish Hunter signing, and a year later with free agency. It really made the job a 365-day task. Prior to that, the winters were slower and people used to ask “what do you do in the off-season.” Of course it was spent preparing yearbooks, media guides, scorecards; doing a winter media caravan, preparing for spring training, attending dinners, announcing the schedule and promotion dates, making news when you can. Today the newspapers are told they must have a Yankee (and Mets) story every day. Then it was more of a struggle.
  • A: In season, I made all the road trips, prepared the daily press notes, fielded questions from the media, contacted the next team to exchange ‘probable pitchers,’ and established good friendships with press and the players, many of who were my age. And oh yes, in the days before ‘modern communication,’ I would often be on a pay phone in the press box, giving Mr. Steinbrenner the pitch-by-pitch account of a game if he was in Florida and couldn’t listen. And I’d fill in between pitches with plugs for the new Yankee Yearbook, which he didn’t always find amusing if we were losing.
5) Q: My father was in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium with his brother when Chris Chambliss won the pennant for the Yankees in 1976. That was “his moment.” Thirty-three years later, I would be in the grandstands with my father watching the Yankees win the pennant in 2009. That was “my moment.” In all the years you’ve watched the Yankees play, what was your favorite memory you saw in-person and why?
  • A: I would say Mickey Mantle Day in 1969 just edges the Chambliss home run. I had a lot to do with the planning of Mantle Day, which worked flawlessly and hit just the right emotional notes.  It was one of the better “Days” I’ve ever seen.  We had a great front office team in the planning then – Bill Guilfoile, Howard Berk, Bob Fishel and myself, fortunate enough to be there.
Photo Courtesy of Marty Appel
6) Q: In the ESPN TV miniseries, “The Bronx is Burning”, there was an intriguing Kangaroo Court scene. The perpetrator was Mickey Rivers. He was charged with a so-called “lunch meat violation”, where he was reaching for a cupcake and his private parts touched a ham. I’m aware you were a consultant on the show. Is this a true story? Were you ever present for these locker room gatherings? Were they always this silly?
  • A: The clubhouses were fun and crazy things could happen there – like Fritz Peterson’s hockey games, during which Rich McKinney got injured and it helped end his Yankee days. Mickey Rivers was always funny. Dock Ellis too – he was a special character in the clubhouse.  And Sparky Lyle. Oh, I could go on. Great collection of personalities.
7) Q: Can you please share an odd story from your time with the Yankees? Something the average fan might not know.
  • A: Mickey Mantle would always give me his gift certificates from doing pre-game radio interviews. I couldn’t imagine he would use “$10 off” at Thom McAn shoe store in Yonkers, so he’d give it to me. And eventually he’d save them up from road trips and bring them back to me. I couldn’t use “free dessert” in Minnesota, but it was a fun ritual. I should have had him sign the certificates and saved them instead of using them. Nice memory. He was great to me.
8) Q: How would you compare the Yankees of today to the ball club’s you worked under in the 70’s? How has the role of the PR Director changed over the years in baseball?
  • A: The role dramatically changed in the mid-’70s when, led by Murray Chass and Moss Klein, the media decided that they would decide what was news and go after it themselves, rather than using our daily press notes. So the PR department became reactive and not proactive. And it has been the same ever since, although the media gets far less access to the players today. Everything is much more controlled. Writers don’t even travel with the team anymore.
9) Q: Whether you like to believe it or not, you are a part of Yankees history. When I think of the Bronx Bombers, I think of Ruth, Steinbrenner, Jeter, Cashman, Sheehy, Torre, Michael, Appel, etc. As you grow older, you start to realize that there’s a lot more to a ball club than the players on the field. How does it feel to be part of such an iconic franchises’ history?
  • A: The Yankees are such a strong brand, that even after you’ve left the club, your time with the team sort of defines you. And I’m happy about that – it’s a great association. I’m honored to still be connected, doing video for Yankees on Demand, or writing for their publications. I love when someone in the front office calls to clarify some piece of history. I’m actually the last man standing (and still active in the field) who worked in the original stadium, worked when Mantle played, worked when CBS owned the team. Very proud of that. And proud to have been able to write Pinstripe Empire and get a lot of those memories on record.
10) Q: If someone wanted to be the Director of Media Relations of the New York Yankees today, what advice would you give them?
  • A: Well, it’s hard to always give time to social media, but ultimately, they are read and they are helping to form opinions among fans. I’d lobby to add someone in the department assigned to be the contact person for that category of “media” (bloggers, online columnists, large groups on Facebook, etc., so that the team is reaching its fan base through them. I’d also suggest having a strong sense of the business of baseball so that you better understand decisions made by other departments.  It’s not just knowing how many MVP awards Yogi Berra won.  It’s understanding the dynamics between the players, management, media, fans, the city, and even the nation.  The Yankees matter to a huge number of constituencies, and you have to be aware of all of them.
I can’t thank Marty enough for taking the time to be part of this Q&A interview. If you haven’t already, go out and pick up Marty’s book, “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss.”

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Bronx Bombers: A New American Play

Illustration By: Mark Ulriksen

That’s right. The New York Yankees have hit the Broadway stage. The show comes from the same creators of Broadway’s “Lombardi.” The story centers around Yogi Berra and his wife Carmen, as they take you through the New York Yankees storied history. Legendary players such as Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig, and Jeter are portrayed on the stage. I’d bet this would be a real treat for any Yankees fan to attend, both young and old.

**If you’re interested in attending a show, visit: BronxBombersPlay.com or call: 212-239-6200 / 800-432-7250. Box Office Information: Hours: Mon: 10 – 6, Tues – Sat: 10 – 8, Circle in the Square Theatre, West 50th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.**

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On August 2nd, 1979, Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash which rocked the baseball world. He was one of the most beloved and respected players to ever don the pinstripe uniform. Munson was the first team captain since Lou Gehrig and was considered the driving force behind those Yankee teams.

Thurman’s plaque in monument park reads: “Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next … Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.”

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The 2013 MLB All-Star Game may decide whether the AL or NL receives home field advantage in the World Series, but there was a bigger story that night. At least, for us Yankees fans. Mariano Rivera jogged out of the bullpen in the 8th inning (a decision by AL manager Jim Leyland to make sure he would make it into the game) to a stirring tribute. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared through the stadium, as a rousing applause and standing ovation came from both the players and fans to one of the game’s greatest players. Rivera tipped his cap graciously to the crowd and his fellow all-stars, giving everyone a memory that they will never forget. Mariano proceeded to toss a 1-2-3 8th inning and the American League went onto win the game 3-0. To top it off, Rivera received the All-Star Game MVP Award, becoming the first reliever to ever receive that honor. Mariano delivered a speech at the end of the game, thanking the fans and stated, “You guys almost made me cry.”

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Big League ChewI think we all loved that shredded bubble gum we would grab during our little league games. Stuffing so much of it in our mouths to make it look like we were chewing on tobacco. Bringing me back in time, I recently purchased a pack of Big League Chew. Flipping over the package, I noticed a cool tie the product had with the New York Yankees organization.

The back of the package reads: “Sitting in a bullpen one night, Portland Mavericks’ lefthander Rob Nelson, and teammate Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankee All-Star, wanted something different and fun to chew. So they came up with a great idea – shredded bubble gum in a pouch – and called it Big League Chew. It soon became an amazing hit with ballplayers everywhere. That was over 30 years ago. Today, more and more professional and amateur players in all sports are turning to Big League Chew, a fun gum that keeps your mouth from getting dry when the game is on the line.”

 

 

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I’ve never seen this video before, and I just found it very humbling to watch. We’ve sat in front of our televisions for years on end and watched Mariano Rivera simply dominate the game. He is, after all, a 12-time All-Star, the all-time leader in saves, with five Rolaiads Relief Man Awards and a three time Delivery Man of the Year. If there has ever been a sure bet for the Hall of Fame, he’s it.

But growing up in Panama, his own family didn’t have the money to buy him a bat or glove. Panama, like most of the world, is a country of haves and have-nots. Given it’s climate and large tourist industry, parts of Panama feature restaurants, casinos and nightlife to rival any vacation destination. But Mariano did not grow up privileged in Panama City. He was the son of a fisherman in Puerto Caimito. There were no fancy restaurants, no casinos and no lavish nightlife. It is doubtful that you can order take-out or play cards online at partycasino.com there to this day.

Mariano didn’t even have a decent field to play on. Kids from the neighborhood made balls from old clothing and nets; rolling the material up and wrapping it up with tape. But given how Mariano and so many other great Panamanian players turned out, it seems to have mattered very little. Baseball is still a lot more about heart and determination than equipment and trappings.

Using a knife and a small piece of cardboard, he created a baseball glove. It’s just incredible to see how far he’s come. From cardboard gloves and fields without grass to Yankee Stadium and the most prestigious franchise in all of sports is simply mind boggling. It just makes you smile. [talking about his cardboard baseball glove] “I was the happiest kid in the neighborhood with this thing.” – Mo

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“Part of a Yankee telecast on WPIX TV, Channel 11 from 1986. Bill White and Phil Rizzuto broadcast a 4th inning rain delay as the Yankees played the Twins at Yankee Stadium.”

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Bob Costas’ emotional eulogy at Mickey Mantle’s funeral on August 15, 1995.

“It brings to mind a story Mickey like to tell on himself and maybe some of you have heard it. He pictured himself at the pearly gates, met by St. Peter who shook his head and said, ‘Mick, we checked the record. We know some of what went on. Sorry, we can’t let you in. But before you go, God wants to know if you’d sign these six dozen baseballs.'”

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Jorge Posada’s retirement got me looking at the Yankees all-time catcher’s statistics. One thing that stands out in particular is Posada’s on base percentage, which is second only to Bill Dickey, which is 101 points above his career average. Also, each of these catchers played their entire career with the Yanks except a few at-bats for Berra with the Mets and Howard’s last two seasons were with Boston.

Accolades of Note:

All of them have their number retired with the Yankees.

Yogi Berra:  10 WS rings, 3 time MVP, HOF and did it all while standing 5’7” tall

Jorge Posada: 5 WS rings, 5 time All-Star

Bill Dickey: 7 WS rings, 11 time All-Star

Elston Howard: 1st African American player on NYY, 1963 MVP, 9 time All-Star, 4 WS rings

Thurman Munson: Captain, 2 WS rings, 1973 ROY, 1976 MVP

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Here’s some terrific 8mm footage taken by a fan back in 1968 at the original Yankee Stadium. It was really cool to watch these old-time players, and how many of them took the time to greet and sign autographs for the fans before entering the ballpark.

The steel beams holding the stadium together are really noticeable to the viewer, and were clearly obstructing views for many of the fans. My father told me that when he went to the games as a child with his dad, they would slip the usher a few dollars to have them put in different seats. Some other noteworthy things in the video include: the bullpen car, old stadium scoreboard, the layout of the baseball diamond (especially around home plate), old advertisements lining the walls behind the bleachers.

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