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Archive for the ‘Yankees Memories’ Category

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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Over the last few days, there were a lot of rumors in the online media outlets that Metallica was set to play “Enter Sandman” live at Yankee Stadium to honor Mariano Rivera on his special day. They were playing the Apollo Theater in Harlem the night before, so they were already in town. Those rumors were confirmed yesterday, as a concert stage was set up in front of Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. And they put on quite a performance. This is the best footage I could find (I’ll update it if I can find something better):

Metallica - Yankee Stadium - Mariano Rivera Day

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On September 23rd, 2001, Bette Midler took the stage at Yankee Stadium in “A Prayer for America,” a tribute to those who lost their lives in the September 11th attacks. Bette sang her biggest hit, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

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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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You may call him Mo, The Sandman, The Panama Express, The Hammer of God or some other silly nickname. To us Yankees fans, he’s simply the gold standard. The guy you compare everybody else to, and beat them into the ground like they’re all nobodies. Have you ever been at a Yankees game and hoped or prayed that a pitcher on your own team would just give up a run (to make it a save situation) so you could catch a glimpse of Mariano Rivera? I can honestly say that I’m guilty of that. If it means getting the chance to see one of the greatest baseball players of all-time toe the rubber once more, it’s well worth it.

With Mariano Rivera coming out and announcing that he will be retiring at season’s end, I guess it’s finally soaked in that he’s not going to be around beyond this season. You just start think about the times he would jog out of the bullpen to Metallica, and the opposing team knew all too well that the game was over (and they still do to this day). He sawed off more bats than I can remember. His cutter was so great, players knew what was coming and still couldn’t hit it. We could look through all the books and see how many records and awards Mariano has received, but he’s beyond that now. He’s on a whole other level and has nothing to prove. He is the greatest closer in the history of baseball. And at this point, there is no debate about it.

Besides his stellar play, it was also the way he carried himself on and off the field that put him above all others. He was the consummate professional. He will be the very last player to ever wear the #42 on the back of a baseball uniform. And I don’t think the Robinson family could think of anyone better to carry out Jackie’s legacy. During the press conference they held down in Tampa to announce Mariano’s retirement, Rivera said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to wear the pinstripes. It has been wonderful.” The truth is (and I think I can speak for all Yankees fans here), it’s been a real an honor and a privilege just to watch you play all these years. You’ve provided us with so many great memories.

When you attend a game this year, it might very well be your last opportunity to see him pitch. Just stand and applaud at your seat, and realize that you most likely will never see the likes of him again. This season is his swan song. So, please do as I say, and keep your asses in the seats. This year, we stay for all nine.

Enter Sandman

Mariano Rivera #42

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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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Game 5: November 1, 2001 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York

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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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“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic, and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.” -Rudolph Giuliani

(more…)

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Boomer and Carton break down and analyze John Sterling’s terrible call during Casey McGehee’s 2nd at-bat during last night’s game. Johnny clearly wasn’t paying attention and listening to Suzyn try to cover for him makes you want to cringe.

According to John, these four things all occurred during one swing of the bat:

1) Cuts and Misses.

2) Cuts and hits a fly ball down the left field line and the ball is foul.

3) The throw comes in and McGehee is standing on 2nd base.

4) The ball must have kicked into the stands for a “grounds rules double.”

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