Archive for November, 2012

A Lesson Learned from Lee MacPhail

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 14, 2012 by innovativemediapr

Last week, Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Lee MacPhail passed away at the age of 95. While I never had the pleasure to meet Mr. MacPhail, he certainly kept me busy for a memorable couple of weeks while interning in the media relations department of the New York Yankees in 1983.

At the time, MacPhail, a former General Manager of the Yankees from 1967-1973, was the American League President. His ruling overturning home plate umpire Tim McClelland’s out call on George Brett for using a bat with too much pine tar on it after Brett hit a home run off Goose Gossage in the top of the 9th inning in the infamous Pine Tar Game on July 24, caused much consternation in the Yankee front offices. Brett’s home run putting the Royals in front would have been the third out because of the illegal bat and would have given the Yankees a 4-3 win.

MacPhail upheld a protest and said the home run counted and ordered the game to be resumed from the point of the home run. The game was completed on August 18 and the Royals won 5-4.

MacPhail’s ruling stated:
”The umpires’ interpretation, while technically defensible, is not in accord with the intent or spirit of the rules and that the rules do not provide that a hitter be called out for excessive use of pine tar. The rules provide instead that the bat be removed from the game,” he wrote. ”Although manager Martin and his staff should be commended for their alertness, it is the strong conviction of the league that games should be won and lost on the playing field – not through technicalities of the rules.”

During the span from July 24 to August 18 the Yankee front office was determined to have the resumption of the game stopped in the courts. A couple of fans had filed suit saying they could not attend the resumption of the game.

As this was developing, I was given a task in the media relations department. Come up with all the bad moves that Lee MacPhail had made while serving as Yankees General Manager.

A Yankee fan since I was eight, I had no problem recalling the lean years in Yankee history during the late 1960s. I started writing down some of the failed trades.

Clete Boyer to the Atlanta Braves for Bill Robinson
Roger Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charlie Smith
Stan Bahnsen to the Chicago White Sox for Rich McKinney

What I also came up with was positive moves like the trade MacPahil orchestrated in 1972 to bring Sparky Lyle to the Yankees from the Red Sox in exchange for Danny Cater and Mario Guerrero and the one that landed Graig Nettles from the Cleveland Indians a year later. I also threw in that MacPhail had helped negotiate the Frank Robinson from the Reds to the Orioles deal for Milt Pappas just prior to leaving Baltimore to take the Yankees job.

After turning in my research, I was never asked again to delve any further into Lee MacPhail’s career.  Following the season, MacPhail retired and was elected to the Hall of Fame as an executive in 1998.

Even though as a Yankees fan I felt his ruling was in error, I always felt that the fair and balanced approach to evaluating Lee MacPhail might have saved the Yankees from a sportswriter trashing them for a one-sided approach. Personally, I don’t think my boss, Ken Nigro ever gave George Steinbrenner the information. He just wanted to be prepared in case he was asked.

Thanks to Lee MacPhail I’ve followed that fair and balanced approach throughout my career.

Tom Cosentino


NYC Marathon Fiasco Proves PR is About Common Sense

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by innovativemediapr

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy it had not even crossed my mind that they would run the NYC Marathon.  As the week progressed, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed the need to hold the event to rekindle the spirit of the city I was flabbergasted.  It was too soon. People were still suffering from the devastation wrought by the storm. Providing resources to run this race while communities hard hit by Sandy and still in need of basic necessities like food, water and shelter was not the common sense thing to do.

Thankfully, due to tremendous media backlash the Mayor, NY Road Runners and event sponsor ING, cancelled plans to stage the race, citing that it had become a distraction. It should have never become an issue.

The public relations backlash against holding the NYC Marathon was a case of the Mayor and event organizers misreading public perception.  This was not 9-11.  Twelve years ago this area needed something to take its mind off the horrors of the terrorist attack and the collapse of the World Trade Center.  However, when the Mets and Braves played the first baseball game after the attacks of 9-11 it was during the same week but a full 10 days later. There was a need then to return to normalcy. In the case of the NYC Marathon, stability needed to happen first.

What should have happened was an immediate decision by the NY Road Runners, ING and the Mayor to reschedule the event for at least two weeks out.  That would have given the city a chance to get power up in all five boroughs and ensure that the people who needed much-needed supplies and resources like the countless individuals and families on Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens and those of lower Manhattan received them.

The focus should not have been on unifying the spirit of the city but on making sure the needs of its residents were met first before staging the event. Once normalcy was restored in these communities, then an event of the magnitude of the NYC Marathon could be considered for staging.

The very thought of having 40,000 runners at the staging ground of the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island while nearby, hundreds of people were digging through the debris that was once their home should have been enough to alter the decision to move forward with the race.

What would have been lost by ING, the city and the NY Road Runners by waiting a couple of weeks? Was it all about the foreign runners that were coming in?  ING could have stepped up and paid for the costs of the re-ticketing of their airfares.

On Saturday I was at the Centex sales office of my new home at the Equestra community in Farmingdale, New Jersey. The topic of the NYC Marathon came up and I discussed the public relations fallout from the decisions made earlier in the week with a couple of the sales executives.  They were all in agreement that it did not make sense to stage the event right now.

One had a thought that the NYC Marathon should open things up for people to walk the course if they rescheduled the race. This could serve as a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

I thought as well that the course could be reconfigured to ensure that the race go through some of these communities once they were restored back to a semblance of normalcy.

None of these thoughts and ideas was meant to be put in place immediately but they were focused on putting the event in perspective and respecting the travails of what people were going through.

Those that trained all year for the chance to race in the NYC Marathon will ultimately have their day. What’s needed first is for those without homes, water and power to receive help.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Marathon organizers initially failed to use common sense in taking this into perspective.

As that great philosopher Mr. Spock once said, “The good of the many, outweigh the good of the few.”

Tom Cosentino