Archive for New York Yankees

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

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The New Biz Chase is Fun but Don’t Ignore Loyal Clients

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by innovativemediapr

Over the past two weeks, baseball has dominated the sports pages with the free agent signings of pitcher Cliff Lee by the Philadelphia Phillies, outfielder Jayson Werth by the Washington Nationals, outfielder Carl Crawford by the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees resigning of Derek Jeter and Marian Rivera. These signings and the public negotiations gave me pause to think how baseball’s free agent market is in a sense, similar to the chase for landing a new client. All efforts go to bringing in the new prize and often, the loyal steadfast client can get lost in the shuffle.

Lee’s decision to return to Philadelphia and play for the Phillies was described by the former Cy Young Winner as a place where he felt most comfortable and wanted to return. He had helped lead the Phillies to the 2009 World Series following a mid-season trade from the Cleveland Indians. A number of New York Yankees fans speculated, including yours truly, that one of the reasons the deep-pocketed Bronx Bombers wasn’t his ultimate choice was the public way the Yankees dealt with their negotiations with Derek Jeter as a free agent. Jeter addressed this at the press conference announcing his resigning by stating how the public negotiations had taken on an unnecessary negative tone. Was the public knocking of a player that had led a team to five world championships in 16 years a necessary step in holding down the negotiating lever? Jeter eventually signed for a salary that the Yankees were comfortable with, so in a sense they got their way, although Jeter had no leverage since he did not want to play elsewhere.

Will Jeter have the same feeling toward the only professional franchise he’s ever known? That remains to be seen, but you have to figure the public bashing of his skills had to affect him.

Now, how about the clients that you have served so willingly over the years that suddenly get put on hold because of your own pursuit of the new free agent client star? The chase for new business is exciting, but pleasing the rest of the client roster is essential as well, otherwise you’re left with one new player and a disgruntled clubhouse of clients that soon will begin their own free agent agency chase.

So while honing in on your next new business target, make sure you and your staff are taking care of the existing client base. Their loyalty will most depend on the loyalty you exhibit towards them.

Tom Cosentino

An Intern’s Memory of Boss Steinbrenner

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 13, 2010 by innovativemediapr

Not too many kids growing up as fans of the New York Yankees can say they had the chance to work or play for the Bronx Bombers.  That honor was one I experienced in 1983 when I served as a media relations intern with the Yankees.  The passing today of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made me think back to that season.

 It was the spring semester of my senior year at St. John’s University and I was registered for a 15-credit full-time internship with the Yankees.  I wound up working for Ken Nigro, a former sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun, who was in his first and only season as Media Relations Director for the team.  When asked at a post-season dinner if he would ever work again for Steinbrenner after quitting at the end of the season, Nigro was quoted as saying, “I’d rather have AIDS!”  That was strong rhetoric from a grown professional, but understandable, as this was the peak of George Steinbrenner’s feared reign as owner of the Yankees, when he had no qualms of firing his pr men, managers, front office executives and secretaries alike.

As a 21-year-old intern, I learned many things during that season. What stands out in my memory is how a front office loaded with middle age executives could be thrown into a tumultuous panic by the arrival of the Boss.  When Steinbrenner was away there was a different mood in the big ball orchard in the Bronx, as the late Art Rust Jr., used to call it.  But when he was expected in from Cleveland, everyone was on alert.

Keep in mind that 1983 marked the return of Billy Martin for his third tour of duty as Yankees manager.  By mid-summer, the UPI ticker in our office was ringing off the hook with alerts that Steinbrenner was about to fire Martin and replace him with Yogi Berra. This was because Martin had allegedly cursed at a NY Times researcher who had been granted permission to conduct a survey of the players in the clubhouse. Martin didn’t appreciate the way she was dressed and felt she didn’t belong.  Whether he cursed or not, the story made back page headlines and caused the Martin firing watch to begin.

I can remember leaving the front office at the Stadium on Saturday night after a game and seeing Yankees third base coach Don Zimmer in full uniform waiting to go into a meeting with Steinbrenner.  Apparently, Zimmer came to Martin’s defense that night and helped save Billy’s job.

The next morning, Steinbrenner announced that Martin was safe and I actually got to ride down in the elevator with the two as they went from the front office to the clubhouse to meet the media. 

One of my daily tasks as an intern was to deliver a statistics package to all the front office executives, as well as Mr. Steinbrenner.  On more than one occasion I walked in on him while he was in a meeting with his scouts and baseball people and he held out his hand and I just dropped the stat packet in them and turned and walked away.

Another one of my duties was answering the phone when Steinbrenner was looking for my boss.  He’d get on and his voice would bellow, “Where’s Nigro?”  “Find him.”  We’d then forward the call to the clubhouse and Nigro would always be one step ahead, ducking the call which naturally would come back to us.  The Boss would then say, “Get me the operator.”  Of course, the switchboard would be tied up and the call would come back to us and he’d roar on the phone, “I asked for the goddamn operator.”

Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News used to be Steinbrenner’s nemesis back then.  I think he even hung the moniker Boss on Steinbrenner.  We used to have to keep a file on everything Lupica wrote about Steinbrenner and Billy Martin.  The Yankee attorney used to run down and ask us for the file every time Steinbrenner would return from Cleveland.

When American League President Lee MacPhail overturned the ruling by home plate umpire Tim McClelland in the infamous Pine Tar game involving George Brett and the Royals, Steinbrenner really got mad.  With the Royals having to return to the Bronx to finish the half-inning of the game and the Yankees victory stripped from them by MacPhail, I was asked to come up with disparaging trades that the AL President had made while General Manager of the Yankees in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  It was easy to come up with some bad ones like Clete Boyer for Bill Robinson and Stan Bahnsen for Rich McKinney. I had to throw in a good one like acquiring Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater just to show editorial balance.

For the replay of the Pine Tar Game Steinbrenner wanted to treat the game as a festival, inviting campers to attend. But then he got incensed at MacPhail and did everything possible to prevent the game from being resumed.  It did get played and the Yanks lost in one of the most widely covered one inning games in history.

Most importantly for me, Steinbrenner actually agreed to have me placed on the payroll once my internship was complete. Ken Nigro had asked if this was possible and the Boss agreed.  So from late June until the end of October, I received a paycheck from the New York Yankees and became a paid media relations assistant. It wasn’t much but it helped pay for my tokens on the subway.

I learned a lot in 1983.  I learned first- hand how one individual’s presence impacted a professional sports franchise. As a fan of the team, I despised and praised him over the years. However, one thing is for sure. George Steinbrenner was a monumental figure not only in New York, but his presence forever changed the game of baseball.

Tom Cosentino

Fidrych’s Antics Fit the Era

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Baseball lost two legends yesterday in Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, 73,  and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, 54.  Kalas was one of the most popular and original announcers in the business.  He loved singing the song “High Hopes.”  That enthusiam carried him through each broadcast and made him a fixture in the lives of baseball fans, regardless of whether you were a Phillies fan or not. How fitting that he was given the opportunity to be part of the Phillies world championship before moving on to the big ballpark in the sky.

Fidrych on the other hand was a beloved character who, although his career was short and his success fleeting, became an indelible part of the game’s history.  His 1976 AL Rookie of the Year season in which he won 19 games and was the starting pitcher in the All Star Game will forever be remembered for the excitement he generated in ballparks all over the league, as fans came out in droves to see this eccentric righthander talk to the baseball and pat the dirt on the mound with his hands.

Fidrych’s rise to fame came quickly and was spread by the media of the day.  He appeared in Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News, and baseball columnists began chronicling his antics.  Fans that saw him pitch against their hometown team on television, anxiously awaited the Tigers visit to their local cities in order to see him in person.  What Fidrych became was an old fashioned gate attraction.

The enthusiasm generated for this unique character would probably not have been as powerful if it happened today.  In our modern era of 24-hour highlights, satellite television and the internet, baseball fans would have had numerous opportunities to see Fidrych pitch, and our modern attention spans would have most likely caused us to grow tired of the routine in fast order.

However, 1976 was the pre-ESPN Sportscenter era.   Local sports casts across the country were usually limited to highlights of the hometown teams.  Despite this, Fidrych’s routine on the mound became the talk of the sports world.  It also helped that he was dominating American League teams.

On June 28 in Detroit , the entire nation finally go to see him in action when he pitched against and defeated the New York Yankees on ABC Television’s Monday Night Baseball.  The national stage was his.  It led to his start for the American League in the All Star Game and caused even greater crowds to come out across American League ballparks the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, arm injuries curtailed his career and he never duplicated the magic of 1976.  What he did attain is baseball immortality.  It was the right era for “The Bird”  to come into the public’s consciousness. Let’s hope we continue to appreciate such characters when they come on the scene today.

Tom Cosentino

Former Steinbrenner PR Man Guests on Innovativemediapr Radio Show

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2009 by innovativemediapr

Our guest this morning at 11 am ET on our weekly Blogtalk Radio Show is Ken Nigro, who runs the Baseball Fantasy Camps for the Boston Red Sox. Nigro was my first boss in this industry as I interned with him in the Media Relations Department with the New York Yankees in 1983. Ken, a long-time baseball writer for the Baltimore Sun, dabbled in public relations for that one season, living through Billy Martin, the infamous Pine Tar Game, and what it was like to work for George Steinbrenner when George was truly the Boss. Ken will also give his take on what it was like to transition from journalist to publicist. We’ll also discuss steroids in baseball and whether those tarnished by steroid use will find their way into the Hall of Fame.

 

Join us at www.blogtalkradio.com/innovativemediapr at 11 am ET.  Call-in line is 646-929-2259.

 

Tom Cosentino

 

What A-Rod Should Have Said

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by innovativemediapr

I have now watched the replay of the press conference Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees staged yesterday in Tampa to address the revelation of his past steroids use and I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.  For all of the handlers surrounding A-Rod, you would have expected him to put on a stirring show of remorse and hopefully put the issue behind him. Instead, he created even more doubt in the minds of the 250+ media assembled and the American public watching live on television or viewing the replay like I did last night.

This is a crisis communications situation.  I don’t know for sure how A-Rod was prepped, but it certainly did not appear like it was done with any sense of the gravity of the situation.  Sure, his opening statements in which he revealed that an unamed cousin of his injected him with a substance he purchased over the counter in the Dominican Republic and referred to as Bole, was more than he revealed to ESPN’s Peter Gammons.  But to state on more than one occasion this occurred because he was young and stupid did nothing more than create doubt about what he put into his body and for how long.  The statement about his fearing for his career due to a neck injury was hard to believe as well.

A-Rod’s problem is that his insecurity has often led him to be misunderstood.  Now, it has set him on a path of being mistrusted.

If I had been advising A-Rod and preparing him for the press conference yesterday, here’s what I would have insisted his message points be:

§  I did have a performance enhanced drug injected into my body during the course of the 2001-2003 seasons while playing for the Texas Rangers

§  Despite what many in this room and throughout the country suspect, this was the only time I used performance enhanced drugs. I will gladly take a lie detector test to prove my case

§  I do not feel it necessary to reveal the source for how I received the drugs. I take full responsibility for purchasing and using them.  All I can say is that it was the same drug used all the time, purchased from a source in the Dominican Republic

§  After signing the richest contract in history following the 2000 season, I placed a lot of pressure on myself to perform up to the standards set by the contract.  I experimented with the performance enhanced drugs as a means to help my body recover and stay stronger as the season progressed

§  While I cannot say for sure how much of an assist this drug  gave me, if at all, I still felt the need to use them

§  I was informed by the Players Union’s Gene Orza about my potential failing of the drug test.  He said there may have been some false positives. I know I said I was in denial and really wasn’t sure I had actually failed it but let’s face it, I was lying to myself, the media and the fans

§   I stopped using the drugs at that point

§  With the testing in Major League Baseball in place and the promise that the results of the 2003 survey would remain anonymous, I did not think my use of performance enhanced drugs would ever be revealed 

§  That is why I categorically denied such use when asked by Katie Couric during the 60 Minutes interview she did with me.  It was wrong to lie. I purposely deceived her in order to maintain my reputation in the game. I have spoken to her and apologized

§  I have also apologized to Selena Roberts for the way I mischaracterized how she did her job in unveiling this story. She did everything right as a journalist and I behaved like a jerk

§  Now that my use of performance enhanced drugs is out, I know my reputation is forever tarnished

§  I cannot take back the past, as much as I would like to try to

§  All I can do now is continue playing the game using my God-given talent and skills

§  I have many more great years ahead of me.  When my career is over, I fully know that many will look at my career record and still feel doubtful because I cheated

§  The three years that I cheated the game and myself will be with me for life. I caused this and I will have to live with it

§  I apologize to Tom Hicks the owner of the Texas Rangers who committed to paying me the richest contract in baseball; I apologize to all of my teammates past and present; and most of all, I apologize to baseball fans around the country

§  I owe you my best on and off the field.  What I did was dangerous to my health and wrong. I hope to use the revelation of my use of performance enhanced drugs as a means to educate the youth of this country to the dangers of these drugs

§  Therefore, I have asked the New York Yankees to defer 10% of my yearly salary through the remainder of my contract to be placed in a special fund to be used to create an educational campaign against performance enhanced drugs. I will look to schedule speaking  appearances before youth groups  in every Major League city I travel to in order to spread this message and will work with the Commissioner and the Players Union to coordinate this effort

§  I will also fund the creation of a PSA and establish a separate health fund to assist those suffering from problems associated with the use of performance enhanced drugs

§  Sure, there were 103 other names on the list that haven’t come out.  It might be easy to sit here and say why me?  But to me, those names should stay anonymous.  What has happened to me is my own doing. Now it’s time for me to deal with the consequences

§  And now, I’m ready to take your questions     

Tom Cosentino

PR is Still PR Despite the Changes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 13, 2009 by innovativemediapr

As I write this initial blog entry from my desk at iMedia Public Relations  in Princeton, New Jersey, I’m struck by the fact that what I’m doing would have been considered revolutionary when I started out in this industry.

My public relations career started in 1983 when I served as a media relations intern with the New York Yankees. Back then, the way the media relations director, Ken Nigro, communicated with the beat writers covering the team was simple. He picked up the phone and reached out to them.   Of course, like the team does now, there was no shortage of reporters, television crews and radio reporters covering the team on a daily basis.  However, if there was breaking news on a day when there was no game at Yankee Stadium, the only way to contact all of the media in the New York metropolitan area was for us interns to get on the phone and call them.  Now,  hundreds of reporters can instantly be reached by email, text, IM and cell phone.

What hasn’t changed over the past 26 years is that you still must reach out to media and communicate your message. Back then we did not have a computer, cell phone or even fax machine.  Now, we can reach editors at a moment’s notice and track their movements via Twitter.  I used to laugh when  Nigro, who now runs the Red Sox fantasy camp, used to duck George Steinbrenner’s phone calls, moving from one clubhouse to another. I was on the receiving end of a tantrum by the Boss many a time when his call got bounced back to the media relations office after being forwarded to where Nigro was supposed to be.  That was when Steinbrenner was still Steinbrenner. I only can imagine what it would have been like for his pr men back then if George could have had access to the technology we have today!

As a public relations executive in this new media era, we are now blessed with numerous tools to reach media.  However, where many agencies fail clients today is that they embrace the technology available and forget that this is still a relationship business.  While it’s easier to reach media, you still need to communicate with them.  Whatever the platform, good pr is still achieved the same way it has for generations.  Build solid relationships with the media. 

This is especially vital for young account executives just entering the business.  It’s only natural that a generation that grew up with social media makes it their tool of choice.  This is fine if it achieves one of the communications objectives for a client program.  However, even in a social media space, it is imperative that these young pr professionals engage the bloggers or reporters they are targeting and foster a solid working relationship.  Just firing off an email does not do the trick. Building a relationship does.

Tom Cosentino