Archive for Pine Tar Game

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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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

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