In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball Peopleby George Gmelch, J. J. Weiner, J.J. Weiner
This collection of interviews provides a look at the lives of 21 people who work in all parts of major and minor league baseball. Interviewees include those in the public eye such as manager Jim Leyland, Yankees player Bernie Williams, and the Philadelphia Phillies' mascot, the Phillie Phanatic.
"An important book about the contemporary nature and business of baseball. It is a worthwhile addition to any baseball library and an excellent introduction to the action and magic of the game that we do not often see or think about."
—NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture
- Smithsonian Institution Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.95(w) x 8.95(h) x 0.73(d)
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In the Ballpark
The Working Lives of Baseball People
By George Gmelch J. J. Weiner
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright © 2006
University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.
Where Are They Now?
When our editor, Rob Taylor, expressed interest in republishing
In the Ballpark, we decided to go back to our interviewees and
find out what they are doing today. Of the twenty-one personalities
in the book, we were able to reach eighteen. It has now
been a decade since we conducted the first interviews; the following
is what these baseball people are currently up to and
some of their thoughts about how baseball and their professions
Beer vendor Jerry Collier has left his job in baseball to focus on
his career in banking. "For me, the fun was disappearing," he
On Opening Day 1987, my friend and I each sold forty cases
of beer in a single game, which is a record that stands today.
In 1993 I was selling twenty-two or twenty-three cases a game,
and when I left in 1996, I was averaging seventeen or eighteen
cases a game. Now, I think the top guys sell ten or eleven cases a
game. All you do is walk around looking for the sale, whereas in
the past you would just set the thing down and pour. There are
so many places to buy beer around the stadium now that it cut
into ourmarket. And it's not a bad thing, but people are drinking
more responsibly at the ballpark. You can still make great
money, though, because the price of beer has doubled. If you sell
half the product at twice the price you're going to make the same
amount of money but have less fun.
The other two things that caused me to leave-and these are
probably more important in life-is that I had my first child, and
I had the chance to take on a significant management job at the
bank. When you have a newborn baby and you're in charge of a
business with twenty employees, you can't run off at 5:30 to sell
beer at the ballpark.
On my last day the other vendors gave me a big send-off at a
local pub with a cake and everything. One guy who was a fierce
competitor of mine said to someone, "You're going to see a different
side of him tonight that you didn't know existed." He
knew how much it meant to me. I tried to give a speech, but I
couldn't get through it. I had been there a long time, was good at
what I did, and I had become part of baseball in Baltimore, so it
was hard to walk away. The thing I miss most is the people, my
ballpark buddies. But I still see those guys at games, and we'll
always be brothers because of what we shared.
Here's a great example of my connection to that job even today.
I was on a red-eye to London with my wife for a business
trip. We got no sleep on the plane. I've got a business meeting in
four hours, and we're waiting at a cab stand when this guy runs
over to me. He's got a smile from ear to ear. He hugs me, and he's
got his buddy with him, and he starts saying in this thick English
accent, "A puddle of mud, a puddle of mud." My wife asks, "Do
we know you?" His buddy grabs him, and he says, "You bollocks,
it wasn't a puddle of mud, it was a bottle of Bud, a bottle
of Bud." Then this guy talks my ear off about going to an Orioles
game when I sold him beer. Whatever I did, it must have been
important because he remembered it years later. You just don't
create those kinds of bonds from a chance meeting in banking.
When the first edition of In the Ballpark appeared, several
book reviewers commented on Jerry's chapter. He recalls,
I was in Lansing, Michigan, visiting a client. When I left the
meeting I picked up my cell phone and saw that my voicemail
had twenty-four messages. That's twice as many as I usually got.
I thought something had to be wrong. Most of them were from
my friends, and the messages were basically identical: "You're
a big star! Check out page four of Sports Illustrated!" I keep a
copy of the American Way (American Airlines's in-flight magazine)
in my office, and sometimes I tell bankers, here check this
out. Here's something you never knew about me.
Vending has absolutely influenced my career at the bank because
to be successful in any kind of people business, you need
to know how to treat people the "right" way. That guy from
England remembered me because of that. You've got to make
a living, but you've got to do it in a way that puts other people
first. When I was selling beer, I never realized that was the gift I
had with people, and that's why I was successful at it.
I don't think I could ever go back to vending at the level I
would want to be at. That's a young man's game. But I'm blessed
to have done it. Most people will never understand that. To have
at a young age the chance to succeed and not just be given an
hourly wage or an opportunity because of family connections
taught me a lot about life.
I share season tickets now with some friends, and the seats are
in the third row right behind the visiting team's on-deck circle,
my old section. It's cool because I go with my kids, and I high five
all the vendors, and they'll give my wife a hug. During any one
game I still have people come down to me and recount a story or
just shout out, "Hey, Beer Man!"
Tom Burgoyne is still the Phillie Phanatic and has traveled much
of the world as a Major League Baseball mascot. Drawing on
his Phanatic experience, he has coauthored two books with his
friend Robert Gordon: More Than Beards, Bellies and Biceps:
The Story of the 1993 Phillies (And the Phillie Phanatic Too)
and Movin' On Up: Baseball and Philadelphia: Then, Now, and
Always. "Writing is a whole different experience from performing,"
says Tom. "With performing, you suit-up, it's a physical
thing. That comes naturally to me. Writing is harder, but there
are times when it does flow. Then you get that same rush. What
I like about writing is that you have something tangible at the
end of the day."
Tom has always tried to separate himself from the Phanatic
to keep the illusion of the character alive. In conversation he always
talks about the Phanatic in the third person. At book signings
he lets the audience know that his friend the Phanatic might
show up later to say hello to everyone. Whenever he appears on
local television as himself, his graphic reads, "Tom Burgoyne:
Friend of the Phanatic."
Tom has also written several children's books, including The
Phillie Phanatic's Happiest Moments, The Phillie Phanatic's Phantastic
Journey, about the Phanatic's travels around the world, and
The Phillie Phanatic's Moving Day, dealing with the Phillies leaving
Veterans Stadium for Citizens Bank Park. Tom recalls,
Leaving the Vet was very sad for me, both as a fan and as someone
who worked there for fifteen years. I had so many fond
memories. But I was also excited for the new place. And the new
stadium has changed the whole experience of going to a ballgame
in Philadelphia. Our crowds are better; they're more rambunctious.
We're getting more of the college crowd and young
professionals. Now, people spend a lot of money to come to a
game, so there's more emphasis on the entertainment dollar and
more focus on how to make it a full experience. The stadium
has a couple of restaurants, games in the outfield, artwork on
the concourse. The Phanatic used to be the whole show as far as
the nonbaseball entertainment was concerned. Now, coming to
a game is really a full package.
One of the biggest innovations in the Phanatic's routine has
been a three-and-a-half-foot fiberglass hot dog launcher, provided
by Hatfield Quality Meats to promote their "Phanatic
Frank," a hot dog marketed to children. When the Phillies
moved into their new ballpark, Tom attached a six-foot hot dog
launcher to his ATV that generates about 350 psi of pressure.
This allows the Phanatic Frank to reach the upper decks from
the middle of the outfield. "At first I thought that was kind of a
cheap way to get a laugh, but the fans loved it so much that we
just kept up with it. I try to bring it out only once during a home
stand so it doesn't lose its appeal completely."
With the Phillies organization, Tom has expanded the Phanatic's
community outreach. Together, they started a program called
"Be a Phanatic about Reading," which encourages children to
read for fifteen minutes every day. In its first year, seventy-three
thousand children throughout the Delaware Valley signed up.
Tom visits about forty schools a year as part of the program.
Tom is now also married and has three children. When asked
about the effect his character has on his children, he said,
I never tried to keep it a secret from my kids. I was up front with
them from the outset. I told them not to brag about it, that it
was just our secret. Now that they're a little older, I'll still throw
that line out and they just look at me and say, "Dad, everybody
knows. When you drop us off at school in the Phanatic van, I
think they understand." They're probably getting to an age now
where Dad is a little embarrassing, too.
In 2002 the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum officially
welcomed the costume of the Phillie Phanatic into the
museum's permanent collection with a dedication ceremony
during induction weekend. Tom has joined the Famous Chicken
and Youppi of the Montreal Expos as one of only three mascots
in the Hall of Fame.
Walter Banks is still the VIP usher at Turner Field. When the
Braves moved from Fulton County Stadium, Walter says, "It
was like losing an old friend." Walter was named to the Atlanta
Convention and Visitors Bureau Hall of Fame in 2002. He has
yet to miss a game since 1965. In a CNN interview Walter was
asked how much longer he planned working at the ballpark.
"Well, you can never tell," he responded. "As long as you're
feeling all right, you enjoy it, why quit something you like? If it
ain't broke, don't fix it."
In 2005 Atlanta Braves scout Hep Cronin was promoted to
Midwest regional scouting supervisor. When he was an area
scout, Hep covered his multistate territory by car. Now that he
is responsible for an entire region and is also a national cross-checker,
he travels mainly by air. "It's plane after plane after
plane. I think I took eighteen flights in thirteen days in May. In
some ways it was a lot easier to drive. I could put more stuff in
my car and was prepared for any weather."
Hep is still happy to be working for the Braves, particularly for
general manager John Schuerholz, who once was a scout himself
and values his employees. Schuerholz sometimes refers to his
scouts as "the most important part of the Braves organization."
Excerpted from In the Ballpark
by George Gmelch J. J. Weiner
Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
George Gmelch, a former first baseman in the Detroit Tigers farm system, is Roger Thayer Stone Professor of Anthropology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is the author of nine books, including Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball, also available in a Bison Books edition, and Baseball without Borders: The International Pastime (Nebraska 2006). J. J. Weiner worked in the front office of the Birmingham Barons and collaborated on this book as an anthropology student.
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