Now Pitching for the Yankees: Spinning the News for Mickey, Billy and George

Now Pitching for the Yankees: Spinning the News for Mickey, Billy and George

Now Pitching for the Yankees: Spinning the News for Mickey, Billy and George

Now Pitching for the Yankees: Spinning the News for Mickey, Billy and George

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Overview

A legendary New York Yankees PR man offers readers an inside look at one of baseball’s greatest teams.
 
Starting as a college student sorting Mickey Mantle’s fan mail and rising to become the youngest director of public relations in baseball history, Marty Appel offers a unique behind-the-scenes memoir of life with the New York Yankees from 1968 to 1977. Appel stood shoulder-to-shoulder with both the benchwarmers and the superstars of the past and present, from tempestuous owner George Steinbrenner and his equally tempestuous manager Billy Martin (whom Howard Cosell once called “a beleaguered little pepperpot”) to Hall of Famers like Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson. With a new chapter bringing the story up-to-date, as well as changes and milestones in the game he loves, Marty Appel paints a hilarious and poignant portrait of the Yankees.
 
“[Appel’s] love of baseball shines through here, and Yankee fans will lap up his humorous stories of Yankee greats and not-so-greats.” —Library Journal
 
“A poignant account of a fan turned public relations executive working for baseball’s most glamorized team.” —Baseball America

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626811218
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 02/06/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 303
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

About The Author
Marty Appel is widely acknowledged as the nation's leading historian on the New York Yankees. His time with the Yankees in public relations and television production stretched from 1968-1992, and is uniquely documented in his memoir, Now Pitching for the Yankees, named New York baseball book of the year by ESPN.com. A Brooklyn-born Yankees fan who has followed the team since 1955, he continues his association with the club, appearing frequently on Yankeeographies (YES Network), and Yankees.com (where he interviews former players), while writing for team publications. Appel is the author of 18 books including the acclaimed Yankees history Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss, and Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain. He has won an Emmy award for a WPIX special on Billy Martin, a Casey Award (baseball book of the year) for Slide, Kelly, Slide (a biography of the 19th century star King Kelly), the Dick Young Award for long and meritorious service to baseball, the Dick Steinberg "Good Guy Award" from the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame; serves as magazine historian for the Baseball Hall of Fame's "Memories and Dreams," is a columnist on vintage books for Sports Collectors Digest, and has also written books with Tom Seaver, Larry King, Bowie Kuhn, Lee MacPhail and umpire Eric Gregg. He resides in Manhattan with his wife and has two grown children.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Yankee Fan from Brooklyn

I was an accidental Yankee fan.

It was all a mistake.

I was seven years old and didn't know what I was doing.

And since much that has happened in my life since has been determined by that most important decision we make as children — who we root for — I have to wonder whether perhaps I chose the wrong path when I came to that particular fork in the road.

If so, it was a lucky accident.

I turned seven in the summer of 1955. Baseball hadn't entered my life yet. But by October there was something called a Subway Series in town. The Dodgers against the Yankees. A World Series. My baseball awakening.

Had I known my baseball history, I would have realized that this was not their first meeting. They had played each other in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953. Each time, the Yankees had won.

It came to be expected. The Dodgers, the team of the common folk, where even those who sat in cramped box seats at Ebbets Fields were actually "bleacher bums," were the lovable losers whose rallying cry had become "wait till next year!"

The Yankees, the team of Wall Street fans, of the businesslike precision that had brought them endless pennants, won so often and predictably that not once did they get a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, as is so common today.

Had I really known the Dodger players — Jackie and Pee Wee, Campy and Furillo, Snider and Hodges, Erskine, Newcombe, Gilliam — the later-named "Boys of Summer" (from the book by Roger Kahn) — I would probably have loved them, as did most of my neighbors on St. John's Place in Brooklyn.

But I didn't know the players. All I came to know was the celebration in the streets when Johnny Podres beat the Yanks in the seventh game for the first world championship ever in Brooklyn.

I guess I just wasn't educated enough in the game to understand the true significance of that Brooklyn victory over the Yankees. I was confused, and something within me made me suddenly feel sorry for the losers.

Amidst all the excitement, my heart went out to the poor Yanks. Surely they must have tried their hardest and come up short. How sad they must feel!

And so on that day, October 4, 1955, I became a Yankee fan. I was going to be a champion of the underdog. I was going to root my little heart out for these poor guys in pinstripe uniforms until they could get back on their feet and hold their heads high. I would not be like all my neighbors. I was going to go it alone in the borough of Brooklyn.

Nearly half a century later, having gone on to become the Yankees' public relations director and the executive producer of their telecasts, having written books and represented clients within the Yankees' world, it is still the Yankee box score that I check first in the morning paper. They have won another 10 world championships since 1955, and I have come to accept that they are anything but underdogs. But there is nothing like the fan loyalty that develops when you're a kid, and nothing like the undying devotion of a man to his team. A lot of wonderful adventures have flowed from that fateful day in '55, along with a lot of fascinating people I've been fortunate to work with.

Had I become a Dodger fan, like most people in Brooklyn were supposed to be, I would have lost my team to Los Angeles two years later. Sometimes things happen for a reason.

I was born on August 7, 1948. Nine days later, Babe Ruth died. I'm told that when I heard the news I cried like a baby.

The Brooklyn I remember was one in the final years of trolley cars and of great military parades on Armistice Day along Eastern Parkway, the model train set in Prospect Park, our brownstone at 1215 St. John's Place, our black 1950 Chevy with the gray top, and stoop ball with pink Spaldeens at Aunt Goldye's house.

My father took great pride in that Chevy. He had taken a train to Detroit to pick it up, and he kept it immaculate, especially the light gray interior. Then we paid a visit to his mother-in-law in the Bronx, my grandmother, and she insisted that he take home a jar of her homemade borscht — the dark red, made-from-beets, European specialty of hers. "No, please, thanks just the same, but we'd rather not," he said. To no avail.

When we got home he discovered that it had spilled all over the Chevy's upholstery. My grandmother never lived down the borscht story, partly because that remained the family car until 1959, and she remained his mother-in-law until she died in 1994 at the age of 94.

My family moved to Maspeth, Queens, soon after the Dodgers won the '55 Series. We bought a two-bedroom co-op for $79 a month. Topps baseball cards were a nickel a pack, and a quart of milk was a quarter — I was entrusted to go to the milk machine in the basement to make that purchase on occasion. I now had a younger brother and roommate, Norman, who went on to become a chemist but not much of a sports fan.

I got a Yankee jacket around that time, along with a Yankee cap, and a road-gray flannel Yankee uniform, made so by my mother ironing the words New York onto the front, except for the R being backwards. It came with real stirrup socks and knickers, and what a total thrill that was to wear.

It was in Queens that I first learned to play ball. We played punch ball and slap ball and box ball in the playground, and then hardball in the Police Athletic League sandlots of Maurice Park. Richie Zisk, who later played for the Pirates and White Sox, was part of that league. We had green caps with PAL buttons on them, and no uniforms, but the games were on real diamonds and I loved them.

Like every other Yankee fan, I loved Mickey Mantle, but Bobby Richardson was special to me. I felt he was a favorite player uniquely my own, not to be shared with everyone. I loved his game. I kept both his daily and career stats updated on my bulletin board, and I could practically recite the names of all 35 pitchers he touched for home runs (Arnie Portocarrero twice), including Clem Labine (grand slam) in the 1960 World Series. I knew that John Buzhardt was the pitcher who ended his longest hitting streak at 18 games, and I knew that a Los Angeles Angels infielder named Billy Moran had beaten him out to start an All-Star Game, which fries me to this day. I also knew that when I needed to bear down and get a hit, I would drop my knees a little like he did, hold the bat high and level, and tell myself, "I'm Bobby Richardson," and hit the ball better than I might have.

Inspired by Bobby, I learned to play second base; and to this day, in my fifties, I am totally at home there, no matter how seldom I play. Somehow, I seemed to have an instinct for it. Even at 10 or 11, I knew all the moves. I could make the pivot, knew how to signal to the outfielders how many outs there were, how to determine who was covering second on a force (mouth open or closed), when to play in, how to whip that ball around the infield after an out, how to cover first on a bunt, how to execute the cutoffs, how to sift the dirt with my foot after an error, as though a pebble had found its way there, and, of course, all the big league moves like tossing the ball onto the mound if you caught the last out, which I loved doing. Very cool.

I wrote him a fan letter in 1959, his first season as a regular, and I got home from school one day to find a black-and-white postcard of him, signed on the back, saying, "Really appreciated your letter. Sincerely, Bobby Richardson." That was the best autograph I ever got. My memory of how our apartment in Queens looked includes where that postcard was on the Formica kitchen counter.

I soon joined his well-organized fan club, as posted in Sport magazine, and although the mailings from the club always included religious tracts, I still couldn't wait to get them. Bobby may have been an ardent Baptist, but he also hit .301 in 1959 and made the All-Star team, which counted for a lot where I came from.

In 1962 the fan club held a contest. We had to guess in which game he would get his 100th hit of the season.

I hit it right on the nose (I think it was the 81st), and I received a Western Union telegram the next day saying, "Congratulations, you have won an autographed baseball in the 100 Hit Contest!"

Later that season, I met the co-presidents of the fan club at Yankee Stadium, Candy and Jimmy Lindstrom, and they in turn walked me to the front-row boxes near first base during batting practice and called Bobby over. I had never been so close to a real Yankee! I had never really seen the heavy flannel cloth of the uniform up close. I had never even been in the box seats before! I was introduced as the winner of the contest, and, although I don't remember what we said, I was so in awe of the moment that it couldn't have been very profound.

Bobby was truly a special person. His teammates liked him because, although he may not have been "one of the boys," he did command respect. They didn't swear around Bobby, although it was said that when Yogi Berra became manager, that was a bit of a sore point between them. Yogi spoke not only "Yogi," he spoke baseball — and that can be a colorful language. When a remorseful Mickey Mantle lay dying in a Dallas hospital, it was Bobby Richardson who sat with him, talked him through the life he had led, and brought him in touch with God. Richardson and Mantle respected each other, which speaks volumes about them both.

I was not just an anonymous fan club member to Richardson. When I went to work for the Yankees two years after his retirement, I wrote to Bobby and told him I was now answering fan mail in the basement office near the clubhouse. He immediately phoned me, let me know that he remembered me, and wished me good luck. And then, a few years later, when it fell to me to plan Old Timers Days — well, Bobby was always first on the list. And when we opened the new Yankee Stadium in 1976, I made sure Bobby delivered the invocation on the field.

When I left the Yankees, Bobby stopped going to Old Timers Days. He said it wasn't the same, which was a compliment to me because he included me among the "old guard," even though I came along two years after he had retired.

Each year we exchange Christmas cards, and I always make note of another year passing and his record of 12 RBIs in a World Series still standing. As of 2000 it had survived for an unbelievable 40 years, longer than the Ruth or Maris single-season home run records.

When I went to work for the Atlanta Olympic Committee in 1992, Bobby called from his home in Sumter, South Carolina, and asked if he could come down and have lunch with me one day.

So we had lunch in Atlanta, and I brought the ball he had signed for me when I won that contest in 1962. And he signed his name again, 30 years later.

Maybe we'll do it one more time in 2022.

My dad and his twin sister, Sydell, were the fifth and sixth children of Ukrainian immigrants who had come to the United States after the turn of the century. All of the seven children were Brooklyn born, and, although Yiddish was my grandparents' language, the kids were all English speakers.

Every few years, rather than pay an extra $5 a month in rent, the family would move to another Brooklyn brownstone, generally in the Williamsburg neighborhood, where many Jewish people settled. My grandfather had a rag business — he would collect rags and resell them in bulk to garment manufacturers. At another time he operated a shaved ice business off a pushcart, where customers could get lemonade or orangeade from a large tank, beautifully polished and lined with lemon or orange slices. Because there were no paper cups, he used glasses, and you had to consume it there and return the glass on the spot.

My grandfather had been a horse soldier in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and this knowledge certainly helped me conjure up the image of a dashing, heroic young man on horseback.

But I only knew him as an elderly man; frail, Yiddish-speaking, and seldom rising from his recliner as he watched television hour after hour when we visited. I don't think he understood anything he saw, but I marvel today to think that he was only in his sixties at the time. He wasn't ill — people just became elderly at an earlier age back then. To borrow a Yogi-ism, "it gets late early out there."

His wife, my grandmother, died when I was just a baby, but he lived until 1963. I was always close to all of my father's brothers and sisters, and we used to have a "cousins club" at which the whole extended family would gather. My generation failed to keep that up, and I miss the regular contact with my cousins.

None of my aunts or uncles was particularly interested in sports, with the exception of Uncle Phil, who loved the ponies. He was not a betting man; he just loved the atmosphere at the track, loved standing along the rail and admiring the horses.

Aunt Syd, my father's twin, was a five-foot dynamo who, despite being among the youngest, was the matriarch of the clan. She was a dynamic businesswoman who drove big Cadillacs, dressed to kill, wore the spikiest high heels, and held opinions on everyone and everything. She was a figure to reckon with.

My father was the only one of the four boys to get drafted in World War II. He had graduated from Boys High and had gone on to work in the dispensary at Jacobs Shoe Factory in Brooklyn, distributing bandages when needed.

The Army deemed that enough of a qualification to make him a medic. So off he went to the European theater, part of General Patton's army, reaching the rank of corporal, and landing at Normandy in the great invasion.

I think the war years were the best years of his life. For a kid from Brooklyn to be off to Europe for this great adventure, with the safety of the Red Cross around his sleeve, with a French girlfriend named Trudy, to fight "the good war," it must have been a thrill. War as a thrill? To hear him tell his stories, it surely was. Yogi, who also landed at Normandy (the only major leaguer to do so), called the first night of the invasion "beautiful," with the skyrockets going off. I saw Saving Private Ryan; it wasn't beautiful. Maybe we were looking at two different wars.

My dad is a great and loyal friend and truly one of the biggest hearted and nicest men you would ever want to meet. It says a lot about him to know that he and his Brooklyn buddies — Louie and Artie and Hermie and Jack and Jake and Kivie and the rest — remained friends for all of their adult lives, when most of them resettled in Florida. These were friendships of more than 75 years! One day during the war, the whole bunch of them managed to meet up at Trafalgar Square in London — they had somehow all arranged for one-day furloughs at the same time. And they all came home from the war in one piece.

After the war, my father's older brother Bill took him in and taught him the insurance business. For the next 34 years he worked as an insurance broker, a job that never created much interesting dinner conversation. He was a suit-and-tie sort of guy, one who would even keep his tie on when he mowed the lawn. The hustle and bustle of working in Manhattan could try anyone's nerves, and in his younger years he could be a little stressed out after a day's work and commute.

In 1972 he was held up in his office, the gun-toting robber throwing an overcoat over his head as he rifled the drawers for cash. (Cash in an insurance office?) My father thought he was a goner, and just a few months later he moved his office up near our suburban home in Rockland County. From that point on, he became a much mellower figure. Everyone who knew him thought he was one of the most easy going people they had ever met.

He met my mother soon after returning from the war. A mutual friend introduced them — Kivie, from that boyhood crowd of his. My mother, Celia Mann, lived in the Bronx with her parents and her two younger sisters, Selma and Ruth. If you've ever traveled by subway from Brooklyn to the Bronx, you will understand why, after two or three dates, my father had had it with the trip and asked her to marry him. He was, after all, already 30 years old.

My mother was nine years younger than my father but liked to say, "Girls mature much faster than boys." In her case, it was certainly true. Her mother worked, first in Germany and then in the United States, and as the oldest sister she had the responsibility of helping raise her two siblings. This created in her a strong work ethic and a very serious nature. She had a pretty face, which radiated when she smiled, but she did take life very seriously, and it was hard to ever find her totally relaxed.

She was born in Germany in 1925, and thus was old enough to remember seeing Hitler parade through her city, Karlsruhe, and to understand the rise of Nazism. Christian friends told her she could no longer enter their homes through the front door. Once the brightest student in her class, she was relegated to the back of the classrooms and never called upon when she raised her hand.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Now Pitching for the Yankees"
by .
Copyright © 2001 Marty Appel.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
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.

Table of Contents

1: Yankee Fan From Brooklyn,
2: Baseball Grandfathers,
3: The Babe's Big Secret,
4: Shhh! Mick Cries at Movies,
5: Avoid the Back of the Bus,
6: Don't Mess with Yankee Ghosts,
7: For Sale: Dynasty, Shaken,
8: Cheap, But First Class,
9: The Kluttz and the Catfish,
10: Billy's Old Timers Invitation,
11: Oscar's Haircut,
12: Mickey, Get Back to Your Spot!,
13: Another Week of This!!,
14: I Almost Lose Reggie for the Yankees,
15: Of Scooters and Roses, Kings and Kuhns,
16: Sandy, I Just Don't Like What I'm Seeing Here,
17: Wild Goose Chase,
18: No More Mr. White Guy,
19: Topping It All Off,
20: Catching Up,
Photo Gallery,

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