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Monday, June 4, 2012

YANKEE STORIES REVEALED BY PR GIANT MARTY APPEL


Thought you've heard everything about Mickey Mantle and Thurman Munson? Think again.  Recently I was lucky enough to get to know Former Yankees Public Relations Director Marty Appel, the author of 18 books and he's just released his latest one titled  Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss.

So, you know me...I had to pick his brain, I'm fascinated with Yankee history.  This is a guy that's been around so much Yankee history, he knows all the Yankees and the top guys in the organization. So I did my research, and I wanted to ask him questions that would hopefully get some answers that fans like you and I had never heard before.  Hopefully I succeeded.  So...here it is... I bring you Bleeding Yankee Blue's interview with Marty Appel, author and PR giant of the New York Yankees...Enjoy this, I did!

BYB: You were the Yankees Public Relations Director from 1973 to 1977, right when the Yankees climbed to the top and became World Champs.  Describe the Boss during your tenure there.

Marty Appel: We (front office) were  happy to see CBS sell the team (once we knew we still had jobs!), and hoped the new ownership would get us back into contention.  You could tell right away there was a new energy, a new determination to compete at a high level.  For those veterans in the front office who went back to pre-1965, this was especially wonderful.  I started in 1968, and hadn't yet worked for a pennant contender.  What we didn't realize at the time was that our new owner was going to be a national celebrity, almost the prototype of being a "boss."
 
BYB: Many people don't know that you were in charge of Mickey Mantle's fan mail before your PR gig. Why that job and just how overwhelming was it?

Marty Appel: Mick was in his final seasons and no longer bothering to open the mail.  99% said, "Dear Mickey, you are my favorite player, please send me an autographed ball."  So who could blame him?  The Yankees PR chief, Bob Fishel, hired me because I had written in with hopes of a summer job, and he knew that mail needed to be answered, or all those letter writers might become Mets fans.  So it was good timing for me.  I always managed to pull out about 3 or 4 letters that I needed to "personally review" with Mick, so I'd have face time and to go home each day knowing that Mickey Mantle knew my name, was awfully good for a lifelong fan.

BYB: You've been surrounded by so many Yankee greats. Now I'm putting you on the spot, who was your favorite and why?

Marty Appel: Mick was my favorite, because he treated me well and was a very nice guy.  His teammates loved him and I get that, I understand why.  Bobby Richardson was a boyhood idol, and we became, and remain, adult friends.  Other favorites had to do with just being decent, easy guys to get along with, not necessary well known players.  Ruben Amaro, Steve Whitaker, Bill Robinson, Roy WhiteFritz Peterson, Steve Hamilton, from that first year.  Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Mel Stottlemyre, Sparky Lyle, Ron Blomberg from later on.    


BYB: Many knew Thurman Munson as a great player and nice guy.  But I need to know, what was his personality like right before a game? How about outside of baseball at say a restaurant?

Marty Appel: He could be a world class grump, but I think he enjoyed that role, and much of it was an act.  He was very smart, always knew what he was doing.  The fans got him.  The press didn't.  He shut them down and they wrote about his not talking to them, but the fans somehow understand that there was an eye wink that went with that.  One day he gave the fans the middle finger when some booed him after he struck out.  Other players might have been booed louder, like Jack McDowell.  Instead, the fans turned it into a big cheer.  A great moment.

BYB: What are your thoughts on the New Yankee Stadium compared to the the House that Ruth Built?

Marty Appel: It met its number one criteria: when you are there, it still "feels" like Yankee Stadium.  You still feel the majesty and the history.  Sometimes I'm facing the field and I don't even think it's a different place because the outfield dimensions are still essentially the same.  

BYB: Billy Martin was one of the most passionate managers I've ever witnessed as a fan.  One on one, what was Martin like? And while I'm on Martin, describe that relationship he and Steinbrenner had?

Marty Appel: As well reported at the time, their relationship ran hot and cold.  When Billy felt he was being undermined (like Mr. Steinbrenner signing Reggie Jackson over Billy's objections), two hard-headed personalities clashed.  Billy responded by refusing to bat Reggie cleanup, which was the intention of the signing.  Oh boy, what Bronx Zoo days they were.  One on one with me, I never had a bad word with him, but I could never relax with him either.  It was strictly business; I never dared go out drinking with him.  So as strictly business, I was never really sure if he respected what I was saying or not.  I just did my job. 


BYB: I know you were a member of the Board of Directors for the Yogi Berra Museum.  What's the best part of talking with a man like Yogi Berra?

Marty Appel: Yogi is the Great American Success Story, he's living Yankee history, and he's as close to being a Baseball Saint as you can be.  Saint?  Well, you need three miracles, right?  How about dropping the foul ball off Ted Williams and getting a second chance to catch one on the next pitch to save Allie Reynolds no-hitter?  How about being a coach on the '69 Miracle Mets?  Coming back to the Yanks in '76 and their losing streak ends?  Having George Steinbrenner go to HIS museum to apologize to him? How about catching Don Larsen's first game ceremonial pitch in '99, handing glove to Girardi, then watching a perfect game by David Cone unfold?   One of the most decent men you'll ever know - and someone who always knows the right thing to do.  


BYB: If you had to choose 2 New York Yankee of the modern era that you feel deserves to be Hall of Famers on the first time ballot, who would they be and why?

Marty Appel: I don't think too many of your readers would disagree with this answer; Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.  No explanation necessary.  But I would add, that in '96, some felt Jeter wasn't ready, and a veteran shortstop was needed at least for one year.  So they discussed trading Mariano Rivera for Felix Fermin.  Imagine if they'd lost Mo in that deal, and if Fermin had a career year, they felt it was Okay to trade Jeter too.  If the best deals are the ones you don't make, how about that one.

BYB: What New York Yankees from the 1970's do you still keep in touch with and why is that relationship still so strong?

Marty Appel: I wish I saw Sparky Lyle more, but he's managing in central New Jersey and I don't keep in touch like I wish I could.  Chris Chambliss, Fritz Peterson and Roy White I'd call personal friends.  Ron Blomberg is beyond that, sort of like a brother.  He was an usher at my wedding. Those relationships are strong because they are regular guys, you don't think "Oh, he's a major leaguer!" when you're with them. 

BYB: Marty, your book Pinstripe Empire is incredible. Here's your chance...tell the Bleeding Yankee Blue readers why this book is a perfect book for the ultimate Yankee fan, as well as baseball fan?

Marty Appel: For the baseball fan, it's baseball history, which you can't tell without the Yankees story.  Believe me, this isn't the Yankee Yearbook, and I should know because I wrote a lot of them.  This is an unvarnished look at the highs and lows, and how they have become this great international brand, but how they stumbled along the way too.  They were slow to integrate, to broadcast, to play at night, to introduce promotions.  We explain the unique Red Sox rivalry and the strange Kansas City Athletics "farm team" relationship.  It's about more than wins and losses, it's about understanding why things happened and also visiting things that fans seem to enjoy - the comings and going in the broadcast booth, the backstage stories....and getting to know the second tier stars much better.  And I think I had a sense of knowing when a dramatic moment was happening, even if not appreciated at the time.  The last time Ed Lopat walked off the mound - that was the end of the Reynolds-Raschi-Lopat era.  When Mariano extended his arms on the mound after his record breaking save last year --- same gesture as Roger Maris after his 61st homer, 50 years before. 

BYB: Have you ever read Bleeding Yankee Blue, and if so, what do you think?

Marty Appel: I read a lot of Yankee blogs - Bleeding Yankee Blue does great photo research to accompany its stories, stays very timely and understands what the fans want to know.  I can only imagine what Billy Martin would have thought of talk radio and the blogosphere, but for fans, it's great.  Bleeding Yankee Blue is certainly a "top tier" Yankee blog, and you work hard to make it so, that's obvious.

Marty, thanks so much for the kind words and thanks for your terrific interview! I can't wait to ask you more as we move through the season.  You're a stand up guy and I'm thrilled that you spoke with us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, be sure to pick up Marty's book Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss.

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