May 2010

WINS THAT GALVANIZE A TEAM

 

Gross.jpg

        The rain we dodged during
the game last night at Camden Yards is now pounding our charter plane as we get
ready to take off for Detroit.  As I peer out the window from Row 4, Seat A,
I become a little reflective in reliving the rather miraculous five-run rally
we mounted in the seventh inning against the Orioles which snatched victory
from the jaws of defeat.  Yes, it was
only one win, but I’ve learned over the years that this is the type of stirring
comeback that can galvanize a team. 

 

Ron Romanick,
our personable bullpen coach, said as much while we were chatting on the bus to
the airport.  “These are the kind of games
that can make a team closer,” he said, looking a little wilted from the Maryland humidity. Our
guys knew this was a big opening series to the road trip, with Detroit
and Boston
looming, it was critical that we won this series.  With the team trailing 5-2 after seven
innings in the rubber match tonight, the script wasn’t exactly going as
planned. 

 

There
had been some good signs surface in the game, though, as two hitting droughts came
to a merciful end. 
Gabe Gross snapped a personal 52-game homerless streak with a
two-run bomb to straight away center field and
Mark Ellis drilled a sharp single to center to halt a 0-for-16
dry spell.  Yet, things turned south in the
seventh when
Tyson Ross was summoned in relief
of
Gio
Gonzalez
.  Ross, who has been a revelation in his rookie
campaign, hit the inevitable skid that affects every reliever at some point
during the season; he faced four batters and all reached base. 

 

Kouz.jpg

He
might have been the goat of the game, had it not been for his A’s teammates who
picked him up by puncturing the Orioles’ bubble in the eighth with a five-run
explosion keyed by
Kevin Kouzmanoff’s bases-loaded
double.  Again, it was a team win, and beyond
Gross, Ellis and Kouz,
Adam Rosales
continued to shine in his “Where’s Waldo” utility role, making some difficult
plays at shortstop. 
Kurt Suzuki gunned out a would-be base stealer and then
contributed an infield single just prior to Kouzmanoff’s 3-RBI blast.  The bullpen stalwarts,
Craig Breslow and closer Andrew Bailey
made like old times, preserving the win with some stifling relief pitching in
the final two innings.  

 

So
on the short term, we depart for a challenging four-game set in the Motor City,
having won five of our last six and perched two games over the .500 mark.  But on the long term, this is the kind of
dramatic win that could propel us to better times ahead.  If we’re still in the playoff hunt come
September–certainly a worthy goal for this still young and developing team–I
suspect we will look back to May 27 and the night we dodged thunderstorms and certain
defeat by coming off the deck to win like champions.  Perhaps it was an early sign that the tide is
turning for Oakland
A’s baseball and our young boys are becoming men.  Of course, as the old baseball adage goes, I
can’t get too high after wins or too low after losses.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

BRADEN LATEST IN LONG LIST OF COLORFUL CHARACTERS (part 2 of 2)

Today we continue with part 2 of this two-part blog:

Thumbnail image for Sid.jpg6) Sid Gillman,
LA Express Coach–
Gillman was a
football legend before he ever arrived in the USFL late in his coaching
career.  Called “The Father of
Passing Offense” dating back to his early AFL years with the San Diego
Chargers and Houston Oilers, Gillman’s brilliant mind was only matched by
his impatience.  When
John Hadl, his former QB pupil, was named head coach of
the Express, he soon hired Gillman as an offensive consultant.  After watching film of current LA
players, he soon informed Hadl that the team was lacking speed at the wide
receiver position.  The next week,
the team flies in two fleet-footed receivers from the Philadelphia area upon Gilman’s
request.  He lines them up at the
Express’ practice facilities in Manhattan
Beach and blows his whistle to signal the start
of a 40-yard test.  Twenty yards
into the sprint, Gilman is not pleased by the time he sees on his
stopwatch.  He abruptly swirls
around and walks back towards his office, leaving the two hopeful
receivers with 20 yards left to their test.  “Get ‘em on the next flight back to
Philly.  They’re not fast
enough.”

7) Greg Fields,
LA Express Sack Leader–
Another
entertaining chapter from my LA Express tenure involved former Grambling
defensive end Greg Fields.  The 6-6,
275-pound lineman had led the Express in sacks in its 1983 charter season,
yet many former USC players on LA’s defensive unit were getting more local
media coverage due to their college affiliation in the local market.  Fields, an imposing figure, always came
up to me on the practice field or in my office to complain about his lack
of coverage.  “Hey Pub Man, get me
some pub.  That’s all he would ever say.  I’m not sure he ever knew my real
name.  However, as LA’s second
season rolled around, the team had vastly improved by winning
several battles with the NFL in luring some of the nation’s top collegians
to the Express.  On the Wednesday
leading up to the 1984 opener, it was decided that the one-dimensional
Fields no longer deserved a spot on the roster.  Coach Hadl called him into his office to
break the news.  Fields, while
holding a carton of chocolate milk, sucker punched the head coach.  Hadl fell to the floor, then got up
swinging.  His black eye
unavoidable, the Los Angeles Times and
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
reported the story in their next day’s editions.  All I could think was, “Hey Fields, I
guess the Pub Man finally got you some pub.”

Colin.jpg8) Colin Scotts,
St. Louis Football Cardinals’ Defensive End –
Colin Scotts was a publicist’s dream.  Born in Sydney, Australia,
the son of an owner of silver mines and a national Aussie Football
schoolboy star, the 6-5, 260-pound Scots became the first player from Down
Under to play in the National Football League.  When the Cardinals drafted him and I saw
footage of some of his games at the University of Hawaii,
I almost flipped.  Not only had he
applied his rugby skills to American football by becoming one of the
NCAA’s sack leaders, but Scotts had perfected his post-sack celebrations
like few before him.  As he
described to the St. Louis
media upon arriving at training camp, “Yes mates, I like to have a good
time and celebrate my sacks.” 
Primarily, he had three distinct maneuvers after his sacks.  As he sat with the writers watching some
of his Hawaii highlights, he said, “This is called my kangaroo hop,” as he placed his hands together, wrist down,
chest high in front of him like a kangaroo, while he took a little hop
with his feet close to each other.  “This next one, I call the crocodile yawn,” a move that
required him to stand erect over the fallen quarterback, both arms
together extended straight out, then separating the arms as if opening a
crocodile’s mouth before quickly snapping the arms–or mouth–shut
again.  “And the last one here I
call the koala bear cuddle,” as
the film showed him mockingly put a hug around an imaginary
QB.  Safe to say, I will never
forget
Colin Scotts. (For more info on Scotts check out this YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58v5xnChzEM)


Beck.jpg9) Rod Beck,
Giants Closer–
Bay Area baseball
fans are well aware of the scraggly-haired mustachioed closer of the
Giants they called “Shooter.”  The
late, great
Rod Beck did a better
impression of “The Wild Thing” than
Charlie Sheen did in playing the famed character in the movie, Major League,
years later.  The right arm,
dangling back and forth on the mound. 
The cold stare from the mound. 
And that nasty split-fingered fastball that seemed to fall off the
proverbial table whenever Shooter needed a key strikeout.  After the game, win or lose, save or
blown save, you could always count on Beck to be at his locker, beer in
one hand, a cig in the other, available for quotes for the media no matter
what the situation.  Yet while Beck exuded
that every-common-man persona, as well as a Mr. Tough Guy image, what I
remember most about Rod was how sensitive and kind-hearted he was.  When I co-founded “Until There’s A Cure
Day,” an event where the Giants became the first professional sports team
to become associated with the AIDS epidemic, we had real concerns about
whether any players would support the cause.  I remember Rod Beck and his wife,
Stacey, never hesitating, which cleared the way for other Giants players
to shed their macho image and lend a hand. 
One afternoon, I took Beck and young shortstop
Royce Clayton to a San
Francisco high school to address a student
assembly about the dangers of HIV. 
Rod finished his short, heart-felt speech by saying, “Last year at
the first Until There’s A Cure Day” I volunteered to read the names on the
AIDS Quilt of people who had lost their lives to AIDS.  It was so sad.”  Then he paused for a minute, trying to
gather himself while fighting back a tear from his eye.  Still choked up, he finished by pointing
his finger at the teenagers in the crowd. 
“I don’t ever want to
read your names on a quilt.”  With
that, the Shooter returned to the Stick to close out another game.


Braden.jpg10) Dallas Braden,
A’s Starter
– To understand Dallas’
character, charms and uniqueness read my previous blog entry “FEEDING THE
MEDIA BEAST IS A FULL-TIME JOB” or read some of the 1000s of words which
have been written about him since his Perfect Game on May 9th!

 

(Blogger’s
Note:  I hope you enjoyed some of
the colorful characters of my past and didn’t feel I was a wee bit overindulgent.  It was not my intent.  I must admit, though, it was fun rekindling
past memories with this exercise!)

BRADEN LATEST IN LONG LIST OF COLORFUL CHARACTERS

As the nation was formally
introduced to our beloved
Dallas Braden
during the Perfect Game Media Tour these past weeks, it got me thinking about
all the colorful characters I’ve had the privilege to work with during my career
in sports PR.  While Dallas is truly one of the most unique
athletes I have ever encountered–(Do you know
anyone else who has a mustache tattoo
imprinted on their index finger!?)–the one common thread to all the sports
teams and leagues I’ve worked for is each has featured charismatic
personalities.  It’s why you’ll never get
bored in this industry.  So in tribute to
Braden’s recent appearance on Late Night
with David Letterman
, here’s my all-time Top 10 List of colorful characters
I’ve worked with over the years (including Braden). Today we’re going to
discuss the first 5, and tomorrow we’ll bring you 6-10.

 

  1. tex.jpgTex Schramm,
    World League President–
    Tex, who
    launched the NFL’s international league after building a legacy as the
    architect of “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, was kind of the
    John Wayne of pro sports. 
    A PR and marketing genius, Schramm was oblivious that there was a
    world outside of football.  As his
    PR man, I once accompanied him on a trip to Milan
    where he was attempting to establish a World League franchise in Italy.  We drove out to the small town of Monza one day to inspect a possible playing venue and
    Tex’s
    frustrations bubbled to the surface. 
    He started grumbling for no apparent reason.  Same thing later that evening as he was
    perusing a menu at a Milan
    restaurant.  I finally asked him,
    “What’s wrong.  You’ve been in a
    fowl mood all day.”  Schramm, still visibly
    disgruntled, responded, “Gee, Rose, everything
    here is in Italian!  Traffic signs, menus, everything!”  After digesting what I had just heard, I
    just kind of blurted it out…..”Tex, we’re
    in Italy!”

 

  1. Eddie “Meat
    Cleaver” Weaver, LA Express Defensive Tackle–
    Eddie was the type of character that a new
    football league attracts.  He had a
    decent college pedigree, having starred at Georgia on the Bulldog teams
    that featured Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.  But it wasn’t his football playing that
    left the strongest impression.  It
    was his uncanny resemblance to Laurence Tureaud,
     better known as “Mr. T” in mid-80′s hit TV
    series, “The A-Team.”  Of course,
    underneath that tough guy exterior was a real teddy bear.  But he did love to intimidate when the
    opportunity presented itself.  One
    afternoon at our weekly luncheon with the Los Angeles area media, Weaver was a featured
    guest.  A rather inexperienced
    female correspondent for ABC Radio posed an innocent question to Meat
    Cleaver when he took the podium. 
    “Eddie, with skill position players like
    Steve Young getting all the media attention, do you ever
    feel someone like you is under appreciated?” 
    Mr. Weaver, in his best Mr. T impression, cast a stare at her,
    penetrating her very soul.  Then,
    retaining his fearsome scowl, responded, “What do you mean, skeeeeeeeel position?”  At this point, the reporter was shaking
    in her shoes.  Eddie, knowing he had
    her right where he wanted her, then cracked a big smile and the entire
    room burst into laughter.

 

  1. Zuber.jpegBob Zuber,
    Pepperdine Baseball Coach–
    While
    this may not be an obvious choice on the Rose character list, the more I
    think back to my early college days, the more “Zube” deserves to make the
    cut.  He arrived at Pepperdine as an
    assistant coach after a long stint at USC under legendary Trojan head
    coach
    Rod Dedeaux.  What set Zuber apart from any other
    coach was he was the absolute best
    bench jockey I had ever seen. 
    Normally, it would be players who traded barbs with the opposing
    players or hurled barbs at the team’s pitcher.  Not Zuber.  As far as he was concerned, baseball was
    mental warfare, and there was nothing off limits.  Over the course of a game, he would work
    himself into a real frenzy, almost in a scary kind of way. “Hey meat, you
    know everyone’s watching you so don’t
    stare
    in this dugout!” he would shout as a visiting batter would step
    into the box.  Then it would really
    get good.  “What’s it gonna be?  Fastball?  Curve? Change-up?  I
    don’t know….fastball, curve, changeup! 
    I don’t know!” 
    This
    would go all game long, and he’d get louder and louder.  Zube was a classic.

 

  1. Straw.jpgDarryl
    Strawberry, Giants Outfielder–
    One
    of the nicest guys I have ever met in sports, Strawberry had just returned
    from a drug rehab stint and seemed to be finally getting his life back in
    order.  He joined the Giants in
    mid-season and I asked his old PR director, the Mets’
    Jay Horwitz, what kind of guy he was.  I still remember Jay’s response, “Darryl
    is a real sweetheart.  Not a bad bone
    in his body.  He wants to please
    everybody.”  How true those words
    were.  As we tried to manage his
    media exposure during this recovery period as he tried to reestablish his
    baseball career, we told him we would have a full-blown, ask-anything
    media conference at Candlestick Park when he arrived, then we would limit
    media access to only post-game interviews about baseball and nothing
    else.  Everything seemed to go well
    for a few weeks, but I spoke to Darryl just prior to our Mets series in New York.  I told him that it was really important
    that he stick to our policy and not do any pre-game interviews, because if
    he did, then all bets would be off and it would be open season by the New York
    writers.  Straw assured me he would
    follow our instructions.  Then the
    first day at Shea Stadium, I arrive about four hours before the game,
    anticipating there might be a crowd that would gather at Darryl’s
    locker.  Well, as soon as I step foot inside the visitors’
    clubhouse, there’s
    Steve Serby, the Post’s veteran columnist,
    notebook in hand and holding an animated conversation with the former
    Mets’ superstar.  I politely
    interrupted the two of them and pulled Darryl aside.  “Darryl, what are you doing?  Didn’t we agree that you wouldn’t do any
    pre-game interviews?”  Shaking his
    head sheepishly, he said, “Hey man, I’m sorry.  It’s just that I’ve known Steve a long
    time and didn’t want to hurt his feelings.” 

 

  1. Thumbnail image for Margerum.jpgKen Margerum,
    Stanford All-American–
    On the other
    end of those majestic
    John Elway passes, Margerum was one of the greatest wide receivers in
    Stanford history.  And much like
    Braden, he was one of the greatest free spirits I ever publicized.  Sharing an upstairs’ quarters in a
    dilapidated house at the campus track with classmate
    Ivan Maisel, who would go on to Sports Illustrated and ESPN fame, Margerum was equally known
    for his adventuresome spirit. 
    Probably one of the first-ever wind surfers in American history,
    Kenny used to drive head football coach
    Paul Wiggin nuts by deciding it was safe to wind surf under
    the Bay Bridge while San Francisco gusts of wind would reach 30 or 40
    MPH.  And while Stanford is known
    for churning out fine student-athletes, Margerum was a category unto
    himself.  He was the first Stanford
    student-teacher-athlete, as he
    was the university’s first windsurfing instructor.  In a rare flash of genius, I pitched his
    windsurfing story to the Boston
    Globe
    when Stanford visiting Boston College one season and can
    honestly say, I remain the only PR guy to score a photo of an All-American
    football player gliding along Lake Laquinitas on a surfboard in a major
    national newspaper!

Tomorrow, in the Clubhouse Confidential, we’ll return with numbers 6-10, so check back in!

FEEDING THE MEDIA BEAST IS A FULL-TIME JOB

AF3D3171.JPG

My apologies that this blog
is a week late from my normal writing schedule. 
You see, we had this game last Sunday that turned into The Event of the
Century.  As
Dallas Braden kept mowing down Rays’ hitters, it began to dawn on
me that a media tsunami was about to hit shore in Oakland. 
Once
Cliff Pennington flawlessly
fielded that final
Gabe Kapler grounder to crown
Braden’s perfect game, all hell broke loose.  

 

Our stadium operations crew
quickly set up a makeshift media conference room in the Raiders’ locker room–the
best we could do at our antiquated venue–and the media circus was
underway.  We brought Dallas, his
grandmother (
Peggy Lindsey), manager Bob
Geren
and Braden’s
battery mate
Landon Powell into the interview room.  As is usually the case on these kind of
unexpected news stories, the media corps that was relatively small when the
game started had now swelled to at least twice
its size by the final pitch. 

AF3D3183.JPG

The San Francisco Chronicle had spoiled Scott Ostler’s perfectly fine Mother’s Day with a late-inning call
about a perfect game that was
developing in Oakland.  He rushed to the Coliseum, as did
Jorge Ortiz when he got a similar call from USA Today.  Same for Bay Area
television stations which had not planned to cover our game on-site that
day.  As big of a “gamer” as Dallas was on the mound, he almost equaled that effort during the post-game bedlam.  In all, he gave me more than two hours of media time after the game
before driving out of the player’s lot and heading back to “The 209″ where all
of his friends were waiting to give him a collective bear hug. 

 

Of course, the story didn’t
end there.  The media beast was just
rearing its head.  As is normally the
case with national interest, the news cycle can last anywhere from 24 hours to
at least a week.  As the primary media liaison
this week, I faced a real balancing act as you want to make sure that Dallas is also enjoying
the afterglow of his remarkable feat. 
There’s a fine line on how much you can do without tilting it towards a
media nightmare instead of a celebration. 

 

The requests came in waves,
starting Sunday night–ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, MLB Network,
Tom Verducci at Sports
Illustrated,
the Letterman Show, CBS Early Morning, National Public Radio
and many others–and I knew time would be precious the following day because Monday
was a travel day to Texas. 

 

For Dallas,
the travel day started early as he took his customary drive from his Stockton home to the Oakland Airport.  However, before he left his house, he had
already done a sit down interview with ESPN SportsCenter and appeared on Robert
Siegel’s “All Things Considered” program with its five million listeners on NPR.   I warned him Sunday night that I was going to
pounce on him as soon as he arrived
at the airport. 

 

He walked through the
private terminal doors at 12:25 p.m., which instantly told me I had 20 minutes
to, (a) hand him and go over a proposed media schedule I had prepared for his
week on the road, (b) give enterprising reporter
Vern Glenn of KRON-TV and a KNTV-TV cameraman a joint three-minute
on-camera interview in the lobby, (c) hand Dallas my cell for an eight-minute
“phoner” with MLB Network, (d) then dial up ESPN Radio for another seven-minute
interview with
Scott Van Pelt, and (e) shake our
overnight sensation’s hand and direct him through security and on board the
team flight which left at 1 p.m. for Dallas, Texas. 

 

After the team charter
landed and the traveling party arrived at the hotel, my trusty assistant,
Mike Selleck (our PR rep on the trip), handed his cell to Mr. 209
for a prearranged live interview back home with
Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert
on KNBR Radio.  Dallas didn’t miss a beat, providing about 15
minutes of highly-entertaining radio to a drive-time audience that’s normally
conditioned to hear nothing but Giants baseball this time of year. 

Top 10.jpg

I won’t go on and on about
Dallas’ media week, as so much was documented in the local outlets, but suffice
it to say that there were dozens of email and phone exchanges between myself
and the producers of the Letterman Show–I suggested they soften the A-Rod
reference in No. 10 of the Top 10 list by adding, “Grandma’s Right” to the line
as their original line just said, “Stick It, A-Rod!” 

 

In the case of CBS Early
Morning, one behind-the-scenes tale involved me negotiating back and forth with
the network and also Dallas,
trying to avoid the obscene time for the interview, originally scheduled for
Wednesday.  Due to the unexpected
four-hour, extra-inning marathon the A’s played in Tuesday’s series opener in
Texas, Dallas did not get back to the hotel until nearly 1 a.m. CT, where he
met his equally beleaguered grandmother, who had just arrived herself after
being flown in by CBS from Sacramento. 
Both were facing the unenviable prospects of getting about four hours
sleep before getting down to the hotel lobby for a 6 a.m. pickup.  I felt for them and I also felt for CBS, who
had done so much work on preparing a nice video package, not to mention
spending significant money on travel arrangements.  I tried to get CBS to move the interview to
later in the show, bargaining to get them a little more sleep.  But CBS was locked in with obligations to dozens
of their affiliates, plus it was too late to move other guests.   So here I was, standing outside on our
Berkeley patio at 11 p.m. PDT (2 a.m. EDT)–trying not to disturb my wife and
son–breaking the news to CBS that Dallas and Mrs. Lindsey would not be doing the interview scheduled for
only six hours later!  You can imagine
how that news went over.  Dallas felt terrible
about it, but understandably his first priorities were his grandmother and then
baseball.  Fortunately, we were able to
reschedule the interview for Thursday morning, and it went off well. 

 

Before I close this account
of Dallas’ wild
week, I want to also thank so many other people who were directly or indirectly
impacted by Braden’s gem.  In catching
his perfect game, Powell was inundated with media calls–including at least a
half dozen from his home area in the Carolinas–while the golden-throated
Ken
Korach
did numerous
radio interviews the following days to discuss his classic radio call of the
historic game.  Same for
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, who in fact was at the Univision-Telefutura studios
in San Francisco
just this morning to be part of the “Good Morning America” show on the Spanish
network.  And the same thanks should be
given to
Billy Beane, Geren and his staff, as well as all of Dallas’ teammates who had
to chip in with added media interviews this week. 

 

As for me and my staff, this
is what you live for if you’re in our business. 
And just like everyone I have mentioned, I personally felt this was
truly a privilege to be part of.  Like
those fans in attendance last Sunday, we experienced history.  And to have a front
row seat as part of the Oakland
A’s staff, I feel so blessed.  Not only
is Dallas’
magnificent performance now entered into baseball’s record books, it is also
indelibly etched in all of our memories for a lifetime. 

WHO ME, SUPERSTITIOUS?

20080917_black_cat.jpg

When I first became a
baseball PR man, I was told in no uncertain terms that this is a sport of
superstition.  Streaks ran hot and
streaks ran cold for teams and players, and there was no logical explanation
for either. It’s kind of like those isolated villages in the backlands of
Africa or Brazil
you see on PBS programs.  The natives
seem to always be worshiping some god that controls various factors of their
existence.  The Sun God.  The Rain God.  The Good
Harvest
God.  Well, while it goes
against my own personal faith, there are fully grown men who absolutely believe
there is a Baseball God.  They claim there’s no other way to
explain why line drives that hit the chalk line one day will just as likely
curve foul by two inches the next.  Or that that same on-the-black slider that
was called a strike in New York might be
called a ball in Detroit.
 Or why an opponent arrives in town mired
in an eight-game losing streak of epic proportions and for no good reason, can
inexplicably channel the 1927 Yankees for one series and sweep your team!  In fact, just over the weekend, that actually
did happen when the Baltimore
Orioles–yes, those Baltimore
Orioles–rode a rare wave to sweep the big, bad Boston Red Sox in a three-game
series. 

 

And closer to home, as you
know, our Fightin’ A’s limp home after a nightmarish 1-5 road trip that saw the
Rays and Blue Jays spew forth 14 home runs and 46 runs against a pitching staff
that had left Oakland only seven days earlier with a quite exquisite 2.93 ERA.  Of course, some of it can be explained by
injuries, as we lost one starting pitcher to the DL (Brett Anderson) and may
lose another one (Justin Duchscherer) if medical tests today reveal anything
serious.  And Kurt Suzuki–unquestionably
the team’s MVP last season–joined the A’s DL-bound wounded when his back was
slow to respond to treatment last week. 

 

So can you really wonder why
baseball players and fans are superstitious?  Of course, I think such thoughts are rather
silly.  But to be safe, bring all your charms
and good luck pieces–heck, wear garlic
necklaces–
to the Coliseum this week to ward off any evil spirits that could derail a winning homestand.  It’s time to get the green-and-gold mojo back and let those Rangers and Rays
take turns at trying to explain the unexplainable.  Not that I’m superstitious or anything.    

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