Postcard #2 from the GM Winter Meetings

The
first official day of the Winter Meetings has come and gone with little fanfare
on the A’s front.  I was tempted to start
this blog out by stealing a classic opening line from
Mark Hyman, a long-time friend from Maryland who used to be a
baseball writer for the Baltimore Sun
and now reports for Business Week    Sizing up a similar situation years ago,
the wry Mr. Hyman once opened a story in the Sun this way:  “On a day that
nothing happened, nothing happened.”  
While apropos, my day here was far from uneventful.  As previously stated in my last entry, the
morning was filled with MLB Public Relations Meetings.

 

It
was reported that 565 national and international media have converged in Dumbo Land
to cover the Winter Meetings.  That
represents a rather sharp increase from last year, when less than 400
journalists attended.  One of my fellow
PR colleagues suggested the warmer environs of Florida
may have been a factor, compared to last year’s meetings in Indianapolis. 
My preferred reason, however, is that the popularity of our sport has
experienced an upsurge this season, when perhaps there are more compelling
stories.  One story I heard this morning,
however, was delivered by a former baseball legend when the Baseball Assistance
Team (B.A.T.) address the League’s PR specialists.  


Sudden Sam McDowell, the ex-flame throwing left-handed pitcher who regularly led the
American League in strikeouts back in 60’s and early 70’s for the Cleveland
Indians, explained how he became involved in B.A.T. many years ago.  He matter-of-factly said he had been “kicked
out of baseball because I was an alcoholic.” 
He also said how proud he was that baseball is the only professional
sport that has an organization like B.A.T., which assists anyone in the
“baseball family,” past or present, who has fallen on hard times and needs a
helping hand.  


This past year, the
organization awarded $2.2 million in donations to 90 grant recipients.  “The NFL doesn’t have something like this,
nor does the NBA or NHL.  Hell, B.A.T.
even helps umpires!  Can you believe
that?”   For me personally, it was a
thrill to see Sudden Sam.  He was a
bigger-than-life character for me growing up in Northern
California.  He was 6-5, 200
pounds with a nasty high-rising fastball that would eventually strike out 2,453
batters in his 15-year big league career–a figure that still ranks 34th on the
all-time list.  As a teenager growing up
in Auburn, Calif.,
I can still remember an early-season Sunday doubleheader at the Oakland-Alameda
County Coliseum featuring Cleveland and Oakland.  I can’t recall the exact year, but it was
probably 1970 or 1971.  Before leaving Auburn for the game, I
remember reading a banner story in the Sacramento
Bee
about A’s owner Charlie Finley offering some collection of five A’s
players to the Indians in a trade for Sudden Sam.  And who should be the Indians’ starting
pitcher in the twinbill opener?  Sam McDowell.   


Well,
as you can imagine, there were a few A’s players who were less than thrilled
with Finley’s offer, and I believe it was
Reggie Jackson
who launched a three-run homer into “Reggie’s Regiment” in the right field
bleachers to open the festivities and McDowell was knocked out of the game in
the first inning.  The A’s went on to win
the opener, and then you saw something that would never happen today.  Sudden Sam decided to start the nightcap.  He ended
up pitching brilliantly and earned a victory! 
One of the few times in history that not only a team split a
doubleheader but so did their starting pitcher.

 

By
late afternoon, my world was nothing but coordinating media interviews.  I ran
Billy Beane through the gauntlet, cramming in sit-downs with MLB
Productions (for a documentary film), MLB Network TV’s Hot Stove League live
show, Comcast Sports Net Bay Area’s Chronicle Live program and finally, a
one-on-one with long-time friend and ESPN correspondent
Pedro Gomez, all over a time period of 50 minutes!  Now while Billy was media hopping, I also coordinated a schedule for Manager Bob Geren,
which included a 30-minute press conference with national media in the MLB
Media Interview Room, followed by an interview with Comcast Sports Net Bay
Area’s
Mychael
Urban
for CSNBA’s website, a quick
appearance on XM Radio’s MLB Network and another taped interview with
MLB.com.  


I returned to Billy’s
hotel suite, where Bay Area scribes
Susan Slusser
(San
Francisco

Chronicle)
,
Jane Lee (MLB.com), Carl Steward (Bay Area News Group) and Urban (CSNBA) peppered him with questions
pertaining to possible free agent signings, trades or when we expect to comment
on the
Hisashi
Iwakuma
negotiations.  Billy was his usually articulate and
thoughtful self, although the writers were disappointed to learn we most likely
will not comment on Iwakuma until the negotiating period is over or we sign
him. (Editors note: The A’s and Iwakuma were unable to come to terms and Iwakuma will return to Japan for the 2011 season).  With a midnight deadline to the
30-day exclusive negotiating window, it might be a late night for yours
truly.  In the meantime, I about to head down
to the lobby bar for some good old-fashion PR work.  And a beer. 
Ah, the life of a Major League PR man. 
Hey, somebody’s got to do it!  I’ll
be back with installment #3 tomorrow.

 

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