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A few weeks back I received an email from someone purported to be Marty Appel, famed author, and former Yankees PR man. Needless to say, I wasn't convinced. However, after a few email exchanges not only did it become clear that it was Marty Appel, but he also agreed to do an interview with our blog. Marty Appel is well known for his baseball related books which include the critically acclaimed "Slide, Kelly, Slide" and "Now Pitching for the Yankees". He is now working on promoting a Yankee Stadium card set from Upper Deck and is working on a new book about Thurmon Munson.
1. You have a website, appelpr.com. Tell us a little about your public relations company and what kind of work you're doing for your clients.
While we mostly deal with sports related clients, and most of them come from knowing of my years with the Yankees or knowing me personally, we also handle health and medicine, consumer, education and literary PR. We do a lot of work with sports books and have come to hold a good reputation in that field.
2. You were with the Yankees for a long time. What was the most difficult situation you ever had to deal with while working in their PR Department?
Most difficult situation was back in 1973 when two of our players, Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich "swapped wives" - in fact, children, pets, cars, homes - everything. I was in my mid-20s, it wasn't something I was well prepared to handle. But the media was far less intense [back] then than it would be today. We got through it.
3. How would you have spun the Mitchell Report and the numerous Yankee players implicated in that report?
I had issues with the Mitchell Report. I think it showed a lack of investigation on the part of his own team. The only players identified were those handed to him from other investigations. I believe there is a strong Latin American connection escaped detection. And we all know of likely players who went unnamed. My real problem was that I don't feel the 90 or so players named were made to fully understand that there names WOULD be in the report - for sure - and that they should have an opportunity to respond. None did because it wasn't clear.
4. What was the worst part of being a PR guy for a professional baseball team? The best part?
Worst part is the grueling schedule - basically, you are working with no days off from mid-February to the end of the season, all those night games, all that travel. It beats you down. But the best thing is the friendships, the feeling of being part of the team, and of course, being around the game we love.
5. Are there any players or members of the organization who made your job as a PR man more difficult and why? Much easier?
My pal Thurman Munson could make the job tough, but you had to laugh about it. He was a grump. If you asked him to pose for pictures with some kids, or sponsors, he'd tell you to take a hike, he didn't do things like that. After he became captain, he took on greater responsibility. He'd say, 'what time do you need me?' But then he'd never show up. I liked him more the first way.
6. If you were, hypothetically speaking, hired as a consultant by a Yankees themed blog that wanted to get its name out there, by which I mean make its proprietors filthy rich, what advice would you give?
I think BLOGs are approaching greater acceptance and legitimacy and will one day - selectively - be credentialed by teams and by MLB. Of course, that may compromise their independence in reader's eyes. A balance will emerge. A publicist can help one emerge from the pack as the place to go for inside team news and opinion. It's not far away.
7. You were with the Yankees during George Steinbrenner's more active years, can you tell us a little bit about how that affected your job? Are there any particular stories or instances you would like to share?
The most asked question I used to get was "what is it like working for George Steinbrenner?" Then the Seinfeld show came along and made the answer easier. That was pretty close. I can tell you this - it was always exciting. You'd arrive in the morning not knowing what the day would bring.....but you knew you'd be on the back page of the Post and the Daily News the next morning. How many publicists have that luxury on behalf of their employers?
8. Say you were still working in the Yankees PR Department, and you were given the task to make Yankee fans love and adore Carl Pavano. How would you go about making that happen?
I'd tell Carl to go out and win six straight. The fans fall in love with success. Quickly. Remember, poor Carl IS injured. It's not like he's voluntarily taking a year or three off!
9. Another hypothetical situation: Imagine George Steinbrenner called you into his office and told you that he wanted to run a smear campaign against the Red Sox, and he wants it to be personal. He even gives you an unlimited budget. Where would you take it from there?
Hard to imagine taking a smear campaign against the Red Sox to another level. The natural way it has rolled out since the mid '70s without PR assistance has been a thing of beauty. When it's forced - like Yankees Universe vs. Red Sox Nation - it's not as effective. I actually admire the way the Red Sox have marketed themselves to all of New England, used "evil Empire" and stayed underdogs even while winning twice since '04. Love this rivalry.
10. When you started with the Yankees you were answering Mickey Mantle's fan mail. What was it like working with the Mick? Were there any interactions you had with him that you'd like to share?
Mick was terrific, whether you were Roger Maris or the fan mail kid. He used to give me his gift certificates from pre-game radio interviews; he'd even bring them home from road trips for me. You know how he wanted to be a "great teammate?" he was also a great friend. I can't believe he's not here anymore.
11. You've written several books now, and have a new one on the way about Thurmon Munson. What made you want to write about Munson?
Munson didn't talk to the media, so I was sort of the only one in the 'communications world,' apart from our announcers, that he'd talk to. He was a really interesting guy, but he held so much back when we did his autobiography in the '70s. The new biography, which will be published next spring, has it all. And I think fans will fall in love with him all over again, flaws and all.
12. Tell us a little about these cards you're promoting. How did you get involved in this promotion?
Upper Deck asked me to help with PR on this product because of my strong Yankee connections. So many people have been asking for interviews about the final year of Yankee Stadium, and this has become something else to talk about. An amazing research project, with information not available anywhere else. Of course, it's quite a challenge to collect.
13. According to your email there are 6661 cards in the set. Why such an unholy number?
6,661 represents a card for every home game played by the Yankees since 1923 (except for the years at Shea), plus some extra for boxing, football and Papal visits.
14. When you were looking to promote the card set, I'm sure you came across many Yankee fan sites. How many times a day do you frequent the Respect Jeter's Gangster website and why is it your favorite blog?
I dont' really have a favorite BLOG yet but in researching the ones I wanted to learn more about, I found them fun and informative and filled with good fan feedback. Once a year when I was PR director I would spend a game in the stands, walk around, overhear fan conversations, get a better feel of what was being said. Those were early "verbal" BLOGs I guess. this is another step, and it's good use of the Internet.
15. And lastly, what do you respect most about Jeter's gangster?
Anything Jeter gets my attention. He's an immortal Yankee, a great role model, and a future Hall of Famer. The team is blessed that someone like him seems to come along each generation, as Mick was there for mine; Mattingly for my son's.