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Baseball in Israel and the Bronx is Burning

Our old friend and ace SCD columnist Marty Appel just keeps getting famouser and famouser (I know it’s not a word; I just like the way it sounds, and it is in the online Urban Dictionary). He just returned from Israel last week where he was supervising the PR effort for the launch of the Israel Baseball League, the first professional baseball league in the Middle East, which he described as “a great adventure.”

It’s all detailed in Marty’s column, which appears in the Aug. 3 issue of Sports Collectors Digest, which will mail to subscribers in about a week. He set up the communications plan for the league (, served as the associate producer of the opening day telecast and editor of the yearbook, all skills that reminded him of his days as the public relations guy for the Yankees in the 1970s, which, in turn, offers a natural segue into his second adventure.


I’ll let Marty tell about it in his own words: “Friends, not only do I strongly recommend that you see ESPN’s ‘The Bronx is Burning’ premiering 10 p.m. EST tonight, July 9, but imagine my surprise when the promo for the mini-series, which I saw during the Yankees game last night, featured me, playing myself, sitting on the extreme left of the dais as ‘Reggie Jackson’ (Daniel Sunjata) proclaimed that he had ‘brought his star with him’ to New York.”

Appel said his line was apparently cut out of the scene (“which I nailed in one take, I might add,” he noted proudly), but then he did point out that he’s there in the shot, decked out in a 1977-style suit, sitting next to the Gabe Paul actor and “my new pal Erik Jensen, as my old pal Thurman Munson.” Turns out, Marty didn't wind up on the editing room floor: I watched the show last night and there he was, big as life, in the scene as described.

The eight-week mini-series stars John Turturo as Billy Martin and Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner.

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As savvy online types no doubt can tell, I am trying to get the hang of this online business, and one of the components, obviously, is the shared back-and-forth from including links to other cool outposts in cyberspace. I don’t do as much cruising around as I should, but I did run across one that reminded of a hilarious (but brief) radio interview from the mid-1980s.

The website is a marvelous source of information about the game (I suspect serious online types are shaking their heads in dismay at my lack of sophistication). In this particular link, they posted the complete word-for-word transcript of Casey Stengel’s July 8, 1958, Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee Hearings.

I’ve read the transcript many times, and seen newsreel footage of portions of it, but if anybody’s unfamiliar with it (or even if you’ve nearly memorized it), the website is worth a visit. For purposes of this posting, the transcript is essentially classic Stengel rambling for what must have been 45 minutes or more, and then when the thoroughly amused but bewildered senators turned to get Mickey Mantle’s views on the topic of baseball’s antitrust exemption, The Mick said, “My views are just about the same as Casey’s.” The senate chambers erupted in laughter.

Anyway, what that trip into cyberspace reminded me of was some work 24 years ago (might have been 23) when I was working as a consultant to the Empire State Games Radio Network during the Summer Games in August in Buffalo, N.Y.

The “consultant” monicker sounds snazzier than it really was. I was, in point of fact, a mildly glorified assistant to Tim Roye, (shown at right) the hardest-working son-of-a-gun I ever encountered in my life. He was the key talent for the radio network, maybe the only talent, now that I think of it.


Serious sports fans will recognize that name as one of the television voices of the Oakland A’s and the radio broadcaster for the Golden State Warriors. His ascension into the big time (along with another former Empire State Games staffer, Sean McDonough) is one of those things that provides great assurance about the notion that hard work and ability ultimately leading to the top. There can’t be a more deserving individual in radio or television, and we all knew it more than 20 years ago.

Anyway, Tim would do all the taped and live interviewing and reporting; I just helped out where I could to make myself useful. The Summer Games would be four frenzied days with 6,000 athletes in 24 sports all over Syracuse or Buffalo, and we did hourly reports from venues all over whichever city was hosting that year.

We (Empire State Games) used to get big-name guys in a number of summer and winter sports, but none more than in basketball, where we ended up with St. John’s and Syracuse standouts Chris Mullin and Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, among a host of others. Oh, yeah, and Walter Berry.

This particular time we drove into downtown Buffalo from the Game’s HQ on the Buffalo State campus to interview Berry during halftime of the Basketball Finals. Tim had worked like mad to set up the interview beforehand, and it was a good trick to even collar the star of the New York City squad at the intermission.

Tim shoves the microphone under Berry’s nose and launches into this long, detailed question, pointing out how the Games atmosphere must be so different from the St. John’s games in rough-and-tumble New York City, and how the camaraderie with the other 5,999 young athletes must be such a departure for him, etc., etc.

And when Roye was finished with his long-winded question, Berry looked at me for some reason, and said softly, “Yeah, what he said,” as he gestured toward Tim. And off he went to the locker room.

We had saved a pretty big hole for Berry’s comments in the next network feed about an hour away, so we had to scramble like crazy to work around his four words. We’ve laughed about it by the end of the games that summer, and for years afterward, but I don’t think we did so immediately after the interview.

Maybe Berry had listened to the Stengel transcript, too.