Saturday flashback: Dick Enberg’s Sports Challenge: Mantle vs. DiMaggio

Try to imagine in this day and age, a sports quiz show landing Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The only way that happens is if they own the show. And even then, maybe not.

Well, back in the ’70s, Sports Challenge, with Dick Enberg, had a show featuring Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio on the panel. The Mick and Joe D. They probably got what would be tip money these days and were pleased to get that much.

Back then, Mantle and DiMaggio probably earned only a few thousand dollars for their appearance, tops.

Anyway, it was a classic show in a much simpler time. And Enberg was terrific.

I have a few more in my vault that I will break out at a later date.



Sunday books: Q/A with Marty Appel on his ultimate book about Yankees

You could fill a library with all the books written about the Yankees and their players. And leave room for one more: I’m working on a book on the myth and reality of the Babe Ruth “Called Shot” homer.

Indeed, the stories are endless. Marty Appel ties them all together in his new book, Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from before the Babe to after the Boss.

It is a 620-page epic with everything in there. Lots of good stories and baseball history.

Here’s my Q/A with Appel:

How far back do you go with the Yankees?

As a fan, back to the 1955 World Series. As an employee, the 1968 season, Mantle’s last, when I was hired to answer his fan mail.

How long did you work on this project and what was involved in doing the research?

In a sense, I worked on it since 1955, simply by remembering things. I fell in love with baseball and the memories kept adding on. As a writing project though, it was about 2 1/2 years. Knowing how to research and where to look for things I wanted was critical in making it a relatively short period of time, considering it covered 110 years.

The Yankees have such a storied tradition. What stories stand out for you? What are your favorite stories? Perhaps the stories that haven’t received as much attention through the years?

I think the opportunity to get fans better acquainted with Jacob Ruppert, who co-owned and then owned the team from 1915-1939, emerged as a powerful story. He was a great sportsman, he bought Babe Ruth, he built Yankee Stadium, he created the dynasty. He epitomized wealth in the 20th century, but he had to deal with anti-German feelings in the country following World War 1, then with prohibition, which effectively wiped out his brewery, and then with the Great Depression which kept the baseball industry stagnant for a decade. And he prevailed.

Who were your favorite characters? Known and perhaps unknown?

It’s hard to ignore Babe Ruth with this question, for he was so much more than the big lug America came to love. After the president and perhaps Charlie Chaplin, he was the best known American, and baseball had never had such a personality before, someone to capture the attention of so many.

Why have the Yankees been able to maintain their success over the years?

Ruppert set in place a practice of putting profits back into the team. It was something that George Steinbrenner did as well. That was the key, along with the legacy that was built so that players, when able to move on their own, wanted to wear the same uniform as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and now Jeter.

Doesn’t it get boring having a team that wins every year? Speaking from a guy who lives in Chicago.

Nope! But honestly, if you were born in the late ’50s, or the mid 70s, you had to be almost 20 years old to cash in with your first world championship. That’s a long wait for what others consider a birthright.


Pressing issue: Ralph Nader ticked off at in-game radio ads on Yankees games

In December, when I review my favorite stories of the year, I’m pretty sure this one will be high up on the list.

Ralph Nader is ticked off at the amount of in-game ads during Yankees radio broadcasts. Really.

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times reports Nader sent a letter to the Yankees. From his story:

In a letter Friday to team executives Randy Levine and Brian Cashman, Nader listed 22 in-game ads that ran during the June 1 Yankees-Tigers game; he said they served to “disrupt the flow and excitement of the game broadcast and undermine your responsibilities as a guardian of the national pastime.”

Later in the story:

Nader cited ads that sponsored the pitching matchup (Chock Full o’ Nuts), pitch count (5-hour Energy), rally moment of the game (Rally BMW), game-time temperature (Peerless Boilers), national anthem (Mutual of America Life Insurance), call to the bullpen (Honda) and 15th out of the game (Geico).

Most of the ads, not surprisingly, strained to make a connection with the action on the field.

“Have you no boundaries or sense of restraint?” Nader wrote, in his position as the founder of the sports advocacy group League of Fans. “Have you no mercy on your play-calling broadcasters?”

At age 78, has it come down to this for the great consumer advocate? Complaining about in-game radio ads seems a bit trivial given all the other things to harp about in society. Then again, Nader always has been a multi-tasker.

As for the in-game ads that pollute games broadcasts everywhere, let’s be honest, nobody likes them. Not the teams, not the stations, and certainly not the listeners. Most of them are annoying and some are obnoxious. From the Yankees game, Nader notes this brutal ad:

“And the pitch is called a strike as he threaded the outside corner. And that is painting the corner. And painting the corner is sponsored by Certa Pro Painters because painting is personal.”

Nader does have a point, but here’s the bottom line: WCBS pays the Yankees $14 million to air the games. The station has to find a way to pay its bills.

Times are tough, you might have heard. The big-name sponsors are cutting back. Hence, stations are forced to wedge in the cheaper in-game ads to lure in the small companies. It’s called making ends meet.

Unless the teams reduce their right fees (yeah, right), listeners will have to suffer through more in-game ads despite the noble efforts of Mr. Nader.

Full disclosure: I am the co-host of a Saturday morning golf talk radio show on WSCR-AM 670, the flagship station of the Chicago White Sox. Have yet to receive a letter from Nader complaining about number of ads on our show.