I recently had a chance to do a quick but wide-ranging Q&A with former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel. Here it is:
WasWatching [WW]: It’s been 35 years since you were named PR Director for the Yankees – a post that you manned into 1977. You’ve been very busy over this period of time. If you had to give a “30 second commercial” on what you’ve been working on since that time, and what you’re most proud of in your post-Yankees career, what would you say?
Marty Appel: Well, the Yankee portion didn’t end in 1977, as I went on to become executive producer of the Yankee telecasts, although technically working for WPIX, up until ’92. I’ve had my own PR business for the last ten years, continue to write books and have regular contributions to Yankees Magazine, and Sports Collectors Digest. I was also Consulting Producer for ESPN’s The Bronx is Burning among other projects.
In terms of “most proud,” I think with the end of the current Yankee Stadium, I am very proud of people coming to me for interviews and reflections on the ballpark. I began working there at 19, (1968), and was smart enough to absorb all that was around me. Now I find myself, still pretty young, and able to talk at length about the Stadium history as someone who worked in the original and the current parks. Not many others are around to do that. And I’ve been going as a fan since 1956. It’s funny, most people are shy about giving out their ages. In baseball, it’s kind of a badge of honor. If you’re a certain age, it means you’ve witnessed a checklist of great moments that makes you very proud to have spent a lifetime devoted to a team.
WW: If you were to list a “top ten” of those great moments that you have witnessed in Yankeeland, what would they be?
Appel: I started going as a fan in 1956, so here you go…My own personal favorites:
1. Chris Chambliss HR to win ’76 pennant.
2. David Cone perfect game (first no-hitter I ever saw in person).
3. Opening Day, new stadium, 1976.
4. Mickey Mantle Day, 1969 (including Mel Allen’s first return).
5. Old Timers Day 1970 – Casey Stengel ends decade long exile.
6. Sparky Lyle’s 1973 season (Pomp and Circumstance).
7. Winning 1996 World Championship – Joe Torre’s tears.
8. Reggie Jackson’s 3-homer game to win ’77 World Series.
9. Don Mattingly’s streak of 8 HR games in a row (some on the road of course).
10. Murcer heroics in game after Thurman Munson’s funeral.
Honorable mention: Riding subway back into the city with Caroline Kennedy, 1997.
WW: I can’t believe that you left out that 1975 ceremony at Shea Stadium honoring the Army’s 200th birthday where the artillery batteries blew a hole in the centerfield fence! (Yes, I’m kidding.) How difficult was it being a fan of the team and working for the Yankees at the same time? Did you have to check your “fandom” at the door, or, was it a help – in terms of working there – being a fan of the team?
Appel: It’s a wonderful thing when you can genuinely “root” for your employer. And I never lost my fan interest. When I later worked in the Commissioner’s Office, people were rooting for good attendance numbers. That was when I really missed the joy of being with a team.
The Shea event – wasn’t at Yankeeland, and in the end, it wasn’t a success. Didn’t manage to blow up the whole place. The Mets would have thanked us.
WW: There’s an old line that warns, if you like sausage, that you should never go work in a sausage factory. Has working in baseball changed your perspective of the game as a fan – albeit for the better or worse? If yes, how?
Appel: Amazingly, it has changed it very little. When you know the players personally, you develop different forms of rooting interest, often getting great pleasure from a reserve having a big game, because you know him well. I can’t say that working in the game set me back at all as a fan. By and large, the players fans take a special liking to are the same ones the employees have special feelings for.
WW: As a fan, what are you thoughts about this current Yankees team?
Appel: I like this current team because of its maturity. I like that it’s hung close despite no Posada to help guide the young pitchers along. Things will be okay here; they will contend all the way. If there is one thing we have learned it is that if things aren’t going well, they will remake the parts of the roster that need fixing. So commenting on a Yankee team in June is like checking the half time scores in the NBA….why bother!
WW: I hope you’re correct about them staying in contention. Shifting gears a bit, what can you share about your latest book project – a book on Thurman Munson?
Appel: I had the pleasure of doing Thurman’s autobiography with him more than 30 years ago, but I always felt there was a lot more to his story, as he did not get into his childhood very much. Adding that element along with the tragic circumstances involving his death and the aftermath has created a full biography, to be published by Doubleday next spring. The editor is the same editor who did The DaVinci Code for them. More than 150 people were interviewed and there is a lot here that even the best Munson fans will find amazing. I was proud to be his friend, and I’m proud to offer this book for his many fans.
WW: This sounds great. Having read your first Munson book when it was published, I cannot wait to read this new one. Last question: Having personally known Thurman, and having heard so much about him from others, what Yankees player since 1980 would you say was the most like Munson – as a player and/or a person?
Appel: Jeter is the most like him as a player; the clutch hitting, the leadership, the self-confidence. No one is quite like him as a personality…he was probably a little bit Randy Johnson I guess.
Our thanks to Marty for his time towards during this fun and interesting Q&A. In addition to his Yankees duties, Appel has authored 16 books – including “Now Pitching for the Yankees: Spinning the News for Mickey, Reggie and George” which was named the best New York baseball book of 2001 by ESPN and “Slide, Kelly, Slide: The Wild Life and Times of Mike King Kelly” which was the winner of the 14th Annual Casey Award (given by Spitball Magazine) and chosen as one of the 10 Best Ballplayer Books by the New York Daily News.
We recommend checking out Appel’s past work and keeping an eye out for his new book (to be released next spring) on Thurman Munson.