I've been in the baseball sound nostalgia field formally since the mid '80s but have always been an audiophile, even as a young teen. How vividly I remember taping, on 7" reels, Brooklyn Dodger, NY Giant and NY Yankee broadcasts way back starting in 1952. What happened to those precious reels? During the years of college and then my house being sold, they were lost or accidentally thrown out. It more or less reflects what Red Barber once told me. In '90, I worked with Red and Mark Schramm of NPR to present an Opening Day program. I was given Red's private number in Tallahassee to explain which of his calls I would be supplying for said program. At the end of our conversation, I asked him, "Red, will you do me a favor? Please send any single scorecard that you kept for any Brooklyn broadcast" to which he replied, "My wife said they cluttered up the basement so they were thrown out."
I was amazed and said,"Red, do you realize the worth of what was discarded?" to which he replied, "So there's a rich garbage collector somewhere in Tallahassee." In my case, perhaps there was a rich garbage collector in Passaic, NJ?
Occasionally I have been the guest on either sports talk radio stations nationwide or on stations that present sports talk segments.
Invariably I've been asked the same questions,"How did your business begin?" or "Were there any persons or persons very influential in the growth of your business?" My answer has always been YES. There was one single person who, more than anyone else, exerted a positive influence. His name? George M. Steinbrenner. To understand how it came about, below is a letter I wrote to NY Daily News sportswriter and author Bill Madden. The letter was written two days before Mr. Steinbrenner passed away and mailed just one day before it happened.
Thanks for your time and interest.
"Dear Mr. Madden.
My sincerest congratulations on your marvelous book, “Steinbrenner” which I just finished. What meticulousness. Just brilliant. A perfect biography filled with the perfect blend of politics,business, sport and personal life. I am writing not only to congratulate you but to tell you how “The Boss” changed my life for the better without our ever having met. How it was he who’s responsible for www.baseballtapes.com. I hope you have a few minutes of valuable time to read what I’m about to lay down; if you do, I think you’ll enjoy this unusual true story.
Let me take you back to the time when baseball nostalgia i.e.collectibles began-I estimate in the
late ‘70s. I’m sure you recall the craze involving cards, autographs, bats, balls, scorecards,uniforms and so on and so forth. But I noticed something missing and my always having been an audiophile told me so. Cards and all the rest were fun but nonetheless way too inanimate for yours truly.
One day in late ‘84, I was perusing an Old Time Radio catalog looking for tapes of Jack Benny, Fred Allen, the Great Gildersleeve and other programs, I spied something amazing. Buried in the back of that catalog were some 1950’s Brooklyn Dodger and NY Yankee broadcasts. “Good heavens” I thought. How could anything like that be obscured in the back of an OTR catalog? I was positive they had enough impact to produce a business if exposed to fans nationwide.
I ordered and sat in awe listening to them. Then the idea struck right then and there so I went out and bought two high speed tape duplicators. Then I made excellent master cassettes out of the games just bought. I went to our local magazine store to buy the latest edition of “Sports Collectors Digest” and took out a four dollar ad offering those games for $9.95 + P&H. What happened?
That $4 ad brought in $4,000 in one week. But I didn’t bank all the profit. I turned it into advertising in newspaper ads across the nation. “Wanted: to buy or trade for old baseball games on either cassettes or reels.” In a month my collection grew to about 100 games. Then I set about seeing what would happen if an ad were placed in “Baseball Digest.” You’re right. I pulled the slots handle and hello JACKPOT.
My collection kept growing, my advertising kept increasing; the money was rolling in but then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. The Offices of Major League Baseball took an intense dislike to what I was doing even though there was never proof they owned the broadcasts. In came the cease and desist letters. They unnerved me but I had a tiger by the tail and refused to let go. The threatening phone calls began from Tom Ostertag, Esq. Between those letters and phone calls, I was becoming a wreck but still held on. And then it really hit the fan. Or so I thought. A registered letter arrived from the New York Yankees.
“Oh for cryin’ out loud” I thought,”now George Steinbrenner is out to get me.” The jig was up. How could I continue amidst the pressure from not only MLB but from the biggest, most powerful man in the entire sport? With trembling hands I opened the envelope. It was from a gentleman named Jay Sharin of “Yankees Magazine” who informed me that Mr. Steinbrenner had taken stock in my Yankee collection being advertised in “Baseball Digest” and elsewhere. He felt it was a novel idea indeed and wanted to arrange an advertising program for them in his magazine. I was therefore invited to call to set up an appointment at “Yankees Magazine” headquarters in Yankee Stadium. That is after I got up from the floor!
I was stunned. “The Boss” wasn’t out to “get” me but rather to HELP me. The so-called ogre I kept reading about in the press and hearing about on the radio had taken a POSITIVE interest in me? Impossible. According to the media, the man was the rottenest, most reprehensible human being to ever show up in MLB. Uh huh. The appointment was set for the following Wednesday morning at 11:30 and I was told to park directly in the Yankees parking lot. I was to tell the attendant that I had a business appointment in the stadium. And I did just that.
As I walked the level housing the magazine office, I heard yelling and cursing from about 150 feet away. As I was escorted into the offices, I asked someone about it and was told, “That’s George raising hell with the guys cleaning rest rooms. He inspects them and if not immaculate, he goes wild. Nothing to worry about.” The advertising program went without a hitch and my tapes began appearing soon thereafter.
The appearance of my game tapes in “YM” opened the flood gates. I had appointments with Mike Ryan of the Mets and Dennis Lehman of the Phillies. I was contacted by Bob Hope of the Atlanta Braves. Next my games were in the official organ of the Reds. On and on the solicitations increased and all because “The Boss” made it happen. As the song "New York, New York" says--"if I can make it there I'll make it anywhere" and so on and so forth. The threats from MLB stopped. Business had taken off to unimaginable heights. There was no doubt in my mind-George Steinbrenner was the single most influential person in the history of Major League Baseball.
Then in the late summer of ’85, my wife and I were invited to a cocktail party at the stadium plus the game, compliments of Mr. And Mrs. Steinbrenner. They were feting magazine advertisers. He did not attend but I think Joan did. At any rate, at dinner, I sat next to David Weidler who introduced himself as Treasurer. I took stock of your references to him in your book. I noticed a beeper on his belt and asked why he’d wear one to a cocktail party. His answer consisted of one word. “George.”
He told me that if you were his employee, in just about any executive capacity, then you’d better get used to calls anytime during the day, during the night, during a night out, during a day with the family, during a vacation..during..during..during. When George called to demand that you be on a plane in one hour headed for the west coast, you had better be on that plane or else. David told me he was the most demanding person to work for, in every way, shape and form. Of course I didn’t ask why he remained on his payroll; the answer was self-explanatory and quite obvious. He paid well. However that was the only time ever that I personally got close enough to what the press had written about ever since the 1973 purchase. Subsequently, when Peter Ueberroth became Commissioner and then formed Major League Baseball Properties, I became licensed.
Over the years, I get calls from radio stations with sports talk segments asking if I’d be a guest to discuss baseball in general and broadcasters’ styles specifically. I guess it’s because of my collection; I’ve heard everyone in the broadcasting booths from 1934 to the turn of the new millennium. My website shows close to 2,000 game broadcasts but I have at least 3,000. Invariably I’m asked what broadcaster I consider the best to which I reply, “Vin Scully, without question.” Then comes the el supremo question. “Charlie, your business is quite unique. Was there anyone in baseball land who helped you make it successful?” And when I answer, “I owe it all to George Steinbrenner,” I first hear about ten seconds of stunned silence followed by “What did you say?” Bad ink apparently goes a long way.My explanation seemed to stun every interviewer.
And when I go into a dissertation about his kindness to me and so on and so forth, the MCs
are shocked into “Say it isn’t so, Charlie.” Maybe the jocks are worried about their listeners changing stations? For sure, Mr. Madden, you enlightened us all with that biography. You gave us insight into a very complex individual who, seemed not only mercurial but bi-polar as well. But then again, any reader must admit that the best thing that could happen would be to be fired by “The Boss” because that means the following day he’d be re-hired to a higher post at a better salary. Within the body of that callous demanding Patton-like soul lies a golden heart. If anyone ever will deserve to be in Monument Park, it is he. I’m so sorry he’s dying of Alzheimer’s, as did his dad. My heart goes out to “The Boss” and his entire family. And once again, thanks so much for spending three years in researching and in writing “Steinbrenner.”
All the best always,
Danrick Enterprises, LLC
Woodland Park, NJ 07424-0703"