On February 16, 2003, NetShrine was
to complete an interview with award winning baseball
author and current National Baseball Hall of Fame
and Museum Manager of Programs Bruce Markusen.
NetShrine recommends that you visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. And, we highly recommend Bruce's award winning book "A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Swingin' A's." Oh, but first, check out our interview............
NetShrine: Before we begin the discussion around your books, please tell us more about yourself. Currently, you are the Manager of Programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Please tell us more about that role. Have you been in that position since 1995? Why and how did you get started at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum? What did you do before working there?
Bruce Markusen: Thanks for the opportunity to talk to NetShrine.
Prior to joining the Hall of Fame staff in 1995, I worked as a sports broadcaster and talk show host for WIBX Radio in Utica New York. I worked there from 1987 through early 1995, anchoring the afternoon drive sports reports, hosting a nightly sports call-in and interview show, and performing play-by-play and color commentary on Utica Blue Sox baseball for parts of two seasons. Although I enjoyed working in radio for much of my time at WIBX, I began to wear down from the hours (3 pm to 11 pm six days a week) and began to tire of having to follow all sports 12 months a year, with hardly a break because of the overlapping sports seasons. Baseball has always been my first love; as a result, I started to seek out a position exclusively related to baseball.
I can remember driving home from Albany one weekend, thinking about what I was going to do after radio. After coming off one of the New York State Thruway exits, I noticed a road sign that said, "Cooperstown 20 miles." All of a sudden, it came to me that I should pursue a job at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. So that's what I did. Within a few weeks, I found a part-time job there working as a teacher in the Hall's Education program, and within six months, I found a position working as a Senior Researcher in the Hall of Fame's Library.
In the fall of 2000, I received a promotion and shifted over the Museum side, working in the programming department.
Whenever I tell people that I work as the "Manager of Program Presentations" at the Hall of Fame, they usually give me a blank look associated with confusion! So I quickly try to explain what the job is all about. Basically, what I do is help schedule, organize and execute our calendar of programs and special events. The Hall of Fame puts on a number of public programs--from Baseball Story and Activity Time, Rookie Workshops, and trivia games for kids, to more adult-oriented programs, like Sandlot Stories, which are in-depth multi-media presentations about different aspects of baseball and baseball history. We also have Legends Series events, in which we invite Hall of Famers and even non-baseball celebrities (like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, who are coming to the Hall this spring to talk about the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham) to come speak at the Hall of Fame. We usually do the Legends Series events in an interview format, and with my background in radio and public speaking, I'm usually afforded the opportunity to host the program and do the interview. As you might imagine, that's one of the real thrills of this job.
Unofficially, I'm sometimes called the "Voice of the Hall of Fame." (That's partly a joke, not anything you'd put on your business card.) I've narrated a lot of our video productions since 1995, and whenever you call the Hall of Fame, you'll hear my voice on the phone system!
Since coming to the Hall in March of 1995, I've had a chance to interview many of the Hall of Famers, including Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Tom Seaver, Bob Feller (on a number of occasions; Bob loves to visit the Hall!), Brooks Robinson, Willie Stargell, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, and a few others, too. And as great as that's been, it's been just as exciting for me to interview non-Hall of Famers (who were still good players) that I watched as a youngster: people like Steve Blass, Nellie Briles, and Dave Giusti from the '71 Pirates; Willie Randolph, Rich Gossage, and Ron Guidry from the great Yankee teams of the seventies; and Sal Bando, Mike Hegan, Don Mincher, and Joe Rudi from the A's' dynasty of the early 1970s. Those were teams that I followed growing up with baseball throughout the late sixties and all of the seventies; to be able to link the memory of watching those teams and players with the experience of actually talking to them is something special.
NetShrine: You are going to be the envy of just about every baseball fan that sees this interview. Most would be happy with just one baseball or sports "dream job." And, you've already several. Your explanation of the role that you current fill at the Museum, and the accompanying detail on the programs, is very interesting and thought provoking. To the causal baseball fan, Cooperstown is often seen as a Hall of plaques, an awesome public collection of artifacts and memorabilia, and some other not commonly accessible valuable resources. Few think about the brainpower, creativity and spirit behind the curtain. How many are behind the scenes? How do things - such as the programs you mentioned - evolve? Is the genesis synergistic or are there a cadre of movers and shakers that begin the cascade of creation?
Bruce Markusen: In total, there are about 100 fulltime employees at the Hall of Fame. That includes the staff of both the Museum and the Library, and features such departments as programming, public relations, education, gift shop, retail, research, photos, film and video, and curatorial, just to name some. When you first walk through the Museum as a visitor, you don't realize how many people are working behind-the-scenes, not just in preparing the Museum exhibits and displays, but also in the many other ways that the Hall of Fame reaches, promoting itself and the game of baseball.
When I first started here in 1995, there really weren't any public programs, and certainly not a programming department. The philosophy back then was really to open the doors and encourage people to enjoy the physical exhibits contained in the Museum and the plaques contained in the Gallery. Since then, the philosophy has changed. This Museum, like many other museums across the country, realizes the importance of having varied programs, from presentations and lectures to interviews to trivia games and workshops for kids. The programs supplement the permanent exhibits and allow the Museum to be much more interactive, to give the visitor a chance to talk to the staff, to talk to the celebrities who visit here, to participate in games and workshops that allow and encourage a hands-on approach. The programs here make the visit much more enjoyable for kids, while also making the adult experience that much more varied and intriguing--and educational, too. I know it probably sounds clichéd, but I think the variety of programs allow people the chance to feel that they are more a part of the Hall of Fame, rather than just someone who is looking at exhibits from a certain distance.
One example of what we do is Youth Baseball Week, which we feature every February to coincide with vacation week in the school system. For one week (nine days, actually) we give free admission to any youngster 12 and under who is wearing a baseball cap and is accompanied by an adult. And then once the kids are in the Museum, we offer them a variety of programs in our Bullpen Theater, along with a kind of Treasure Hunt that takes place throughout the Museum.
How did all of these programs come about? Well, it really started through our public relations department, but with input from lots of other departments (including my former department in research). For awhile, we met in committees and a number of the programs evolved from those meetings. Now, there is actually a fulltime programming department, which includes me and the director of our education department (since the programs really are an extension of our efforts to educate people about baseball history), and assistance from several others in both education and public relations. But we receive ideas and suggestions for new programs from all areas of the museum. I don't care who comes up with the idea; if it's a good one and we can afford to put it in place, let's do it. There are a lot of people who work here who have great suggestions; we'd be foolish not to listen to them.
During the summer, when we have programs seven days a week, we also get loads of help from a staff of six interns. They are college students who are looking to gain some baseball or museum-related experience, and we couldn't offer as many programs as we do without their help.
NetShrine: Is there an age cutoff on those Treasure Hunts? I can name at least one 40-year old who would probably enjoy something like that! Going back to your mention of the interviews which you have conducted for the Hall, is there one that stands out the most above all others? And, assuming one does - why?
Bruce Markusen: There is an informal cutoff of 12 years of age, but we can make an exception for your friend. Just let him know that he won't be eligible for any prizes if he answers all of the questions!
In regards to the interviews here at the Hall of Fame, there are really two ways to answer the question. In terms of name value--the sheer thrill of talking to the absolute legends of the game--the two that stand out the most are the interviews with Hank Aaron and Ted Williams. Of all the players I've ever seen play, only Willie Mays ranks higher than Aaron. (I'm not including present-day, active players, so forgive me on Barry Bonds.) To this day, Aaron remains so underrated in the American mainstream, all too often remembered solely for hitting home runs, and not remembered sufficiently for being a true, five-tool talent. As for Williams, I had a chance to talk to him about three years before he passed away, and although he was already ill at the time, he still had that booming voice and that ability to command the room. Williams was not only the greatest hitter of any era, but in his retirement, one of the most charismatic figures the sport has seen. I know that the comparison to John Wayne has been made a lot, but it's a legitimate one. He was very reminiscent of "The Duke" in the way that he was able to funnel everyone's attention toward him when he walked into a room. I was also lucky enough to meet John Wayne--it was in the Los Angeles airport in the 1970s, not too long before he died--and like the conversation with Williams (even though it was relatively brief), I'll always remember it.
Let me try to answer the question about interviews in another way, too. Some of the most memorable interviews have been with non-Hall of Famers, players that were not great or remarkable in any way, but players I grew up watching who also had something insightful to say. There are two that stand out in that regard. One interview was with Steve Blass, who was one of my favorite pitchers while growing up in the early 1970s (perhaps because he was skinny and right-handed, like I was). He was really one of the National League's better pitchers until he mysteriously lost all ability to throw strikes, ending his career well before it should have. About six years ago, Steve visited the Hall--and he certainly didn't disappoint me. He was as nice a guy as I had heard, and he had great stories about the Pirates of the early 1970s and what made those teams click. And then there was Joe Rudi, who was one of my favorite players on the A's of the seventies and who might be the nicest gentleman in all of baseball--past or present. He's also a very intelligent guy, somebody who deserves a coaching job somewhere in the major leagues. Joe and his wife toured the Hall about three or four years ago. I got to talk to him about the A's book, which he seemed genuinely interested in. Together, we looked at photos of his playing career; that was a special time for me.
Steve Blass and Joe Rudi, those are two names that might not mean too much to readers who are in their 20s or younger. But for those fans who are my age or a little bit older, I think they know what I'm talking about.
NetShrine: At least once a year, for the past 30 years, I have thought back to that catch that Joe Rudi made in the 9th inning of Game 2 of the 1972 World Series. The photograph of that catch is a permanent snapshot in the baseball slideshow of my mind. I do know what you are talking about there. Speaking of A's, let us bring the discussion towards "A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s." Tell us about the book. Why did you write it? Was it a joy or a challenge? What do you want others to get from reading it?
Bruce Markusen: This is a book that I've wanted to write for years, probably since the early 1970s, when I first thought about becoming a writer. I got sidetracked from writing when I started out in a radio broadcasting career, but during my last couple of years in radio, the itch to write about the A's returned.
Although several books had previously been written about the A's dynasty, they were all written in the early to mid-1970s, either in the midst of their championship run at just at the very end of it. Yet, nothing had been done with any real historical perspective; that usually has to wait until a number of years have passed. So I saw an opportunity to write about a team that really hadn't been discussed in recent years, a team that almost seems to have been forgotten among the greatest clubs of all time.
How did I first get interested in the A's? Well, it had to do with their uniforms. At the time I started following baseball (circa 1968, which was Mickey Mantle's final year), every team wore white at home and gray on the road. And then all of a sudden, I saw this team wearing green (my favorite color) and gold in all sorts of combinations, with these cool white shoes, too. As a kid, you latch on to teams for funny reasons, and with this team it was the bright colors of their uniforms. And once I started following the A's, I saw how good they were and admired the way that they played.
Once I made the decision to write the book about the A's, the amount of material and the number of stories associated with this team made it fun to research the book; it was very enjoyable. Almost every day from 1971 to 1975 (which encompasses the main time frame of the book), there was something going on. Either Charlie Finley was making a trade or releasing a veteran, or players were feuding with each other (sometimes coming to blows in the clubhouse), or there was tension between the owner and the manager-of-the-day, or Finley was criticizing his players through the media. There were constant trade rumors, and rumors of managers being fired, and rumors of the team being sold and moved (whether it was New Orleans or Las Vegas). Also, let's not forget about the many promotions that Finley staged--from "Mustache Day" to "Bald Headed Day," from having players wear nicknames on the backs of their jerseys to the gaudy green and gold polyester pullover suits the A's adopted in 1972.
And amidst this constant swirl of off-the-field activity, there was baseball-- darned good baseball--being played by the A's on a daily basis. The playoff and World Series games, in particular, were riveting. To this day, I think the 1972 World Series is vastly underrated; it's one of the top 10 World Series every played, and Sparky Anderson says it was better than the 1975 Series (he should know, he was there for both). The 1972 playoff series against the Tigers--in which Bert Campaneris fired his bat at Lerrin LaGrow--was also a classic. The 1973 World Series (30 years ago) was also very good; we tend to forget how the underdog Mets almost won that Series, taking a three-games-to-two lead after the first five games. That was Willie Mays' final World Series, but it was also the first World Series for Reggie Jackson, and it marked the beginnings of his reputation as a great Fall Classic performer.
Given all of this material to work with, the book was certainly a joy to research and write. Still, it was challenging, in part because there was so much material that I didn't want to leave anything out. I wanted to include as many of the stories as I could, and that could only be accomplished by trying not to get too heavily bogged down in any one story. On the one hand, you want to be as detailed as you can, but you also want to keep the pace fast and moving, because of the whirlwind of events going on. I tried to accomplish both in writing the book.
Ultimately, I hope that two themes come across to the reader. I hope that readers are able to come away with an appreciation for how great these A's teams were, how they were able to overcome conflict and controversy, and how efficient and controlled they were in playing must-win games in October. Although they never really had a dominant regular season like the 1927 Yankees, or the 1976 Reds, they always played just well enough to win during the regular season, and then put together some great displays of pitching and defense in the postseason. Some people say that there is no such thing as clutch hitting, or a clutch player. That's bunk. Jim "Catfish" Hunter was a great pitcher in decisive postseason games. Reggie Jackson was a phenomenal World Series player, though he's remembered more for his Yankee World Series than what he did in October for the A's. Gene Tenace, after doing little during the 1972 regular season, hit five home runs under the spotlight of the Series. Mike Hegan, Dick Green, and Joe Rudi--none of whom were Hall of Fame players, though they were good--all turned in crucial defensive plays at essential junctures of World Series games.
The second theme has to do with the A's and their ability to epitomize a colorful era in baseball history. In 1972, they started growing mustaches--becoming known as the "Mustache Gang"--beginning a trend that changed the appearance of players on the field for all teams. Their colorful uniforms spurred other teams to try similar kinds of double-knits. In addition, the A's players feuded amongst themselves and with the owner, much like the Steinbrenner Yankees of 1977 and '78. These kinds of characteristics made the A's a fun team to watch--and helped make that era of baseball a fascinating one to follow.
NetShrine: So, it was the green and gold uniforms that got you hooked! I can confirm that people latch onto teams, stemming as a kid, for funny reasons. A few months back, I met an auto mechanic who was a current and lifelong resident of the state of New Jersey - who was also a lifetime (Los Angeles and later St. Louis) Rams football fan. I tested him a bit and he was indeed a knowledgeable and experienced Rams fan. Curious, I asked, "How does that happen, living in New Jersey all your life?" His answer: "When I was a very small child, my parents bought me Rams pajamas and that got me hooked." Parents, take note and buy your kids the right PJs!
Back to the book, the recent release of "A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Swingin' A's" is an update and expansion of a 1998 release of the book. Why the update? How is the book different now from before?
Bruce Markusen: Speaking of pajamas, the 1975 Cleveland Indians' all-red uniforms have always reminded me of pajamas. It's a shame that Frank Robinson had to wear those for a full season!
There were several reasons for re-issuing the book. The re-issue came out in November of 2002, so that we could honor the 30th anniversary of the 1972 A's, the wild team known as the "Mustache Gang" that ran through a revolving door of 49 players on the way to winning a World Championship. But the publicity for the re-issue really hasn't hit full gear until now--2003--to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1973 World Champions. That was a team that faced the difficulty of having to repeat, continued roster turnover, the Mike Andrews incident, and Charlie Finley's mid-season heart attack. The '73 A's overcame a number of obstacles to win the World Series, but only after the New York Mets pushed them to the brink of elimination, putting them down three games to two. In honor of the '73 A's, the section on that season has been expanded to about 70 pages, which is about five pages longer than the original section on the '73 A's.
There are also a number of other, more general changes to the book. Since initially publishing the book in 1998, I've added material from recent interviews with Joe Rudi (who was especially gracious in talking about the 1972 World Series and his development as a defensive left fielder under the tutelage of Joe DiMaggio), the always colorful Jim "Mudcat" Grant, 1972 World Series hero Gene Tenace (who reflects on Jim "Catfish" Hunter), and John "Blue Moon" Odom, who has put his life together after encountering a series of problems in his post-playing days. I've also added quite a bit of interview material with a man named Bob Fowler, who was the Minnesota Twins beat writer in the early 1970s. He offered some interesting perspective on the A's, who were one of the Twins' chief rivals, and got to know several of the A's stars. Fowler has some intriguing things to say about Charlie Finley and Reggie Jackson (both of whom he liked and enjoyed interviewing), among others.
Also, at the beginning of each chapter that marks a new season (from 1971 to 1975), I've added a list of news making headlines from that year in history. I wanted to try to give readers a small glimpse into what was happening in the real world during that time. Much like the raucous atmosphere around the A's in the early 1970s, that was a tumultuous time in American and world history. And then at the end of the book, I've added statistical summaries for each of the A's' seasons from 1971 to 1975. This was in response to some readers who had read the initial edition of the book and had complained (legitimately so) that they would like to be able to refer to statistics for each of the A's players. So if you want to find out what Campy Campaneris or Vida Blue did in 1973, you can find their statistical lines quickly and easily.
The original edition that came out in 1998 was somewhat of an abridged version; in other words, a lot of what I initially submitted as part of the manuscript was taken out for space considerations. This new edition is an unabridged version, containing almost all of the material that was featured in the original manuscript. That's one of the reasons that the sections on the 1972 and '73 seasons, along with other chapters in the book, are significantly expanded. Also, the last chapter of the book had to be completely re-written because of what the New York Yankees have accomplished with their dynasty in recent years. The original title of the book--Baseball's Last Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Oakland A's-- had to be changed to A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Swingin' A's. As a result, the premise of the last chapter also had to be re-done, since the A's of the early seventies can no longer be considered the game's last dynasty.
The entire book has also been completely re-edited and re-formatted. Although I was proud of the book when it came out--and it did win the Seymour Medal from SABR--I was disappointed by the number of typos that appeared throughout the text. We've gone through and cleaned those out, so that it reads much better. I've also tried to make the writing smoother in some places; hopefully, I'm a better writer five years after the original edition, but ultimately the readers will have to be the judges of that.
In fairness, I should also point out that the new edition, unlike the old one, does not have any interior photographs. This was likely done for cost reasons, which I can certainly understand. Having said that, from a personal standpoint, I never buy a baseball book (unless its a coffee table book) for its photos, but rather for the writing and the research. Hopefully, people will judge the book based on its written content, rather than the lack of images.
Finally, there's the new cover of the book. I know that the old saying, "You can never judge the book by its cover," always applies, but I really like the job that St. Johann Press did with the new cover. Appropriately enough, It features a shade of green that is very similar to the Kelly Green that the A's wore in the early 1970s. There are also color reproductions of some of my own personal Topps baseball cards: a 1972 Jim "Mudcat Grant (wearing classic muttonchops sideburns that were popular in the early seventies); a 1973 in-action shot of Reggie Jackson making a throw from the outfield; a 1973 card of Rollie Fingers (sporting the beginnings of his handlebar mustache); and a 1974 Topps card of Jim "Catfish" Hunter (who was the heart and soul of the A's). I do love Topps cards, especially from the early seventies! I want to thank Marty Appel and the folks at Topps for allowing us to use those images, and I want to thank David Biesel and his staff at St. Johann Press for doing a terrific job with the cover artwork.
NetShrine: How has winning the Seymour Medal from SABR impacted the success of the book? Was winning it a surprise? Were you aware that it was under consideration? Do they actually present you with a medal? If yes, what was that experience like?
Bruce Markusen: I don't think that winning the Seymour Medal had a direct or major impact on sales of the book. The original publisher didn't really do much publicity about the award. I think that the impact may have been in more subtle ways, in terms of influencing other members of SABR to read to the book, along with some members of the media. I think that a few more people involved with baseball heard about the book because it won the award. The award gave it some additional credibility.
I knew that the book had been nominated for the Seymour Medal. For that, I owe all the thanks to Ken Samelson, who edited the original book and then sent copies to the appropriate people at SABR. Ken's a great guy who really showed his support of the book by doing that.
Was I surprised about winning it? You bet I was surprised. I remember that I was working in my office at the Hall of Fame at the time and received a call from Morris Eckhouse, who was then executive director of SABR. I had no idea that I had won--no hints from anybody--and no idea that the call was coming.
Morris invited me and my fiancée, Sue (who is now my wife), to come out to Cleveland for the Seymour Medal Conference and the awards ceremony. They put us up at a nice hotel, paid for everything, and really made the effort to make us feel welcome. Morris, John Zajc (who is now the executive director), and Larry Gerlach (who was the president of SABR at the time) all treated us very well. It was especially nice that my wife, Sue, was able to be there, along with my sister, Dee-Dee.
I also had a chance to meet the widow of Dr. Seymour, Dorothy Mills, who was there to offer congratulations when I received the medal. She didn't have to be there, but made the effort to be, which was certainly appreciated. Dorothy, it should be mentioned, is an outstanding baseball researcher and writer.
The medal, which I keep on display in my office at the Hall of Fame, is beautiful. It's made of thick bronze--real heavy. That's good, unless I drop it on my bad toe.
NetShrine: That sounds like a wonderful experience. You've authored other books. Can you tell us something about them? What was the driver behind you wanting to do each of them? Are the related in some way?
Bruce Markusen: The other books I've done are Roberto Clemente: The Great One and The Orlando Cepeda Story. Clemente was my favorite player growing up, in part because I'm half Puerto Rican; my mother, Grace Rodriguez, was born on the island. Clemente was one of the true heroes of sport, a man who did so much work in the communities of Carolina (his home town) and Pittsburgh. Not only did he die in such a heroic way, trying to aid the Nicaraguan earthquake victims in December of 1972, but he also lived that way throughout his life. He used to put on free baseball clinics for underprivileged kids in Puerto Rico, and also did a lot of work for the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, among other humanitarian efforts.
Speaking of Clemente, I recently read in the Boston Globe that the Roberto Clemente Sports City in Puerto Rico (which is probably the most important part of Clemente's legacy) is struggling financially. Ever since opening in 1973, they've helped so many underprivileged kids by offering them a place--free of charge--to participate in sports. I hope that the Clemente family will be able to get the necessary assistance to keep that place running. It's such a great service that they provide to the people of Puerto Rico.
After writing about Clemente, it made sense for me to write about the other Puerto Rican member of the Hall of Fame, Orlando Cepeda. I've been lucky enough to meet Orlando, which is another reason why I wanted to write about him. Orlando has had his share of struggles, but has recovered to become a respected member of the community in the Bay Area. He is really a terrific person, very down-to-earth and fun to talk to. He's one of those rare people that makes you feel like he's known you for years even when you're just meeting him for the first time.
Although the Cepeda and Clemente books are very different from A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley's Swingin' A's, I guess that the common thread among the three books is that they all deal with baseball in the era of the 1960s and early 1970s. It's an underrated era, with so many great players and so many standout teams and fascinating story lines. There's a lot more to explore within that span of time; at some point, I'd like to write a book about that entire era of baseball history.
We at NetShrine would like to point out to those reading this interview that
they can contact the Roberto Clemente Sports City in Puerto Rico @ http://www.robertoclemente21.com/Sports_City_/General_Info/general_info.html
should they want to help this wonderful cause.
Bruce, are the any future works that you have in the hopper, or even just on your wish list, that we can look forward to reading some time in the days ahead?
Bruce Markusen: Most immediately, a friend (Ron Visco, who's also a SABR member) and I have plans to come out with a book this fall on the 10 greatest World Series of all time. The book will include such series as 1960 (Pirates and Yankees), 1975 (Reds and Red Sox), 1991 (Twins and Cardinals) and 2001 (Diamondbacks and Yankees). It will probably be a self-published book, which will be our first venture into that area of the industry.
I am also in contract with Greenwood Publishing to do a young adult book on the life of Ted Williams. Unlike a lot of the previous biographies about Williams, I'd like to focus a little bit less on his playing career (as great as that was) and discuss more his experiences as a manager with the Senators and Rangers and his life after baseball, when he really became a true American icon. That book will likely come out in 2004.
And then I have a finished manuscript on the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, who surprisingly beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles for the World Championship that season. That book explores the entire season for the Pirates, while looking at the team's unprecedented level of integration, with nearly half of the roster comprised of black and Latino players. There's a lot in that book about the three Hall of Famers--Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Bill Mazeroski--and the Pirates' underrated manager, Danny Murtaugh. I'm still looking for a publisher on that one, which I think has a chance, because of the theme, to be the most important book I've done.
The 1960 and 2001 World Series! Slowly I turn, step by
step.............just kidding. Guess that's a tip-off that I'm a Yankee
fan. All of these projects sound very interesting - especially the one on
the 1971 Pirates, for the reason you state. We wish you the best of luck
Since we're rounding third and heading for home on this interview, in closing we have three last things to throw at you: First, of course, thank you for this opportunity. This has been a wonderful interview. All your time and effort is very much appreciated. Second, after the last question (which follows) is addressed, consider that space a closing opportunity, a BP fastball to do with as you please - - if there's anything you want to say that we have not covered, by all means let it rip! Third, we have to put you on the spot with one last question: If the vote were up to you, would you enshrine Charlie Finley into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and why (or why not)?
Bruce Markusen: I would like to thank you, Steve, for giving me the opportunity to talk about baseball and the great A's teams of the 1970s. I'm hoping that one of the by-products of this book is that those A's, led by people like Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman and Rollie Fingers, start to receive more recognition for what they accomplished. To win three straight titles--including three Championship Series and three World Series against good competition--is something that should be celebrated. Perhaps the A's wouldn't have beaten the '27 Yankees or the '55 Dodgers or the '70 Orioles, who were all likely better teams, but their combination of pitching, defense, and power, and the ability to play well under high-pressure situations make them one of the finest teams of all time.
Charlie Finley for the Hall of Fame? This is strictly a personal opinion--and not representing any official or unofficial opinion of the Hall of Fame--but if I had a vote, I would vote for Charlie Finley. I'd ask myself two things about an owner and whether he did two things: did he win, and did he change the game in a substantial and at least partially positive way? I would say that Finley certainly won plenty with the three World Championships--and keep in mind that he also served as his own general manager, making a number of astute acquisitions, like Billy North, Ken Holtzman, and Darold Knowles through trades-- in addition to three pennants and five division titles. As for the other question, he was probably the most creative owner of his era, and perhaps second only to Bill Veeck in baseball history. Finley was among the first owners to clamor for night All-Star games and World Series games (which certainly make sense during the week, even though baseball has gone too far in making all of the Series games night games); he championed the cause for the DH, which at the time was needed by a struggling American League; and he made the game more colorful with his "Mustache Gang" idea, his mule mascot, his bright green and gold uniforms, and his willingness to put player nicknames on the backs of jerseys. I know that Charlie Finley was not the most diplomatic man and made a lot of enemies along the way, but he promoted some positive changes for the sport and got a lot of things done. He certainly had a tremendous impact on the game--an impact that is still felt today.
That's it. Once again, our thanks to Bruce for granting NetShrine this interview!
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