Maury Z. Levy

Archive for the ‘Business Philadelphia’ Category

The Selling of Mike Schmidt

In Business Philadelphia on September 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

How the Phillies’ all-time home run hero ended up being king of the hoagies.

By Maury Z. Levy

THE CHEERING HAS BEEN OVER FOR OVER A YEAR now. And the booing, that callous cacophony that alternately drove him to his best and drove him to the brink, is but a bitter memory. Now, out here in the real world where fair trade weighs heavier than foul balls, it is time for Mike Schmidt to wake up and smell the onions. Mike Schmidt, one of the best baseball players who ever lived, one of the greatest natural athletes in the history of sport, has had old number 20 retired, thank you very much, and is now selling hoagies in Richboro.

There is something about that that makes Mike Schmidt proud and something that makes him angry. Bo Jackson, who sells Nikes out the
wazoo, will never hit as many home runs as Mike Schmidt, but he’s on television every three minutes. Geez, even Tim McCarver, a nice guy but an average baseball player, beat Mike Schmidt out for a job as a color analyst on network TV. Tim McCarver couldn’t hold Schmidt’s bat when they played together in that championship season, but Tim McCarver, who does shtick, who tells bad jokes, who makes corny puns, is at network now.

And Lenny Dykstra, who’s had a good year or two as a baseball player, but is a pig of a man, will make more than Mike Schmidt ever made. And he will show up on David Letterman. And he will, like former felon Pete Rose, have kids across America sliding head first and getting dirty and learning how to spit and curse and dribble down their shirts.

But what about Mike Schmidt? What about the man with all the Gold Gloves? What about the man who hit more home runs than almost anyone else on the planet? What about everybody’s All-American? Tomorrow, he will be in the Hall of Fame. Today, he is selling hoagies in Richboro. He just doesn’t understand it. Then again, maybe he does.

“I DON’T LIKE COMPARISONS,” SCHMIDT SAYS.
”But I would think that my career speaks for itself. My image speaks for itself. My track record speaks for itself. My honesty, integrity, family life, all the things I’ve ever stood for and accomplished in my career are marketable.

“Occasionally, I get a little jealous that I’m not as easily marketable as an Andre Agassi, because he’s not married, he wears that off-the-wall shit, and he can do whatever he wants. There are a lot of people who can get away with doing things that make me a little jealous, things that I never did or can’t do now to help market myself.

“I’m marketable to Dean Witter and to banks and things like that. I’m marketable for the honest family man in me. And I have the local milk commercials and the Chevy spots. But I’m not a rebel. I’m not a guy who came back from drug addiction. I’m not a guy that people are lined up to write a book about because I spent two years in prison. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hard Ball: The Business of the Phillies

In Business Philadelphia on September 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm

giles0710THIS ONE BIT THE BIG ONE. WILLIAM YALE GILES, who had finally quit smoking for sure, for good, forever at 10:05 PM on Thursday, February 6, was sitting on the second row of the box next to the radio booth, the box where the owners sit in the dark through the chill of April and the light in August, chomping on an unlit stogie, a tightly-wrapped replica of a Lenny Dykstra chaw. Soon, the butchered bites were bouncing off his blue buttondown, down to the bare boards below.

Outside, over there on the green sponge carpet that poorly of for grass, his team is having a time of it. Looking very new in their bright red uniforms, they are up to the same old stuff. Tommy Greene, a pitcher of some promise, is having trouble doing what he does get paid a measly $255,000 a summer to do for a living. He is putting Cubs on base. If this doesn’t stop soon, the Phillies will have to bring in some help. Eventually, that means Mitch Williams, who earns $3,200,000 for pitching about an inning every other night.

But first, Ryne Sandberg, who used to be a Phillie, Ryne Sandberg, who will make over $7 million a year starting next year, is parking a Tommy Greene fastball over the left field fence for a three-run homer. As Sandberg rounds third, Bill Giles pounds his fist and mutters to no one in particular: “I traded him, you know. All our reports said he couldn’t hit well enough to play third and couldn’t field well enough for second or short. So I traded him.”

He bites down very hard on his cigar, which splinters all over his still-hot dinner of fried mozzarella sticks and shells with marinara sauce. It is not a pretty sight.

“I just get so ticked off,” he says, “I have to bite on something. I went to sunflower seeds after I stopped smoking, but the salt just made my blood pressure go sky high.” He brushes the stogie off his shirt and tries to smile.

THIS ISN’T A GAME ANYMORE, THIS SUMMER sport owned by men and played by boys. This is an industry. This is a business.

“It’s a game, it’s a business, it’s a religion,” Bill Giles says. “But it’s certainly becoming more of a business as time goes on. So many dollars are at stake now, compared to what it used to be. It’s kind of scary sometimes.

“The challenge used to be just trying to put the best team on the field you could. Now the challenge is trying to put the best team on the field and not go broke in the process.”

But are Giles and his management team really running this business like a business? Are they putting out a quality product while keeping their fixed costs down?

“Baseball,” he says, “is more of a people business than it is like other companies that are making nuts and bolts and computers and automobiles. Almost 80 percent of our expense is on people, which makes it more unpredictable. Who could have predicted that Lenny Dykstra would break a bone on the first day of the season? Or that Jose DeJesus would be out for the season?   Read the rest of this entry »

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