1/29: Sports Roundup

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Len Berman

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?  Although it’s the eve of the Super Bowl, for those whose passion is baseball it’s a matter of days until pitchers and catchers report.  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks chats with sports journalist and Marist Poll Contributor Len Berman about this year’s prospects for the Yankees, Mets, and Len’s predictions for Super Bowl XLVII.

Len Berman

Len Berman

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Listen to part 1:

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John Sparks

What a world we live in.  We’ve got a Heisman contender with a fake dying girlfriend.  The NCAA investigating itself in the University of Miami football mess.  Hockey players back on the ice.  Sammy Sosa thinks he and McGwire belong in Cooperstown although this year no one was elected to the Hall of Fame, and there’s excitement in Baltimore for the first time since Johnny Unitas as the Ravens prepare for a Super Bowl.  Now, I was talking with Marist contributor Carl Leubsdorf yesterday.  He thinks that the Washington Nationals will win the World Series.  So, there’s excitement INSIDE the Beltway.  Let’s quickly talk a little baseball.  First of all American League East.  Am I nuts or do the Yankees seem to be out of it in trying to build a contender this year?

Len Berman

Well, you know, John, I’m one of those people who think that this could be the year the Yankees don’t make the playoffs.  I mean they have this self-imposed salary cap.  Now, you wonder if they’ll ever be able to help themselves when it comes to spending money because over the years they’ve always outspent everybody.  But, what happens if they really do keep to that salary cap?  All of a sudden smarts will enter into the equation, and the Yankees have always been accused of being smart with their checkbook, as opposed to being smart with their brains.  So, that remains to be seen.  I think Toronto have improved themselves.  The Orioles are certainly an exciting young group, and I just wonder if this is the year it all falls apart for the Yankees. You know, people refer to 1965 as the watershed year for the Yankees when the dynasty ended.  Maybe, 2013 is the latter day 1965.

John Sparks
What’s the deal with the Steinbrenner boys?  They certainly aren’t like the old man.

Len Berman
Well, but that’s, that’s good and bad.  I mean George was so tempestuous and flew by the seat of his pants.  But, he was certainly entertaining, and he’s missed from that standpoint.  I don’t know if…  Well, maybe he would have given Alex Rodriguez that God awful contract that his kids had doled out.  But, that’s going to be an albatross hanging around their necks for years to come unless they can somehow unload him.  But, I wouldn’t sell the boys short.  They’re certainly astute business-wise, and they want to face the new reality of $189 million dollar salary caps.  So let’s, you know, the jury is out on the boys.

John Sparks

You mentioned A-Rod.  And, aren’t steroids really the cause of all his physical problems?  And, if so, isn’ there any way they can dump him?

Len Berman

No.  I don’t think so.  I don’t know if it’s the cause. You certainly have to feel suspect.  He did take steroids.  He admitted to some of it.  So, you wonder.  You know, like I tell my kids, if you lie once, you lie every time. So, just because he admitted to taking it for a couple of years doesn’t mean he really took it a lot longer.  I wonder about that relationship with Dr. Galea, the disgraced Canadian doctor.  I wonder what his involvement was.  So, yeah there are a lot of open questions about A-Rod, and I don’t know if, if the steroids caused everything. Now, what was the second part of the question?

John Sparks

Well, I just wondered if the Yankees could not turn him loose…

Len Berman

Right.  Well, I think they looked hard into that when they had the problem with Jason Giambi.  And, I think their lawyers came up and said no because Giambi signed under false pretenses, and then he was caught up in steroids.  So, my guess is that just because someone’s involved in steroids, doesn’t mean you can dump a contract.  That doesn’t mean they won’t try, but I don’t think they would be successful.

Listen to part 2:

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John Sparks

Let’s look at the rest of the league.  American League West?  Angels, Rangers, and now, we’ve got the Houston Astros.  What do you think there?

Len Berman

Well, I’m not counting on the Houston Astros to provide much other than a punching bag.  You know, I hope Seattle improves a little.  You always have to worry about the Angels.  And then you know, Oakland seems to do it with mirrors every year.  And then, Texas still has talent.  That’s a loaded division.  And, that could be the division that knocks the Yankees out.  In other words, if you have extra wild cards coming from the West, I think the Yankees would be in trouble.  So, I think you know, I think you’re strong on the coasts.  The middle of the country, I’m not so sure of in the American League.

John Sparks

Well, you have the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central with Justin Verlander.  Are they going to repeat in the Central?

Len Berman

Well, I think it’s hard to repeat.  I mean I’m more excited by Cabrerra to see what he does coming off his triple crown year.  You know, Kansas City’s out there lurking, you know, improving bit by bit.  But, you had some, you had probably the worst teams in the American League all bunched up in the Central, and you know I don’t know if the White Sox… you know, I guess Detroit would have to be considered the favorite because when you look at the rest of the division I’m not sure there’s much competition there.

Listen to part 3:

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John Sparks

Let’s go to the senior circuit.  The Dodgers, now, are Major League Baseball’s top spenders outspending the Yankees.  Will it bring Don Mattingly a trip to the World Series that he never experienced in pinstripes?

Len Berman 

Yeah.  I hope so.  I’m a big Don Mattingly fan.  And, I think with all the money infused, and they’re about to sign their new whopping television deal so there’ll be even more money in it.  I don’t think they’re afraid of any kind of salary cap.   San Francisco you have to just tip your cap.  They’ve won two out of three.  And you know, so they’ll give them the competition there.  But I, secretly I’m pulling for the Dodgers.  I love Mattingly.  I think he’s one of the classiest guys baseball’s ever seen, and I hope, I hope they get him to a World Series.

John Sparks

Indeed.  Let’s go to the National League East.  Mets or Mutts?  Will they ever regain their past glory?

Len Berman

Well, the Mets are struggling.  And I, you know, I was with some of their team executives the other night.  And, you know, their mantra is we’re not as bad as people think we are.  Well, that’s one hell of a catch phrase.  You know, in their division, they’re dealing with three very, very good teams.  I mean, I think your friend who likes the Washington Nats has a lot to bank on. I think they are the favorites.  They had the best record last year in all of baseball, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do just as well this year with their young kids.  Atlanta.  I think that’s a tough, tough team.  And, I think Philadelphia’s going to be better than a .500 club.  So, I think the Mets are going to be buried for the foreseeable future.

John Sparks

Finally, in the National League Central.  No more Astros.  Pirates seem to be arming up, but will the Cardinals repeat?

Len Berman

Well, that’s hard to say.  I think Cincinnati is really the team in the Central.  I like what they’ve got with the live arms out there, and Milwaukee’s better.  You know, they’re lurking.  They’re over .500.  I think… I would like to hope that this is the year Pittsburgh finally goes above .500.  I think they set the North American record for losing seasons.  They flirted with it last year, but didn’t make it.  I like this year, but I still, you know the class of this division is going to be Cincinnati, I think.

Listen to part 4:

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John Sparks

Len, I want to go back to this steroids business for just a moment.  Should they be discounted when it comes to baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Len Berman

Well, I think you have to make intelligent choices.  In other words, I think you have to look at each in a case-by-case basis.  I think Sammy Sosa’s nuts.  I think clearly the conventional wisdom is that if not for steroids he would not have done what he did.  Same with Mark McGwire.  So I think you have to discount those two from the Hall of Fame which certainly elevates the candidacy of Roger Maris, but that’s another story.  But, I think what you have to do is say to yourselves, and it’s very difficult because in essence steroid users were cheaters, I think you have to say to yourself would this person have been a hall of famer without steroids.  And, I think, that if you really go down the line, you have to say that Barry Bonds without steroids would have made the Hall of Fame.  And, the same goes for Roger Clemens.  So I think, you know, I think down the road those two deserve to be in.  But heck.  I’ve been, I’ve been campaigning for Pete Rose forever to no avail. So, I think on the field accomplishments are what really counts, and I know there’s an integrity clause when it comes to Major League Baseball, but there are so many scoundrels in the Hall of Fame that, you know, they’ve certainly gone through that loop hole with, with a Mack truck.

John Sparks

Len, we’ve been talking and looking ahead with baseball, but we’re right on the eve of the Super Bowl.  49ers or Ravens?  What do you think?

Len Berman

Well, you know, whatever I choose, I think you should pick the opposite.  I mean I shocked myself by correctly picking the two winners in the championship games.  I picked the two road teams which went against form, and they both won.  There’s something I like about Baltimore.  I like the redemption story.  You know, forget the Harbaughs and forget Ray Lewis.  I like the Flacco story.  I mean here’s a guy who’s been just a, you know, demonized for so long as just being just an average quarterback, and here he is driving the Ravens to the Super Bowl.  They certainly have a much better quarterback than when they won Super Bowl XXXV.  So, I’m gonna, I’m gonna cast my lot with Flacco which means if you’re a betting man you should go and probably bet the house on San Francisco, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna lean towards Baltimore on this one.

John Sparks

Okay, Len.  Finally what’s going on with you these days?  You’re still doing some television.  You’re writing books.  You’ve got your daily e-mail blog.  And, you emceed an event with Yogi the other night.  How’s Yogi doing, and how are you doing?

Len Berman

Yeah.  I’m doing fine.  I’m really enjoying my new life of not working the news every single night.  I have my ThatsSports.com website and send out a daily e-mail.  And, I’ve written some books.  My latest was “Greatest Moments in Sports—Upsets and Underdogs”.  And, I’m on the Today Show once a month with my Spanning the World feature, and I’m contributing to Channel 5 locally in New York with my Top Five on Channel Five once a week.  So, I’m keeping dabbled so to speak, and I’m going to continue to stay active.

John Sparks

Finally, before we call it quits, how can folks sign up for your blog?

Len Berman

They just go to ThatsSports.com and I send out a daily e-mail, you know, and there’s no spam involved, and I just give my take on sports. Some of it’s whimsical.  Some of it’s serious.  You know, the whimsical nature I talked about the Orlando sportswriter who said tha we finally know who was sitting in Clint Eastwood’s chair at the Republican Convention.  It was Manti Te’O’s girlfriend.  So, that’s the whimsy aspect, but you know, we have fun with it.  And, some serious issues such as injuries.  Head injuries in football we talked about today.  So, it covers the gamut and we have a lot of fun with it.

John Sparks

Len, You’re the best.  And, it’s always great talking with you.  Thanks for your time, and we look forward to our next visit.

Len Berman

All right.  Thanks, John.

3/14: A Look Ahead to Opening Day

March 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, Len Berman

With Major League Baseball’s opening day less than a month away, the countdown to the regular season has begun.  What can baseball fans make of the change in the playoff system?  And, who has the best chances of winning this year?  Sports journalist and Marist Poll Contributor Len Berman offered his insight when he spoke with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Len Berman

Len Berman

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Part 1:


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John Sparks
Len, what do you think about Major League Baseball expanding the playoffs for this season?

Len Berman
I think it’s a good move. I think adding a wild card and diminishing the chances for the wild card to advance, I think that’s all positive. I mean it’s going to create some more excitement down the stretch in September, keep some more teams alive, and those two one game play-ins should be very exciting, so I don’t really have a problem. I mean it makes it look more difficult for them to advance. It certainly puts a better premium on winning the division, something the Yankees didn’t really try to do a couple years ago despite what Joe Girardi claims, so I think generally it’s positive.

John Sparks
So then, it puts more value on getting hot at the end rather than persevering over the long haul?

Len Berman
Well, you know, I think that’s always the case in post season, and that’s always the case in playoffs no matter what the team. Look at football, too. I mean, look at what the Giants have done. No, I don’t think that’s a prob…  I mean, yeah, the hot team, my goodness, I mean the St. Louis Cardinals were certainly not picked by anybody last year and certainly didn’t have a wonderful regular season. They got hot at the end, and they carried it through and won the championship, so I don’t think this change in the playoff system alters that philosophy at all.

Part 2:


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John Sparks
Let’s take a look at the upcoming season, what do you think about the Yankees for this year?

Len Berman
Well, they’re always a team to be reckoned with because of their resources. I mean, I think the team they put on the field is strong. Things can fall apart. They’ve never had that problem over the years, but, for example, they lost a good relief pitcher in Dave Robertson because he fell down some stairs. Now he might not be ready opening day. I mean, if that’s the beginning of a series of issues that even great teams can fall in the abyss.  But, with their resources, if something isn’t working, and they do have the injuries, they have the deep pockets to go out and buy replacements midseason, so you never count out the Yankees ever.

John Sparks
I’m curious, A-Rod bounces back this year and what about Derek Jeter at the tail end of the ride?

Len Berman
Well, those are issues. I mean, these guys are older. I mean Mariano Rivera. I mean, I have a feeling this is his last season. What if he doesn’t have it? Hey, there’s always question marks, which is great. I mean I think people are just penciling in the Yankees for one of those playoff spots. What if they don’t make it?  Look at how that opens things up for a lot of other teams. So, yeah, those are valid questions. A-Rod’s age, Jeter’s age, sure, that’s not a real young team. What you find with the teams like the Cardinals, a team that has some young players, all of sudden exceed expectations, and you hope that works out. You like to see that, so maybe there’s a team out there that no one’s considering.

Part 3:


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John Sparks
Let’s go over to Queens and talk about the Mets, what do you see for the Mets this year?

Len Berman
Well, it’s just sad that their mantra is: We’re not as bad as people think we are. I mean, that’s a hell of a sales slogan.  They’ve got problems, and they’ve got financial problems. And until those financial problems get resolved, things are going to continue the way they are. Having said that, these are Major League players. I mean, Ike Davis is a Major League first baseman. David Wright’s a Major League third baseman.  You’ve got some players there. What’s to say that they aren’t this year’s St. Louis Cardinals? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

Part 4:


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John Sparks
Let’s go around the League and the divisions real quickly. I’m just wondering, American League West.  Will Pujols bring Los Angeles a division, and what about the Rangers and Yu Darvish?

Len Berman
Yeah, well I think those are both great questions and I think that’s — it used to be the American League East that was spocked[sic]. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got Texas, which has been in two straight WorldSeries, and they had heartbreaking loss in last year’s Fall Classic, and you’ve got the Angels with Pujols. You know, you always lean on the side of pitching, so maybe Texas by getting Darvish is the bigger get. Certainly possible.

John Sparks
Thinking about pitching, let’s move over to American League Central. Justin Verlander and the Tigers, can anybody beat them?

Len Berman
You know, they look awfully solid. They’re certainly the strong favorites going in, and they’ve certainly become a franchise with deep pockets there, so for anyone to pick against the Tigers, that would be a long shot.

John Sparks
Okay. We talked about the Yankees, but let’s talk about the American League East. Can Bobby Valentine bring the Red Sox back, and what about Tampa Bay or maybe even a long shot for Toronto?

Len Berman
Yeah, I mean I love the East. I’m a huge Bobby Valentine fan.  I wish all it took was a manager. I think he’s a great step in the right direction, and he’s going to shake up that clubhouse, and he’s certainly going to make all the games with the Yankees a lot more interesting. He’s just one of the great baseball characters. Do the Red Sox have enough? It doesn’t look like it. Tampa Bay is a solid club. I hope a Toronto or even a Baltimore come out of nowhere. I mean, it’ll be nice, but I think you’re looking at the traditional powers for another year.

Part 5:


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John Sparks
Okay, National League East, Phillies again, they picked up Jonathan Pabelbon. Are they best team in baseball really?

Len Berman
Well, if they are, their fans are going to get a little upset that they don’t win it all. After being to the World Series a couple years, they haven’t for a couple years, so I think they’re a hell of a team so…  are they the best team in baseball? You could make a case, sure.

John Sparks
National League Central, St. Louis without Pujols.  What does that mean for the division?

Len Berman
You know what, I still like St. Louis. I really do. I mean I don’t know where the… Obviously Cincinnati, you always have to look out. Milwaukee, Ryan Braun’s going to have a chip on his shoulder, so that could be a fun — that could be a real fun division. Look for those three teams to mix it up. I don’t… Certainly when you lose Pujols’ bat, it’s going to affect you, but historically teams that have lost a major free agent, it’s for some reason the other players who’ve stepped up, so I’m not going to count them out just yet. But I don’t look for them to repeat, that’s for sure.

John Sparks
You mentioned Braun, what do you think about the steroid thing with him?  Did he or didn’t he?

Len Berman
Well, obviously it’s only he and his urine sample know for sure. I mean the odds are that it’s awfully far-fetched to think that a tester tampered with sample A and sample B, so… In 99.999% of the cases, if it’s in their system, it’s in their system. It’s not some kind of fluke. So, if you put a gun to my head, he dodged that bullet for sure.

John Sparks
Moving out West for the National League, the Giants are pretty tough, but what about Don Mattingly and the Dodgers?  What do you think is going to happen there?

Len Berman
I don’t know. I mean, I’d love to see — I hope that he doesn’t become a… They still have an ownership situation that’s up in the air. I hope he doesn’t become the odd man out because of that. I love… I’m a big personal fan of Don Mattingly. I don’t know if his team has enough, but the Giants still have some of that pitching. I always look at the pitching as being the strength.

John Sparks
Anything else as we look at the 2012 baseball season?

Len Berman
You know, I think the one story you didn’t bring up is the Miami Marlins. New Name, new stadium, they’ve spent a load, and you want to see if the fans come out. I mean, that’s been a market that still you don’t know about that. They’ve won two World Championships, yet that can’t draw fans. If they can’t do it with this new stadium and Ozzie Guillen and Jose Reyes and the rest of the people down there, then they never will. So I think that’s a big story that you got to a — that I think is going to be one of the big baseball stories of 2012, the Miami Marlins.

John Sparks
Appreciate your time, Len. What’s going on in your life these days?

Len Berman
Well, I’ve got a lot of different things going on. I’m still doing The Today Show once a month with Spanning the World. I’ve started this relationship with Channel 5 in New York where once a week I do my Top Five on Channel 5 which is a spinoff of my daily email which people get at thatssports.com, and I’m very excited about my newest book coming out in the fall for kids. It’s going to be Greatest Moments in Sports, Upsets and Underdogs, and it’s more than a sports book. It’s really going to be empowering for young people to see how anyone can succeed no matter where you come from or what your background is, you have a chance to become a champion, and I think it’s going to open a few eyes. As I very modestly say, “Every young people… Every young person needs to read that book.”

John Sparks
Well, I’m looking forward to reading it also. It’s always a pleasure, Len.

12/2: “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time”

December 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, Len Berman

Sports journalist and Marist Poll Contributor Len Berman has stirred up a little controversy in his new book, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.  Find out what the fuss is about in his interview with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks.

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Len Berman

Len Berman

John Sparks
Len, you had to have opened up a real hornet’s nest with a book titled “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.”  That’s a pretty tall order. What kind of responses have you been getting from the book?

Listen to Part 1 of the Interview:


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Len Berman
Well, it’s …   I probably should’ve given this some more thought before I decided to do it, but what happens is people are passionate about their local teams.  So anybody who gets left off the list, they think I’m nuts.  How could you possibly leave off Sandy Koufax or Nolan Ryan or Yogi Berra or Roberto Clemente?  So I’m in the weird position of talking about my book, and most authors get to talk about what’s in their book, I have to spend half the time talking about what’s not in there.

John Sparks
Now, since I’ve read the book, I know, of course, that you didn’t come up with the list all by yourself.  I can’t blame you for not wanting to take all the heat.  In fact, you had a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel. You had Bernie Williams and Jeffrey Lyons and Ralph Branca and Frank Deford, just to name a few. How did you go about selecting your partners in crime?

Len Berman
Well, first of all, when you’re trying to do something, you want to reach out to people you know and will get a response from, so clearly I looked for initially people I knew and journalists I knew and respected, and then I asked the Hall of Fame for a suggestion. I knew they couldn’t get involved. That wouldn’t be proper for them to vote, and the Director of the Hall of Fame suggested Roland Hemond, who’s a longtime baseball executive in Arizona who’s seen it all. So, I tried to spread it around as much as I could to different ages and generations. People have seen a lot of ballplayers and seen a lot of games, and I told them just vote. Give me 25 names, and you don’t have to say what position they play or what era they played in, and that’s how we got who we got.  And I don’t think I agree with all of them, but I do agree with most of them.

John Sparks
Well, let me follow-up. You wrote that there were 11 unanimous choices. How did you settle on the other 14?  Was there a weighted vote?  Was your vote the only one that mattered?  Did you ever get outvoted by your own panel?  Did they change your mind on anybody?

Len Berman
I didn’t vote at all, and the 11 unanimous choices were Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Mickey Mantle, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams, and I can’t argue with any of them.  The other 14 were just whoever got the most votes.  And, since I had seven panelists, luckily it broke down where four votes got you in and three didn’t.  Well, listen to this collection of ballplayers who got three votes and just missed: Grover Alexander, Barry Bonds, Lefty Grove, who some considered to be the greatest pitcher ever, Satchel Paige, and Roberto Clemente.  So, those were the people that just missed.  The shocking thing to me was Yogi Berra got one vote out of seven, just one that came from Bernie Williams, and yet there’s ten World Series rings.  I mean somebody had to catch all those pitchers.

John Sparks
You know, the book’s been out a little while, is there one player that readers have taken the most exception with?

Listen to Part 2:


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Len Berman
Well, sure. That would be the only active player who made the book, and that’ll be Alex Rodriguez, who’s controversial for any number of reasons. Number one of which, he took performance-enhancing drugs and admitted to it. Number two, there are active players, such as Albert Pujols, who, if this book were written 10 or 15 years from now, might receive even more consideration. But Alex Rodriguez got four votes, and what I found most interesting was not only did he get a vote from Bernie Williams, which you’d expect, I mean Bernie Williams also voted for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but I mean — but he also got a vote from Roland Hemond.  So, that tells me that there’s widespread belief that his talents just rise above anything he may or may not have done. And the truth be told, if it weren’t for Derek Jeter playing shortstop, Rodriguez would be ensconced at shortstop and would be considered the greatest shortstop ever this side of Honus Wagner.

John Sparks
When going through the book, I couldn’t help but think about that age-old controversy about whether ballplayers should be considered role models.  You mentioned about A-Rod and the steroids, some of your other 25 had their personal demons. Cobb was snarly. Ruth was a drinker and carouser. Mickey Mantle wasn’t a saint, and Pete Rose liked to gamble. Did you have any difficulty in trying to go beyond that issue? Did you judge strictly on talent on the field?

Len Berman
Well, you’d have to ask the panelists, but as far as how I addressed this, since the book is primarily aimed at young readers, I certainly did not skirt the issue. So I addressed the Alex Rodriguez issue head-on and the Pete Rose gambling issue head-on.  I didn’t get into Babe Ruth’s carousing and Mickey Mantle’s drinking. The publisher did take out one story, though. I did write that Ty Cobb’s mother shot his father to death in an accident, thought he was an intruder and shot him to death. He thought she was fooling around and was sneaking into the house. The publisher, I think, decided it wasn’t a warm and fuzzy enough story for young people to read about, so that’s out of the book.

John Sparks
You know, I’m glad you mentioned that because I noticed that omission as well, and I recall seeing a — I think it was a two-act play that Gabe Pressman and I went to, believe it or not, and it was about Cobb, and according to the play, he had witnessed that incident, and the whole thesis was that that affected his demeanor in the way he interacted with other players.

Len Berman
Well, an amateur psychologist would tell you that, gee, if mom shoots dad to death, it’s going to affect your personality in later years. I don’t know if he actually witnessed it. There’s some debate over how the incident took place. Cobb has a descendant, like a great, great something, nephew or grandson who’s debunked part of the story. Some of it’s shaped in myth, but I would … yeah, anything you write about these guys from way back when is kind of speculation. We don’t know much about, for example, the great Negro League catcher Josh Gibson who made the book. We don’t. What’s written about him or what’s said about him is not really well known because it didn’t get the press coverage, and the statistics weren’t really accurate, and a lot of what he did may have just been the stuff of myth. So, you just don’t know about a lot of these people when you go way back when.

John Sparks
You mentioned a minute ago about aiming the book at young fans, but I’ve got to tell you, I think you did a masterful job at aiming your book at fans of all ages. That’s the beauty of baseball, I think.  I remember my late father at the age of 80 sitting in the back seat of my car on the way home from a Texas Rangers’ game talking to an eight-year-old son of my neighbor, and baseball bridged a 72-year-old age gap when it came to conversation. I really thought you did a great job at trying to talk to people at all ages.

Listen to Part 3:


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Len Berman
Well, thank you.  There’s a couple of factors involved there.  Number one, I think baseball’s the one sport that does bridge the generations.  My dad told me about seeing Babe Ruth bat, and my eyes just lit up, so I think that’s one.  And number two, I’ve always — this is my second — or actually it’s my fourth kids’ book, but my second of this kind of style. Last year it was the 25 Greatest sports moments of all time, “Greatest Moments in Sports” it was called, but I’ve never tried to write down to kids.  So I think if you — in some respects maybe the vocabulary might be on the high level for youngsters, but I just always — I wrote simply. I didn’t write complex sentences, but I always tried to just write simply, and I think the publisher did a wonderful job of putting picture — the old pictures are just great, which I had nothing to do with, and I think that’s why kids, as I like to say, of all ages might enjoy the book.

John Sparks
No, it’s really packaged well.  Any plans for a sequel, and if so, what would you call it?

Len Berman
Well, I don’t know if I want to follow-up on the baseball. I’m not sure of the other sports.  We’ve had some ideas we’ve been running back and forth with the publisher. Nothing that’s in cement just yet, but I think the publisher wants to keep the series going.  It’s just a matter of hitting on the right …  I mean one thought is greatest athletes of all time, then you incorporate people like Jim Thorpe. Although Jackie Robinson’s, who’s made my last two books, would also make that book as a great.  Jesse Owens, so there’s some great, great athletes.  Jim Brown.  So I don’t know. That’s a possibility. Another possibility would be a blooper, like the greatest craziest sports moments of all time, some serious and some not so.  You could do Buckner and Bonehead Merkle and Wrong Way Corrigan and some of those other classics.

John Sparks
You generate a lot of controversy when you go after the 25 greatest, but I got to thinking: You’d probably generate just as much controversy if you wrote about the 25 worst baseball players of all time.  I mean I just wonder who might be on that list?

Len Berman
I know.  I don’t know how you would figure that out.  I mean that’d also be kind of mean.  I mean could you imagine telling your grandkids: Look at this, I’m one of the 25 worst of all time.  There are some interesting stories.  I once interviewed a guy who passed away who played with Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators and got into exactly one Major League game, and I asked him how he did, he said he couldn’t remember.  So, I don’t know.  I don’t know how you’d pick the worst.

John Sparks
It’s a great book, Len. You always do great work, and it’s always a pleasure talking to you.  Before we go, could I get you tell the Marist listeners how they can subscribe to your Daily Top Five for those that don’t know that?

Len Berman
Yeah, just simply go to my website, http://www.thatssports.com and I send out a free daily email, if anyone’s interested.  It’s on my musings on sports, and there’s always something to talk about.  So, thatssports.com is the place.

4/1: Big Apple Baseball, Past and Present

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Len Berman, Sports

Sports journalist Len Berman has been a fan of New York baseball since the 1950′s, when the city boasted three teams. He talks with The Marist Poll’s John Sparks about what Yankees’ and Mets’ fans can expect from the 2010 season.

John Sparks
Len, baseball season’s just around the corner. The Marist Poll conducted a survey of fans in New York State. They found that more [New York baseball fans] considered themselves to be Yankees’ fans than Mets’ fans. Now you’re a New Yorker, how about you, Yankees or Mets?

Len Berman

Len Berman

Len Berman
Well, I grew up a Yankee fan, but that was at the time when there were the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, and I was really a Mickey Mantle fan. I remember going to early Mets’ games at the Polo Grounds and Shea. So, I am one of those people that are from New York that like both teams. And, then when I got into the media, I couldn’t root for either team, but I’m not surprised that there are more Yankee fans because everyone loves a winner. I mean during the ’80s around New York, there were many more Mets’ fans because the Mets were winners and the Yankees weren’t.

John Sparks
I grew up a Yankees’ fan, believe it or not, down here in Texas because Casey Stengel was a relative.

Len Berman
Ahhh.

John Sparks
When did you first go to Yankee Stadium? Can you tell me about that first game you ever saw there?

Listen to the Interview, Part 1:

Len Berman
Yeah, I’ll never forget it. I was nine-years-old, and I think we couldn’t afford the box seat, which was $3.25 or $3.50. So, we sat in the reserve seat, which might’ve been $2.50, and I was just so excited because we had black and white TV sets and to see that green grass was just — it was the greenest grass I ever saw in my life. You would come up out of the dark, out of the subway, and as you approached, in the old configuration of Yankee Stadium, you could look in and see the field and as you came up out of the darkness, into the light and there was this green grass in center field, it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. And then my only memory of the game, I don’t know who played, but — or who the Yankees were playing, but I remember a foul ball was hit I believe by Hank Bauer, but I could be wrong, and it went ricocheting off those metal posts that used to exist in the old Yankee Stadium and I was scared out of my mind because I said, “Oh boy, I’d love to catch a foul ball.” And after that ball went ricocheting at about a million miles an hour, I changed my mind.

John Sparks
So, you were a Mickey fan and of course you followed Maris in ’61 and over the years there have been a lot of history that’s taken place there, what was your biggest thrill as a Yankee fan from all those years?

Len Berman
Well, I guess it was really away from the field getting to meet Mickey Mantle. I mean he was my idol. I mean I lived and died with Mantle. I remember as a nine- or ten-year-old sending him a self-addressed stamped envelope asking for his autograph and he actually wrote back to me with his autograph. Well, I read that he only answered fan mail from young women. There you go — my hero. So, I said to him, “Mickey, you answered my letter. What was the deal with that?” He said, “You must write like a girl.”

John Sparks
Love it. Love it.

Len Berman
That was really the biggest … in person, I don’t know, it was just a number of things. I mean I remember the 1961 World Series, the Yankees were playing Cincinnati Reds and we had the day off from school. I was in high school at the time, and so we just — I think there was some kind of standardized testing going on in the city. So, we just hopped on a subway. We went to the World Series. We didn’t have a ticket. It was ball one and walked into the bleachers and watched the World Series’ game. So, it just shows you how times have changed.

John Sparks
Now you mentioned of course growing up in the ’50s and of course the Dodgers were in Brooklyn at Ebbets Field and the Giants were in the Polo Grounds. Do you ever go watch them?

Len Berman
Well no, I was such a Yankee fan to the point where … my brother and my dad would go once a year to either Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds to see a Giant/Dodger game. I had no interest. I just hated the National League. I hated Brooklyn so much that I not only wouldn’t go to Ebbets Field, I wouldn’t allow my parents to even drive me to the borough. So, I have regrets now because I eventually I got to the Polo Grounds when the Mets were playing there. I never got to Ebbets Field. So, I really wish I had gone.

John Sparks
When you know in ’62 in those early days with Casey and the Mets, it had a lot of marquee value that had Yogi and Warren Spahn and I think Willie Mays even wore a Mets’ uniform, but it wasn’t until Seaver in 1969 that they emerged as a team, could be taken seriously. I’m just curious, even though you’re a Yankees’ fan, at what point did the Mets win a place in your heart?

Len Berman
Well, I always enjoyed them. I mean it was just a lot of fun in the early days. I mean it was just crazy with Marv Throneberry. I’ll never forget the anticipation of the Mets’ first game and then they lost and then they lost a bunch of them, and, then, next season opening day everyone’s excited and they lost again. It was just that “Let’s Go Mets” cheer started almost derisively and became really their mantra, and I think it was hard not to want the team to win. It was just… It was fun. I have a new kids’ book coming out next September called “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.” And, there’s not a single Met in there unless you count Willie Mays at the end of his career and Warren Spahn at the end of his career, but that’s just so typical Mets. I mean they’re still the only team or one of the only teams without a no-hitter in their history. I mean they’re the longest running team without a no-hitter, so that’s just Mets. It’s just part of your fabric. It just doesn’t seem to change.

John Sparks
Well let’s fast forward to 2010, one of the things that the New York fans told the Marist Poll was that they believe the Yankees did just the right amount to improve the team over last year’s World Champions. I’m curious what you think. Do you think people like Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez and Randy Winn and Chan Ho Park will help bring about the first repeats since ’99/2000?

Listen to the Interview, Part 2:

Len Berman
That’s hard to say. It’s so difficult to repeat. The core of the Yankees is still kind of an older group, Posada and Jeter and A-Rod’s not getting younger and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, I mean there’s a lot of, you’re banking on some older guys. I’m surprised that your poll determined that because I would’ve thought Yankee fans would’ve been disappointed that Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui did not return, so that poll result does surprise me.

John Sparks
Interesting. I was just about to ask you next about Damon and Matsui. I mean Matsui was a hero of the World Series …

Len Berman
Yep.

John Sparks
And Johnny Damon, even though he was a devil incarnate as a Red Sox, was great where the Yankees had them, will the loss of those two guys do you think really hurt the club?

Len Berman
I think on some level yes. Now that goes against my earlier argument about older players, but they made up a certain fabric of that clubhouse. They were both loved. They were both great spirits and great teammates and don’t forget Johnny Damon’s mad dash during the World Series where he stole second and third on the same play, which is a critical moment in the World Series. Yeah, I think that the Yankees took a little bit of a step back there, and I don’t know what’ll happen. I’m not … you try to be objective and really so much of it comes down to pitching and if CC Saba …  here’s a team that their biggest concern in spring training is who is the fifth starter? Most other teams in the Major Leagues, their biggest concern is who’s the second, third, and fourth starters. So, the Yankees have a leg up on so many people. But, yet, if CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte and Vázquez, and I assume Phil Hughes is the fifth starter, if they don’t deliver, then it’s a long season. So … that’s the beauty of baseball, anything’s possible.

John Sparks
I was going to ask you, you’re Joe Girardi, Joba or Phil Hughes for the fifth man?

Len Berman
Well, I put Joba in the bullpen. I always thought that he was just a great bullpen pitcher, and he’s a wild man who comes in and throws all these god for couple of pitchers or an inning or an inning in the third, and I think he’s more suited for the bullpen. The people that know baseball, the coaches and all the insiders, feel that since he has three or four different … bullpen guy usually has one or two great pitches, because he has the full repertoire, they want to see him as the starting pitcher. And, I just think he’s so well suited for the bullpen, especially on this team. I think he’d be a great weapon out there.

John Sparks
Girardi has a lot of left-handed hitters in the lineup taking advantage of the stadium, is there a downside to stacking that many in the lineup?

Len Berman
No, I think he’s got a bunch of switch hitters in there too. So, I think you’ll get the righty bats as well. The Yankees should score some runs. I mean the ball, we’ll see if it flies out as much as it did last year. That became an issue. They got a lot of money. They spend it. They’ve got a lot of talent, and it’s just throw them out there and see what happens. I mean there are always question marks. The second baseman, they don’t really know what they have. Gardner, I guess is going to be their leftfielder with Granderson in Center, and Nick Swisher is an interesting character in right field, and I know the fans like him. So, even with all that money, all those all stars, there are always questions, and that’s why they play 162.

John Sparks
Fans told Marist that they expect the Bombers to win again. Do you think that they will or what other clubs in the AL do you think we ought to be paying attention to?

Len Berman
Well, I certainly think they’re one of the favorites. A lot of people are looking to see what Seattle does. They’ve put together a nice ball club on the West Coast. The Red Sox are always an issue. Tampa Bay was not a fluke a couple years ago. Baltimore is improving. Yeah, if you had to put your hand on the Bible and say, “Who’s going to repeat?” You’d say, “Yeah, the Yankees probably would,” but they got a lot of talent, and they got a lot of money. So, I mean that’s a pretty good daily double right there.

John Sparks
Okay. Things aren’t quite so rosy over in Queens at Citi Field. The fans told us that only one in five think that the Mets can win the series. What seems to be the problem over there? They picked up somebody like Jason Bay. What’s going on over there do you think?

Listen to the Interview, Part 3:

Len Berman
They’ve really had a string of bad luck. The ownership’s heart is in the right place. They spend. They outspend just about every team in the Majors except for the Yankees, and maybe the Red Sox. Here’s a team that’s fighting for its identity and will always be number two in New York, or it seems that way, and they ran this incredible bad string of injuries last year. On top of that, they have so many question marks in their starting pitching. So, I can see where … my goodness, you said one in five thought they’d win the World Series. I think one in five might’ve said they had a chance for a winning record because Mets’ fans are pretty down over the way things have gone. They got a little bit of good news recently with José Reyes and it looks like he’s coming back and hopefully Carlos Beltrán will be able to return and be healthy, but they’ve just — boy, you talk about a snake-bit outfit. They bought a leftfielder when they really needed another pitcher. So, that’s why fans are a little bit skeptical.

John Sparks
Well you know they do have some bright spots. They got …   speaking of pitching, they got K-Rod and David Wright, I think is still solid. He hit .307 last year, but he did strike out a lot. Do you think that they have the potential to surprise some fans, or do you think the Phillies are just way too much?

Len Berman
Well, I think the Phillies are good. Don’t forget Johan Santana, he may be the best pitcher in the National League, and it all depends on … I joked about the second, third, and fourth starters, but let’s say Pelfrey and Oliver Perez and John Maine, let’s say all of sudden they start looking like Seaver and Koosman and Gentry. Then, gee, maybe they got something there. So, yeah, they’ve got talent. There’s no question. I mean I like Wright and Reyes on the left side and Bay and a healthy Beltrán, Francoeur seems to fit in nicely out there in right. I think first base and catching a little bit of question of marks, but bullpen looks decent. So, yeah, can they surprise people? Absolutely.

John Sparks
Any other National League teams that have caught your attention this year?

Len Berman
Well, you got to look at Philadelphia because they went to the World Series. I mean Atlanta, believe it or not, is making noises. You have to like what they’re doing. You always have to… I mean those long suffering Cubs’ fans, you have to look and see what’s going on over there. The Cards are always strong and the Dodgers too out West, so there’s some strong teams out there. There really are. So, the Mets not only have to overcome the Phillies, but they have to overcome those other teams as well.

John Sparks
I’ve told you before and I hear from people all the time that agree with me, just can’t tell you how much we miss seeing you on television, but I must tell you I really look forward to getting your daily Top 5 in my email. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with that and how folks can get it?

Len Berman
Thank you. I appreciate it. I don’t miss being on the nightly news. That’s for sure. I had some long hours and didn’t see my wife for a lot years, but I’ll do some future television. It just won’t be a nightly newscast. The Top 5, I always had this theory that not everybody is a hard core sports fan, and that’s how I approached my newscast at night. I think there are a lot of people who want to sort of know what’s going on, but don’t want to know all the gory details. So, I came up with this idea of sending out a daily email which is kind of a cheat sheet, water cooler conversation for people who don’t want to read the sports sections and don’t tune to all sports radio or ESPN TV, and they want to know what’s going on anyways. So, I send out a daily Top 5 I call it, and some of its serious. A lot of its frivolous and it has some fun facts and information. If anybody’s interested in getting it, my website is: thatssports.com, www.thatssports.com, and it’s free. Get it every day.

John Sparks
Great, we’ll certainly put out the word. Anything else on the horizon you want to share with us?

Len Berman
Well, I mentioned this kids’ book coming up in September, “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.”  It’s really going to annoy a lot of people, because Sandy Koufax didn’t make the cut and Yogi Berra didn’t make and Nolan Ryan, and a bunch of great names did not make it. But it’s not my fault, because I had a blue-ribbon panel which included former players and some journalists and reporters and the producers. So, I had a pretty good cross section of panelists, and they made some interesting choices. There are only unanimous players in the history of baseball that people consider the 25 Greatest, of this panel anyway. Obviously Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and Ted Williams, names like that.

John Sparks
Can’t wait to see it, and let’s make a day to talk about that as it gets closer to publication.

Len Berman
Great. Maybe we can have a Marist Poll and people agree or disagree with “The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.”

John Sparks
Great idea. Great idea. Len, it’s always a pleasure taking to you, really appreciate your time.

Len Berman

March 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Len Berman

Len Berman is an Emmy-Award winning sportscaster and New York Times Best Selling Author who has covered just about every major sports event including multiple Super Bowls, World Series, and Olympics during his 40-year career in broadcasting.  Mr. Berman is the creator of “Spanning the World,” a monthly collection of sports bloopers, which was a 20-year staple on NBC’s Today Show.  Len has thousands of subscribers to his Top 5 daily email which he sends from his website www.ThatsSports.com.

Len Berman

Len Berman

Mr. Berman is the recipient of eight Emmy Awards and 6-time winner of New York Sportscaster of the Year. He has just published his fifth book, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time (Sourcebooks).  His kids book, The Greatest Moments in Sports (Sourcebooks, 2009) immediately debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List. His other works include: Spanning The World (HarperCollins), And Nobody Got Hurt! (Little, Brown), and And Nobody Got Hurt 2! (Little, Brown).

His daily Top 5 email is featured on The Huffington Post and is received by thousands around the country.

6/2: Dugout Chatter — Baseball in NYC

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Baseball, Featured, Len Berman, Sports

Baseball season is in full swing!  From Major League Baseball’s ticket prices to new stadiums’ impact on the game, there’s a lot of chatter surrounding the sport.  In an interview with The Marist Poll’s John Sparks, sports journalist Len Berman weighs in.  Check out their conversation below.

Len Berman

Len Berman

John Sparks
Len, we conducted a poll and we asked the public if they thought the cost of a ticket to a major league game was a good value for the money.  83% of those who considered themselves baseball fans said, “No, it is not a good value”.  In fact, 84% of those who make $50,000 a year or more also said a big league ticket isn’t a good value.  I was just wondering what you think and why you think folks responded as they did?

Listen to the Interview, Part 1:

soundboard.com

Len Berman
Well, I think in some new stadiums and some old stadiums, the price of tickets has gotten out of hand.  I mean clearly all the publicity is focused on the new stadiums in New York City.  I mean to spend hundreds of dollars for a baseball game is patently absurd. We all have long memories.  I mean mine goes back…  I bought a reserved seat at the Old Yankee Stadium for $2.50 because I couldn’t afford the $3.50 box seats, so I mean we all have those memories.  I think it’s just gotten out of hand in some places.

John Sparks
Well, you know, at the beginning of the season, you mentioned the new Yankee Stadium.  I think those premium seats went for $2,500 a game and then they slashed those in half, but those seats are still just too pricey; don’t you think?

Len Berman
Well, absolutely.  In fact, I was just reminiscing about Jay Leno’s last show coming up, and I was fortunate enough to be a guest on his program on the Tonight Show back in 2005.  Now this was four years ago, and one of the questions Jay asked me was, “What would I do if I were commissioner for a day?” and I just off the cuff said that, “Gee, I’d like to make a couple of tickets at every game be affordable.  Maybe, you could buy them by lottery just so the average family could go to the ballpark.”  And, the audience erupted into applause, so I knew I touched on something four years ago and now four years later, things have only gotten worse.

John Sparks
Absolutely.  You may remember that George Steinbrenner was always pressing for more luxury boxes, the old Yankee Stadium built it and back in 1923, it wasn’t equipped with luxury boxes in those days.  That was one of the motivators behind building a new stadium, but those suites are not being filled.  Could it be that major league baseball has finally out-priced itself?

Len Berman
Well, I mean I don’t think anyone predicted the recession.  For years, everything was just going up, up, up, up, up, from housing to luxury cars to everything. I mean there was never a downturn so this was just the perfect storm that killed the golden goose.  I mean I just think – - listen, fortunately I make a nice living and a few friends of mine, we decided to go to baseball game in a couple weeks so we decided to buy a ticket for $190.  Now, it’s per person and it’s just a couple of guys, so I’m going to spend $190 to go to a baseball game. Now I think that’s way out of line but thank God I’m not buying tickets for my family.  I guess the flipside is there are plenty of tickets available online.  I got a great email from somebody the other day saying they were able to buy some cheap seats in the upper deck at Citi Field, and they had a great time.  So, I mean I guess there is a bright side to this somewhere.

John Sparks
Do you think it’s reached a point where the game’s in danger of survival?

Listen to Part 2:

soundboard.com

Len Berman
I’m not sure survival is ever an issue.  I mean that’s been spoken about for years.  I mean it’s come up during the war. It came up in the 40’s.  It came up when baseball took a year off for the strike in ’94.  I think the game is strong.  I think people will figure out a way, but I think those owners who envision just riches that would be on top of riches, I think there’s another thing coming.  I mean listen, the Giants and Jets built a new stadium.  There was nothing wrong with the old stadium.  It’s a fine – - it’s a fine facility and the Giants always had this legendary waiting list with hundreds of thousands of names for tickets.  Well, they’ve burned through the entire waiting list, and they’re still looking for people because fans are just balking at the idea of personal seat licenses.

John Sparks
In that regard, we also asked New York City residents if they follow professional baseball a great deal, somewhat…

Len Berman
I love that question.  I absolutely love that.  In fact, I’m writing about it on my website; but go ahead, I’ll let you finish the question.

John Sparks
Great.  Well, almost 50% said they don’t follow the game at all; and when you add those that don’t follow it very much or somewhat, it’s a whopping 84%.  Now, I grew up loving baseball and I’m concerned that we may have lost a whole generation of fans. Would you agree?

Len Berman
I think there’s two parts to that. Yes, I think some fans have been lost.  You’re certainly going to lose kids who can’t stay up late at night to watch the World Series and whose parents can’t afford to take them to games.  But, the other side of that is I’ve always felt that the number of sports fans were over-rated.  I’ve always argued with people that the majority of people are just not sports fans, and people look at me like I’m crazy.  I think the sports fan or the non-sports fan is intimidated into thinking that he’s in the minority because of ESPN, and All Talk radio, and the tabloids.  The truth of the matter is the majority of the people aren’t big sports fans, so maybe that’s another eye-opener to some of the owners that their audience is dwindling.  That’s one of the reasons I started my website: LenBermanSports.com, and I send out daily emails, the top five, to my subscribers is because I think there are people who aren’t big fans, who would like to know a little bit about what’s going on and that’s what I do.  I provide some water cooler information.

John Sparks
One of the things that I noticed now is that it’s more of a complete entertainment venue.  Besides the game, you’ve got dot races and certainly at the minor league level, a lot of these fan participation stunts between innings, but even at the Rangers and the Yankees…  Between innings, you’ve got all kinds of activities.  The fans are on the Jumbotron engaged in contests and things, so it sounds like that the owners have really expanded beyond the game itself.

Listen to Part 3:

soundboard.com

Len Berman
Well, it’s the old idea of get them in the tent.  You’ve got to provide entertainment.  I mean I would naively think the ballgame would be enough, especially at the major league level.  At the minor league level, I think it’s wonderful.  I mean the tickets are reasonable.  The players sign autographs. They’re accessible to the fans, and they have all these little fun contests.  It really makes kids and people excited about the sport.  There’s nothing wrong with that at the minor league level.  It’s the major league level that needs a lot of help.

John Sparks
You know, at the major league level, because of the ticket prices, is it a different caliber of fans that go to big league games these days?

Len Berman
Well, that’s another interesting question.  I mean the old idea that corporations are going to buy up the seats used to work, and then they distribute it to people.  Sometimes they’d sit in it themselves, so you wouldn’t have the hardcore blue-collar fan rooting for the home team.  I mean I noted the other day that at a Yankees’ game against Philadelphia, there were so many Philadelphia fans.  Well, that’s another sign of the times of fans.  If your home team can’t afford the tickets or don’t want to buy them or are easily reselling them, then it makes it much easier for the other team to get into your ballpark, and it really does diminish the home field advantage.

John Sparks

You know, I guess in this age of government bailouts, it doesn’t look too good for these corporations to be, whether they’re buying naming rights or even entertaining clients in luxury.

Len Berman
Well, it just doesn’t look good on your corporate report to say you’re spending hundreds of thousand dollars on premium seats.  Listen, you mentioned a $2,500 seat for the first row at the Yankee Stadium, that’s if you bought it on a season ticket basis.  Well, if you bought four seats, that’s $10,000 per game. That’s $800,000 for the season.  Now how’s that going to look on your corporate report?  If you’ve spent $800,000 for baseball seats for your clients, I don’t think it looks very good.

John Sparks
I agree with you. Listen, you mentioned the new Yankee Stadium and, of course, the Mets have a new home field as well.  New York fans were pretty much evenly divided when we asked them if building these new stadiums was a good thing for baseball.  What do you think?  Was it a good thing that they built two (inaudible) ball parks?

Len Berman
I was surprised by your poll results.  I would’ve thought because of all the flack that has transpired, I would’ve thought a bigger percentage would’ve been against the idea that this was good for baseball, so that did surprise me.  I guess it’s good in a way that it draws more interest and more attention.  I’ll tell you the fact in your poll that I found fascinating when it came to New York City was that the only demographic that considered themselves Met fans as opposed to Yankee fans were people over 45.  So, I really got to thinking about that, and I obviously…  It might have something to do with the more recent success of the Yankees.  I mean they won World Series as recently as 2000 where the most recent Mets World Series won was ’86; but I’m also wondering if that has something to do with the fact that the older fans still have an allegiance to the old Dodgers and Giants, who used to play in New York and might have considered themselves national league fans.  But, I thought that was – - There was the fascinating tidbit in your poll about the over 45-year-old people, who are Met fans.

John Sparks
Are you a Mets or a Yankees fan, Len?

Listen to Part 4:

soundboard.com

Len Berman
Well, the thing is, is that when I became a journalist, I kind of became neutral because I worked in Dayton, Ohio, and that was Cincinnati Reds country, and, then, I worked five years in Boston, so I was a Red Sox reporter.  I grew up a Yankee fan back in the 50’s because Mickey Mantle played for the Yankees, but he doesn’t play for them anymore.  So right now, if anything, I’d probably lean toward the Mets out of compassion. I was actually hoping in 2000 that they could win the subway series.  I mean the Yankees have won so many, so I’m an odd individual to ask. I don’t…  I’m not really a fan from that sense because I am a journalist.

John Sparks
The Yankees certainly struggled last year.  They didn’t make the post-season.  Now, I saw the other day, I think I read that there were 17 games this year in which they’ve come from behind to win.  It seems to me that the free agents aren’t necessarily making a team; and at the same time, the Yankees don’t seem to be good at growing their own on the farm like they did with those great teams of the late 90’s. Yet Tampa Bay, the Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins seem to be having more success with developing their players.  Now is this a problem for the Yankees?  Should they consider a different approach?  Is it a question of their scouting department being inferior to other organizations these days?

Len Berman

I’ve long advocated that the Yankees change their ways.  I mean they have gone about buying free agents every year since their last World Series win in 2000.  None of it has worked.  I mean I can make you the whole list from Mike Mussina, to Jason Giambi, to Randy Johnson, to Alex Rodriguez, to Johnny Damon, to Hideki Matsui, to every… Right down the line, it hasn’t worked, and I’ve long advocated it.  I love the fact what the Red Sox and Tampa Bay and those teams have done, and that’s why I give them an edge.  I mean they have those young people, young players who aren’t afraid to get their uniform dirty and until the Yankees can develop those kinds of players, I think just buying up players, who are older in nature by their age and their free agency, I think it’s a losing proposition.

John Sparks
Listen, I want to kind of divert for a moment. We asked fans in an earlier poll about the effect of steroids in the game.  Now, we had all this A-Rod business this year and, again, this ties into the success of the Yankees or the lack of.  Do you think there’s been some kind of clubhouse dissension that has accompanied A-Rod that not just this year that it really hasn’t reached the service that we haven’t been reading about but it has its affect on the Yankees team?

Len Berman
Well, I mean A-Rod has not been successful anywhere he’s been. Now, I don’t know if that’s cause or effect.  It’s hard to say.  He’s an enormously talented baseball player, but he does seem to cause friction or “look at me” and he comes bigger than the team.  Is that a reason they don’t win?  I mean I don’t know.  I’m not in that clubhouse.  I do know that he’s a unique individual; everything always revolves around him, even when he says it doesn’t.  Maybe at some point, it does have an effect on the team.  I mean I think there’s more factors at work.  I mean obviously it’s all about pitching, and it’s about staying healthy, and it’s about playing some defense.  It’s a lot of other things, but it may not be a coincidence that A-Rod’s never been to the World Series.

John Sparks
Let’s look in the crystal ball and look again to October and just say for the sake of a discussion that we’ve got a repeat of 2000, a subway series. How would you stack up the Mets versus the Yankees?

Listen to Part 5:

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Len Berman
Wow!  That would be a wonderful… That’s a great question.  I thought you were going to ask me which teams would get there other than the Yankees and the Mets.  Who would stack up better?  In a short series, which is what a subway series is, you have to lean toward the pitching, and the Yankees get the slight edge of the starting pitching.  The Mets get the big edge with the bullpen.  I think, believe it or not, who wins the All-star game will determine home field edge.  I would think if the Mets could play four of the games at Citi Field against the Yankees, Citi Field is a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.  The Mets might have an edge.  That’s weird that it might come down to some anonymous player from the Washington Nationals winning a game in the All- Star game and determining home field edge, and that gives the edge to the World Series; but I guess I would give the Mets the slightest of edges based on their bullpen.

John Sparks
You know, Len, there’s another factor in this home field advantage, and you know the World Series is two, three, and two, and the All-Star game determines the home field advantage now. But, they’re really two different ball games going on: the American League game and the National League game.  Do you think it’s time that they got together and either both leagues do the DH or both leagues go back to the traditional game?

Len Berman
Well, no, that’s a broad question.  I would think once you get to the World Series, you just play under one set of rules. Now, what that rule would be, I don’t know.  I mean teams in the American League are constructed for the designated hitter and that’s how they run their payroll and their roster and play their games and the National League plays a different game, so I guess the only fair way is to have two different rules in the World Series; but I guess if push came to shove, I would favor one set of rules for a sport.  I mean it’s odd to me that you have different rules.  I mean it’s like…

John Sparks
It’s a different ballgame.

Len Berman

Yet half the basketball teams played with six players and half of them against each other, and then the Western conference played with only four players on the court.  I mean that’s how odd it seems.

John Sparks
Finally, Len, tell me what you’re up to these days.  Broadcasting has changed for all of us.  You’re no longer at NBC.  What are you doing these days?

Len Berman
Well, I’ve just recently left my NBC gig, so I’m spending a lot of time on my website, LenBermanSports.com.  I’m sending out daily emails, my top five everyday. I’m talking to a lot of people.  I’m talking to radio.  I think there’s some things I want to do.  I want to continue my “Spanning the World” feature.  I think that’ll continue in some fashion.  So, I definitely plan on continuing in broadcasting, but there’s nothing I’m ready to announce today.

John Sparks
Now, if I go on your website, I can register and get an email sent to me with your top five; is that right?

Len Berman
Yeah, they would just register on my website and they would get my top five; and it goes out Monday through Friday. Some of it’s…  A lot of it’s offbeat.  It’s not hardcore, super hardcore sports. A lot of it is the offbeat stuff that I like to dabble in.

** The views and opinions expressed in this and other interviews found on this site are expressly those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Marist Poll.

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