It has been an interesting last week for me.
This morning, I completed my third Skype interview in five days – with two Chicago Bandits professional softball players currently playing in Japan (buy the Program/Yearbook during the Bandits’ season!) and former Cub Les Lancaster, who is coaching in Taiwan (story coming soon to this site).
I conducted an iPhone Facetime interview with a gentleman in Mumbai on behalf of one of my clients.
I did a chat interview with a Libyan-born poet … who is now a professor at Michigan … who had gone to Cairo on a one-year sabbatical … who is now on vacation in Spain … via Facebook Messenger … while riding on a rush-hour Metra.
I started a conversation which led to an interview – after direct messaging that person through Twitter.
And, to top it off, I was a guest for a MLB Trade Rumors Podcast. I can’t explain it; there have been over 2,500 downloads of the show. Chuck Wasserstrom – now curing people of sleep apnea … one-by-one.
This sure is a far cry from when I started with the Cubs. Hard to believe, but the entire Media Relations office in 1986 – four full-time people plus an intern – had two computers to use. One was a desktop for general office use. The other weighed about 20 pounds and traveled with the team.
Those were the pre-Internet/pre-smartphone days. To try and put into perspective what baseball media relations life was like back then, please consider that the Cubs didn’t purchase their first multi-purpose copier until after the 1986 season. Until then, if you needed something produced in bulk, you needed to use the Gestetner.
That’s right, before Xerox, there was the Gestetner.
If you don’t know what a Gestetner was, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you don’t actually go and look it up. I’m afraid of what you’d find. Very … afraid.
Basically, it was a very messy mimeograph-like machine that was the size of a VW Beetle. It was designed to reproduce one page at a time … not very quickly … and had no interest in making your life easier. It was loud. It was cantankerous.
I was only an intern in 1986, so I didn’t know any better other than to do what I was told. On mornings of game days, my job was to get the game notes pages (sometimes page by page) and statistics pages from the media relations office – located upstairs basically at the corner of Clark and Addison streets behind the Wrigley Field marquee – to the bowels of Wrigley Field.
“Bowels” is the polite word. All of the action took place in the far leftfield corner … underneath the old marketing department – where you walked through actual offices occupied by marketing higher-ups to get to a flight of stairs going down … then passed by the legendary Jay Blunk and desks sometimes occupied by Billy Williams or Jimmy Piersall … to reach a fenced-in back portion of the sub-basement.
And once you reached that place we called Hell, you found the Gestetner.
I actually had it easy. A full-time media relations staffer, Ernie Roth, had to deal with this thing every single friggin’ day. One year before, he had been finishing up school and playing baseball at Amherst. Now, he was wearing a neck-to-shoes body-length apron and trying to get blank ink out from under his nails on a daily basis.
I learned right away that baseball wasn’t glorious. No job was too small – although if Ernie had called in sick and I was told to take over Gestetner duty, we might have tested that theory. Game notes had to be produced every day. Stats packets had to be produced every day. Ernie would churn out “x” amount of Page 1 of the notes … then Page 2 of the notes … and so on and so on. Then, while he cleaned his fingertips – since he couldn’t touch anything without leaving black marks – those of us in that sub-basement backroom with him would be collating, manually stapling and distributing the information packets.
And it’s not like we had a lot of time to get all of this done – as Wrigley Field was still a lights-free environment back in 1986.
It wasn’t all manual labor and black ink, though. This was where you learned about teamwork. This was where you learned how to deal with stress; the game was going to start whether the broadcasters had their notes and stats – and no one wanted to anger the broadcasters. This was where you learned to navigate an elevator-free Wrigley Field 45 minutes before first pitch when the beer lines were long.
Today, I can write from any Starbucks. I can communicate anywhere in the world. I can brag about being on a Podcast. But I wonder if those stories will stand the test the time. I know thoughts of the Gestetner still make me shiver.