For this July 4, 2017 weekend: It all started on September 20, 2011. I, as an entertainment attorney, was invited to be on an e-publishing, self-help panel for members of the Writers Guild of America. The panel sought to empower writers to create new opportunities for work in film, television, new media and transmedia. Since WGA did not cover book publication regardless of format, it was thought that e-publishing could be a stepping stone towards potential work on Guild-covered adaptations. So, on September 20th, I joined members Lee Goldberg (The Glades), Derek Haas (Wanted), and Alexandra Sokoloff (author, Book of Shadows, and Mark Coker (Smashwords). Our task was to discuss the latest e-book/self and indie-publishing developments. It was a power-packed evening with information, questions, and answers.
The next day, I said to my husband, Steve, “You need to write a book”. To which he answered, “I have nothing to say.” I laughed. Steve always had something to say. I said, “Write a book about baseball.” He thought about this for a couple of years, and on May 19, 2013, he published The Game: A Baseball Companion.
“The History books tell us that the first professional baseball game was held on May 4, 1869, as the Cincinnati Red Stockings “eked” out a 45-9 win. No doubt the first baseball story was told on May 5th. No sport, not basketball, not football, not hockey, has the oral tradition of the national pastime. And like any good oral tradition, it has been passed from generation to generation. Baseball stories, in one form or another, are as much a part of our game as the infield fly and the rosin bag. In this book, they come in all sizes and shapes – short stories, essays, expressions, rules, jokes and slang to name just a few.
The first “Baseball Balladeer” in my life was one Vincent Edward Scully, known to three generations of fans as “Vin.” For baseball-ignorant Southern Californians, he was a Godsend. Far more than their voice, he was their teacher. Now the game, which had been thousands of miles away, was as close as your transistor radio or the “am” in your car. He gave Los Angeles: the who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. He studied at the foot of a master [Red Barber] and is acknowledged as the best in the business. And I know this how? He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame…43 years ago! For nine years, I was lucky to be his producer. I called him “The Doctor,” for his PhD in Baseball. Try explaining the balk rule to the man who taught you half of what you know about the game.
When I began covering the Angels, I got to know Emil Joseph “Buzzie” Bavasi. If you looked up “character” in the dictionary, it would say, “see Buzzie.” In the ‘40s he was Branch Rickey’s top lieutenant and had a hand in breaking Baseball’s color line as well as dealing with Vero Beach in the acquisition of “Dodgertown.” He became General Manager and earned a reputation as a shrewd and tough negotiator. “Buzzie” loved to tell the story about contract haggling with a certain player [still alive, so no names]. He had a “fake” contract with a very low salary created for the team’s best player. He left it on his desk and excused himself for a moment, convinced that the player would take a peak. Needless to say that when he returned, the negotiations ended quickly and in “Buzzie’s” favor.
He had been schooled in [and ultimately taught] the Branch Rickey way of playing the game [stressing fundamentals, nurturing talent, and the importance of a strong farm system]. In the years we worked together, I never once over heard a conversation when he wasn’t at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a story or anecdote. He lived for Baseball and lived to talk about it.
In 1985, I began working with Bob Starr. Bob [or as we called him, “Bobo”] was the broadcaster’s broadcaster. He could do play-by-play for anything – Baseball, Football, your kid’s hopscotch game…anything. “Bobo” was a graduate of the KMOX “School of Broadcasting.”
The famed St. Louis radio station produced Harry Caray, Jack and Joe Buck, Buddy Blattner, Joe Garagiola and Bob Costas, among others. He had that smooth, Midwestern style and on the air you’d swear he was talking just to you.
I once shared a golf cart with him for a round. Four hours well spent looking for my ball [as usual] and listening. He loved to tell stories, some on himself. While playing 18 holes on an off day, Bob had a heart attack. Upon arrival at the hospital the doctors asked, “if he was in pain?” “Yes,” he replied, “in my backside.” Mystified, the Doctors went over the test results. A physical examination revealed that the patient still had his pants on. The source of the pain was two Titleists in his back pocket. How we miss “Bobo.”
The average Baseball fan may not recognize the name Jack Lang, but every player knew him and loved it when he called. Jack was for twenty years the executive secretary of The Baseball Writers of America, and, if he telephoned you, it meant that you just won the Cy Young Award, the Most Valuable Player Award, the Rookie-of-the-Year or had hit the “Baseball Lottery,” induction into the Hall of Fame. His vocation was sportswriter [a New York beat writer], and for forty years he was one of the best.
I met Jack in 1987. We had been hired by Victor Temkin to do sports licensing for MCA/Universal. It was there I discovered his sense of humor, his humanity and his encyclopedic knowledge of the game.
We would speak on the phone almost every day for an hour. Five minutes would be devoted to business, the remaining fifty-five given over to “talkin’ baseball.” I firmly believe that I could have put the phone on speaker, turned on a tape recorder, left the room, and returned thirty minutes later to find another chapter for this book.
In 1997, we took a production crew to his home for an interview. It was the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entry into the major leagues, and who better to discuss it with than the man who covered it. Jack lived in the little village of Ft. Salonga on the North Coast of Long Island, [Vin used to refer to him as “the Squire of Ft. Salonga”] in a modest house with an office on the side. The office contained a desk, two chairs and enough Baseball memorabilia to open a museum. [The whole place could have been shipped, as is, to Cooperstown.]
“Buzzie,” “Bobo,” and “the Squire” are gone and, believe me; this book would have been much easier to write if they were still here. We still have “Vinnie” [long may he reign]. If there is such a thing as a sub-dedication, this is for them. They and countless others had a hand in writing this book. I have tried to fashion a work with something for everyone, from the hard-core fan to the young people just learning about our game. In so doing, I’ve run the gamut all the way from Baseball history to Baseball jokes. I hope you enjoy it and hope it adds to your love for “The Game.”
Steve Orlandella spent his career working in Sports Television, most of it in baseball. He studied broadcasting, history and theatre at California State University, Northridge. While working on his degrees, he joined the Cal State staff as a producer-director of Educational TV.
In 1979, he joined KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles as a news producer, senior sports producer, and director of “News at Ten”. In 1985, he was promoted to KTLA’s Supervising Producer/Director. He produced and directed entertainment programs, Angels Baseball, and Clippers Basketball Games.
In 1987, he worked for MCA/Universal as Producer of media for the Merchandising/Licensing Division, later becoming an independent Producer/Director. He produced winter and summer Olympic specials, Kings Hockey games, promos and commercials for Z-Channel and Sportschannel, and directed boxing, pro and college basketball.
Then, in 1993, he became Producer for Dodgers Baseball – for nine seasons. He won Golden Mikes, Associated Press Awards, and was nominated for Emmy’s twelve times. He received two Emmy’s for his work with the Dodgers.
In 2005, he launched Steve Orlandella Productions and Ormac Press. His first three published books were non-fiction: Stevespeak: Three Years on Facebook (2012); Titanic: Those in Peril on the Sea (2013); The Game: A Baseball Companion (2013).
His next five published books were fiction, with baseball and ballparks being a running theme throughout: Burden of Proof: A Vic Landell Mystery (2014); Capitol Murder: A Vic Landell Mystery (2014); Marathon Murders: A Vic Landell Mystery (2015), Dance with Death: A Vic Landell Mystery (2015); Midtown Mayhem: A Vic Landell Mystery (2016). He was working on Casino Killer: A Vic Landell Mystery when he died of heart failure in August 2016.
Steve knew baseball, in and out. He cared passionately about the Red Sox in Boston. He also cared about the Patriots, the Celtics, Lotus cars, meatballs, pundits, condiments, the Titanic, his family, and Vin Scully – not necessarily in that order. Steve Orlandella’s testament to his love of the game: THE GAME: A BASEBALL COMPANION.