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Biz of Baseball Interviews

Interviews with those in the business of baseball. From former commissioners, to broadcasters, to media, and more, an ever growing list in Q&A format.



An Interview with MLB's New Official Historian, John Thorn PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 06 March 2011 22:47

John ThornBefore the explosion of online stats sites like Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball Prospectus, or FanGraphs, many went to the local library or plunked down money without thinking about it for Total Baseball, The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball that started its run in 1989, and was (and still is) one of the baseball researcher’s best friends. The publication, which was edited and authored by John Thorn and Pete Palmer, was basically the print version of Baseball-Reference, with essays sprinkled about. Whether BP saw what Total Baseball did, or not, that model continued with them (although, sadly, the back-of-the-book essays have disappeared), and the likes of The Hardball Times.

Palmer, to many, has been the “numbers man” while Thorn the author. He’s penned Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame, The Hidden Game of Baseball, The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957, and The Armchair Book of Baseball along with Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game set for publication in just a few weeks (March 15, to be exact). His research on the origins of baseball (technically, other stick and ball games from the past) has redefined the subject. While many had believed that baseball originated in the 19th Century, Thorn may well have shown that the game really has its origins in the 18th Century.

I was lucky enough to sit at John’s table in 2006 when he won the Bob Davids Award, SABR’s highest award, and can say that he’s one of the nicest people to ever chronicle the game. He was featured in Ken Burns’ Baseball, Burns’ recent follow-up companion The 10th Inning and he’s been a prominent fixture on MLB Network’s Prime 9 series.

So, when it was announced last week that Thorn has become the Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball, it shouldn’t have been a shock. And yet, with the passing of Jerome Holtzman, who served as Official Baseball Historian from 1999 until his passing in 2008 for the league, it was a bit in the making.

Thorn has barely got his feet wet at the new position, but we caught up with him to see what the new gig is all about. MLB, you’re in good hands. – Maury Brown

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Interview: Chuck Greenberg, Managing Partner and CEO of the Texas Rangers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 16 August 2010 13:12

Chuck GreenbergIf there’s a way to have a trial by fire in MLB before ever owning a club, surely Rangers Baseball Express, the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan have walked miles over scorching road. For months the group labored to purchase the Texas Rangers through a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy process after former owner Tom Hicks fell $525 million in debt through the Rangers’ holding company, Hicks Sports Group. Commissioner Selig said at one point that it was a “long and winding road” in the process, and that was well before creditors of HSG pushed for, and got, an open auction for the purchase of the club, something that had not occurred since the Orioles were auctioned off in 1993.

Through it all, Greenberg, the Pittsburgh sports attorney and minor league club owner worked with his group of investors through the exceptionally difficult process. At the same time, he has been exceptionally accessible with fans. To date, he is the only MLB owner on Facebook, accepts every “Friend” request, and answers all fan emails and text messages. On the day that Rangers Baseball Express won at auction over Mark Cuban and Jim Crane, he received over 2,000 emails and text messages congratulating the group, a clear sign that the majority of fans were happy to see RBE close in on obtaining the Rangers.

We caught up with Greenberg, who now has the title of Managing Partner and CEO of the Rangers, just two days after officially taking over the Rangers on Friday the 13th, just one day after MLB’s owners unanimously approved the ownership transfer, and all of 10 days after winning the club purchase through auction. To say that Greenberg has been in a state of perpetual motion may be the understatement of the year. Topics for the interview include his state of mind just before the ownership vote, what the scene was like just after walking in the conference room door after the vote, why the Rangers have rolled out a sweeping group of cost-cutting initiatives for fans, whether shading or a roof are realistic plans for the Ballpark in Arlington, the latest on attempts to get a new video display installed for next season, and more.

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An Interview with Former MLB All-Star Morgan Ensberg on Blogging, Social Media PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Matthew Coller   
Sunday, 06 June 2010 22:45

Morgan EnsbergIn a recent guest column for ESPN, former Major League Baseball All-Star Morgan Ensberg said his dream wasn’t to be a ballplayer, it was to be a husband and father. He achieved his goal while spending eight seasons in the big leagues. After Ensberg retired in 2009, he set out to become baseball’s new best analyst. But, it turned out that analyst jobs are tough to get, so Ensberg did the next best thing: he started a blog.

The first post on “Morgan Ensberg’s IQ” came on Feb. 26, was entitled “Hey Yo!” The post reads, “I am Morgan Ensberg and this is a blog that teaches you about baseball. Not crap, but solid fundamentally based strategy and teaching. Each week I will teach you something about the game either at the professional or amateur level.”

Ensberg’s original goal of teaching readers about the game has taken all sorts of twists and turns. He’s featured posts on steroids, leadership, Sabermetrics and perhaps most intriguingly, the media. Posts are written from behind the eyes of a big league ballplayer, they are often biased, at times condescending, but always strikingly honest and interesting. Ensberg’s blog lays the cards on the table and if you don’t agree with his take, he’ll battle you like your comment was 3-2 count.

Though the rudimentary presentation lets readers know Ensberg is new to the blog game, his site offers something rarely found outside of the occasional 140 characters: The opportunity to get to know and interact with a professional athlete. Some posts have near 200 comments, many of them are back-n-forths between Ensberg and readers. But what prompted Ensberg to want to communicate with baseball fans?

Biz of Baseball decided to chat with Morgan Ensberg about his experiences blogging and the relationships between players, fans and the media.

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Interview: Shonda and Curt Schilling on Asperger's Syndrome PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 01 April 2010 05:49

A Best Kind of Different

Being a parent isn’t easy, but when you throw in that one is a Major League Baseball player, the challenges can be even more difficult. And, if you’re Shonda and Curt Schilling, the challenges greatly increased when they got the diagnosis in 2007 that their then 7-year-old son Grant had Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

As someone with a child with autism (see Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown Speaks on Fatherhood and Autism), and with the Business of Sports Network’s Autism Awareness Campaign kicking off today, there seemed no better interview to publish this month than the following with the Schillings. Through Shonda’s book, The Best Kind of Different: Our Family’s Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome (Harper-Collins) I was struck by seeing a different view of professional athletes and their wives, and the challenges that are added when Asperger's Syndrome is in the mix. As Curt writes in the Introduction of the book, and mentions within the following interview, parenting by way of AT&T becomes a way of life when you’re on the road 9 months out of the year.

With well over 60 interviews published on the Business of Sports Network family of sites, this was by far the most personal. It is a candid and revealing view of not only Curt, but of life within the Schilling family through the eyes of Shonda. – Maury Brown

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Lemke and Brown Discuss The Biz of Sports (Again) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 16:40

Lemke and Brown

Washington Times sports business reporter Tim Lemke and I had such a good time doing this in June, we decided to do it again.

With 2009 nearing an end, Lemke and I decided to discuss some of the stories that have occured over the last 6 months.

The economy is still king for those that track the business of sports (well, business, period, for that matter), but there has been a lot of other topics, namely how labor agreements in the major U.S. sports leagues will be expiring in 2011 and how the economy is playing a hand in how those negotiations are playing out. There's also the matter of how reporting on sports has changed (Lemke asks about beat writers), Mark McGwire and how he addresses (if at all) the media on steroid us, whether there should be a salary cap in MLB, what the major sports biz stories of 2010 might be, and a heck of a lot more.

The interview took place over a period of 2 weeks, just as the MLB season was coming to a close. You can read this interview on the Washington Times website, as well. And applicable excerpts are published on the Business of Sports Network family of sites.

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