post

Timeout: 15 Minutes and 45 Seconds of Fame

“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”–Andy Warhol

Bob Watson

The date was May 4th, 1975.  The place was Candlestick Park, San Fransisco.  And the man of the hour was Bob Watson of the Houston Astros,  who scored the 1 millionth run in major league baseball history.  Watson beat Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds by four seconds in a race around the bases from opposite ends of the country.  It was one of the most exciting early-in-the-season baseball moments ever.

To this day Watson’s name, and to a lesser extent Concepcion’s, is associated with that event in baseball history.  But there was another name in the news that was connected to the story.  He was  a 24-year-old local sportscaster from Westport, CT who used a first generation, eighty dollar electronic calculator to research and originate the millionth run contest, thus scooping all the professional statisticians and baseball journalists.  He went on a media tour to promote a “guess-the-player” contest sponsored by Tootsie Roll.  His picture and name appeared in wire service stories, in Sport Magazine and in the New York Daily News.  He appeared on television and spoke at press conferences alongside the likes of Stan Musial, Ralph Branca, Mel Allen and Bowie Kuhn.  He had 15 minutes of Warholian fame.   Then came oblivion.

The 24-year old whiz kid with the calculator was, of course, me.

I was exhilarated, excited and even euphoric;  then it was over.   And for thirty-something years the memory simply faded, almost to the point that it seemed to have happened to another person in

Millionth run center

The 1,000,000th run countdown center. That’s me talking to the gathered media as Stan Musial naps in the background. Check out my 1975 hair!

another lifetime.  It became just another forgotten footnote in the deep and illustrious history of our national pastime.  After awhile, I didn’t even care, so why should anybody else?

Then something funny happened.  Straight out the blue, nearly four years ago, I received an email from Kansas City Star sportswriter Joe Posnanski.

“Are you the Mark Sackler who originated the millionth run?” he asked.  “I’m writing a book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds.  I want to include it and the events involving Davey Concepcion as an interesting sidebar to the season’s story.”

The next year, The Machine, Posnanski’s book chronicling a great season by one of the best teams in the game’s history, appeared in bookstores with a chapter on the millionth run.  After 34 years, somebody remembered.   My sister joked that I was getting another 15 minutes of fame.  My retort was that it was more like 30 seconds.

But then it happened again.  A few months ago, a gentleman named Timothy Gregg contacted me on Facebook to make the same inquiry.  Was I the millionth run originator?  Gregg, also a former sportscaster and sports promoter, now a digital media producer, was co-authoring the memoirs of Houston Astros TV commentator Bill Brown.  Of course, there would be a chapter on the millionth run in that book as well.  This time not from the Reds point of view, but the Astros.   This book–My Baseball Journeywas just recently published.  So fifteen minutes of fame is now fifteen minutes and forty-five seconds.   And counting…

If you are a baseball fan, both of these books are worthwhile.  Otherwise, stay tuned for more effluvia from my hopelessly cluttered cranium.

Comments

  1. Whoah! The millionth run! This is supremely cool! What a wonderful accomplishment!
    As a committed baseball fan (since June of 1967….!) I am impressed to “know” you!

  2. Really!? I’m not even impressed to know me! 😀

  3. That’s a very cool story! It’s great to learn new things about your blogging friends! I feel like people who keep a blog tend to be more interesting than the average Outerbridge, although I may be slightly biased since I’m in that category myself. Nonetheless, this is one of the more fascinating tidbits that I’ve learned about one of my blogging pals.

    A few years ago, I dabbled in sportswriting and journalism – mostly about boxing, but also doing some triathlon coverage – and had a few paid gigs and podcast appearances while writing part-time as a student. (Getting 100K reads on this article may have been my greatest achievement: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/557861-the-100-greatest-pound-for-pound-boxers-of-all-time). This has given me some hope that somewhere, some day, people will call me up and ask my thoughts on boxing, even though I haven’t written about it actively for a while.

    That’s a pretty fascinating story about you being the “millionth run” initiator. It really is.

  4. I’m not a huge baseball fan and didn’t even know there had been such a contest. How long do we have to wait for the the 2nd million?

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Oh what a fabulous story this is. The internet is a wonderful thing and now that you’ve blogged about it you’ll probably get other inquiries. You might get 15 more minutes of fame eventually. Or, you can be satisfied with your blogger fame instead.

    • LOL. Thank you Lydia. Actually, the blog is mostly just a brain dump to get rid of all the accumulated sludge in there. By the way, good dog photos are always appreciated. There are four in my house; I love them when they are not driving me crazy. The inmates running the asylum and all…

  6. Very, very cool– and I’m talking, of course, about your 1975 hair!! : )

    Cool story, too. What “runs” around, comes around, eh? Cheers!

  7. Great story! Thanks for visiting my portfolio.

  8. As Maurice Chevalier once sang – “Yes, I remember it well.” Look what you started! Now they give stats during game broadcasts of who has the best batting average on Tuesdays, in the afternoon, when the temperature is below 67, and it is raining, and there is a new moon. Nice meeting you. Thanx! Great blog but I’d like to compete for the world’s most cluttered mind title…

  9. Very interesting! And cool to see a 1977 Topps Bob Watson card again.

  10. Ok, cluttered mind, I have one for you – well not really to top this, but do you know where I can find THE book about the ’69 Mets? Not those that have retold the story (i.e. copyright 2004, 2009, etc) but the original book that came out after that season??

    Keep cluttering up your blog site w/ more! It’s truly an enjoyable ride. Am sharing this post w/ my dad and brothers.

    Thanks also, Mark, for liking a recent post of mine “Great Point, Nantucket”; am most appreciative.

    • Unfortunately, Laurie, I don’t. Somewhere I have an old LP with a documentary with sound clips and narration telling the story of the ’69 Mets. What I don’t think I have any more is a record player to play it on! And thank you for stopping by as well.

  11. dmarshall58 says:

    What a great story, not just for itself but for what it reflects, the way past events can wander off and become strangers and then suddenly return again. It almost sounds more like a novel plot than reality. Wonderful work.

  12. wannadoart2day says:

    Warhol was pretty close on timing! Thanks for having a look at wannadoart.

  13. One thing that is unforgettable is the 1975 World Series. The best I ever saw.
    Great story!

    • I actually sat in the press box for every single game in Boston during the 1975 World Series. Now THAT was memorable! (Being a Yankee fan, I didn’t mind the result one bit!)

  14. Love baseball lore. LET’S GO YAAAANKEEEEEEEEES !!!

  15. Loved this blog of yours. Thanks for the like of my post “Determined to Stay Green”.

  16. 1annecasey says:

    Congratulations on your landmark discovery… and the returns to fame!

  17. I had fourteen minutes of fame when my video, “Road Kill Grill” appeared on YouTube some time ago. So, the world owes me a minute of fame. Should I file a complaint? If so where? Perhaps the Better Business Bureau?

    • You could file it with Andy Warhol’s estate. After all, he’s the one who promised 15 minutes. I’d lend you my spare 45 seconds but you’d still be 15 seconds short.

  18. thanks for liking my first post! I’m a baseball fan so this is pretty cool. 🙂

  19. This is why I love baseball! Great story. Can’t wait for the movie. 😃

  20. Hey, thanks for popping by my blog, happy you did so I could read this. Effluvia- what a great word! This was a really good read, you captured my attention the whe time and I don’t even “get” baseball, but my husband is a Yankees fan through and through and even my son who is a New Yorker by birth but we haven’t lived in the US for 10 yrs still wears his Yankees cap everywhere we go. They are gonna’ eat this up!

    • And I’m a HUGE Yankee fan going back to the early 1960’s days of Mantle and Maris. There is a “Yankees in exile” page on Facebook that your guys should check out. 🙂

  21. Hi Mark,

    I like your self-deprecating style of writing. : ) And boy, if my Dad was still alive, he could certainly relate to the names listed above. (He was, by the way, a devoted Brooklyn Dodgers fan.)

    Thanks for a great blog. Fascinating stuff from your ol’ noggin. Good luck with the next installment of 15 second fame…

    Take care,
    Paul

    • How’s this for a name he would have recognized: Ralph Branca. Ralph was one of several baseball celebrities hired to help promote the millionth run. I got to work with him for a few days. He was a great guy, and I was glad to see him so favorably depicted in the Jacky Robinson biopic, 42

      • Hi Mark,

        Yeah, my Dad would have known Mr. Branca very well. Especially Ralph giving up the ‘shot heard ’round the world.’ But I just found out that the Giants had stolen the signals.

        My Dad (along with a few million people, I reckon) was also devastated in ’57 when the Dodgers left Brooklyn.

        Take care,
        Paul

  22. Good to see enthusiasm, but oddly enough, I didn’t understand a word of this at all. Rather, I understood the individual words, but not their meanings within the context. Baseball is totally unknown to me, which probably accounts for the confusion.

  23. I remember! I was a Reds fan at the time…still am, although I’m no longer in Cincinnati.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Last week, our brilliant blog friend (and minor baseball celebrity) Mark Sackler awarded me with the inaugural BLAHS award! You know what that means: bragging rights […]

  2. […] Clyde Franklin Kluttz (1917-1979) was a journeyman major league catcher for the Boston Braves, New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators.  His  career was so undistinguished that  four of the six teams he played for no longer even exist in their original cities.  In nine major league seasons between 1942 and 1952 he hit .268 with career HR and RBI totals of just 19 and 212.  In fact, his post playing career as a scout was far more distinguished.  The pinnacle of his post-playing days came as director of scouting for the New York Yankees (1974-75) and director of player development for the Baltimore Orioles from 1976 until his death in 1979.  One of his greatest achievements was to convince then free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter–one of the greatest nicknamed players of all time–to sign with the Yankees after the 1974 season, thus contributing to the foundation of the Bronx Zoo that won world championships in 1977 and 1978.                So back to the name itself.  While his playing days certainly seem to have predated the development of  the American slang usage of the term, as the dictionary.com definition above indicates, I must take issue with their timing.  Back in my junior high school days, c.1962-64, my best friend and I compiled a list of the 50 wackiest baseball names of all times.  Now, going through an entire all-time baseball register in this manner is something only an adolescent boy would do in the first place, but it is something I have never forgotten.  Clyde Kluttz was #1 on both of our ballots.  Believe me, it wasn’t just that the name sounded funny and had a great ring to it.  We knew well even then the meaning of the word klutz.                As for other inappropriately or unfortunately named athletes,  two of my favorites are Richie Incognito, an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, and Grant Balfour, a relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics.  If there is anything Richie Incognito can’t do, it’s go incognito.  He is 6’3″ and weighs 324 lbs.  As for Balfour–I can’t imagine the ribbing he must get on the field, particularly from opposing teams.  A pitcher named Ball Four? Really?  There are others out there, but for the the most unlikely professional sports name of all time, Clyde Kluttz still takes my cake! Mark Sackler The Millennium Conjectures Read about my own baseball history here. […]

  3. […] The fact that he was sitting behind me, bored as hell, as I droned on at a press conference for the 1 millionth run promotion, doesn’t diminish it for me.  I will cherish the image at left as long as I live.   That I […]

  4. […] My own obscure place in baseball history is chronicled on my blog, The Millennium Conjectures. […]

  5. […] For my own obscure place in baseball history, visit my own blog, The Millennium Conjectures. […]

  6. […] accomplishments, and I’m sure one of Mark’s as well. (Although he’s done some pretty awesome things over the […]

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