I Guess I’m A Former Old Timer (Updated)

This is an all-time first:

I am turning to the sports pages of The New York Post to discover something about my own baseball-related career:

For the last several years, political commentator Keith Olbermann has served as an in-stadium play-by-play man for the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day. But the Yankees are making a change, The Post has learned.

The Yankees were not happy with Olbermann posting a photo on Twitter earlier this season of a coach signaling pitches to their batters in the on-deck circle. So they decided to bounce the liberal loudmouth and will have Bob Wolff and Suzyn Waldman provide the commentary for today’s game instead.

Look, it’s their Popsicle Stand and they can do what they want. More over, the Yankees – to use the Post’s phrase – once “bounced” Babe Ruth, to say nothing of Bernie Williams, and Yogi Berra twice and Billy Martin five times. I’m making no comparison, of course. But in that context, I’ve got no complaint there. I wasn’t going to say anything about this, in fact.

And then somebody from the Yankees leaked it to the paper.

On a personal level, however, I do know that I have a legitimate complaint in one respect. Old Timers’ Day is today, and I’ve been doing the “color” on the public address system for the last ten years, and one year prior to that as well (not the play-by-play; that is, obviously, entirely the province of Hall of Famer Bob Wolff and it’s my honor to sit next to him; Suzyn Waldman has usually been with us to do Old Timers’ interviews during the game). After eleven years of doing this, I think it would’ve been fitting if the Yankees had told me rather than let me hear it from somebody outside their organization the week before the event. It just seems like you’d want to preserve the dissemination of details about your company’s decisions like that to your company, rather than have a guy hear a rumor and then have to call up and ask.

I can’t vouch for the legitimacy of the motive described in The Post because this is the first time I’m hearing about it. But on a macro level, that does worry me in terms of the suppression of information. I might have been sitting in the stands when I tweeted the photos in question, but I saw nothing that any eagle-eyed guy in the press box couldn’t have seen (and trust me, they started looking). There was a coaches’ assistant in a Yankee jacket and a Shamwow-Seller’s Headset with a radar gun sitting three rows back of home plate signalling pitch speeds to Alex Rodriguez and other Yankee players in the on-deck circle on Opening Day this year, and I took a picture of it, largely because to see the signals, Rodriguez had to basically look right over my head.

The Yankees explained that the radar gun they used for their scoreboard wasn’t working that day, and the coaches’ assistant, Brett Weber, was simply supplying information the players usually got from the scoreboard. It was technically a violation of a rule prohibiting the transfer of such information from the stands or press box to the field. My point in tweeting the photo was that it didn’t seem to me to be cheating (after all, it was information about the last pitch, not the next one) — it just seemed weird. And after asking that Weber be vacated from his seat for one day, MLB accepted that explanation and he was back the next game – on the proviso that he not do any more signaling. And I haven’t seen him do any more signaling.

The problem, of course, is that Weber signaled all last year, too, and not just pitch speeds. He had a clipboard and some thin cardboard with which he seemed to be explaining to players in the on deck circle what kind of pitch they had just seen, and where it was. After the storm about the tweet broke, I talked to several friends of mine who happen to be American League managers. One real veteran gave me particular kidding grief about it and when I said it wasn’t anything new and had started the year before, he said “The hell it did. They’ve been doing all the years I’ve been coming to this place and the old Stadium and we complain and complain and nobody’s ever done anything about it before.”

For generations – and I mean pretty much since Jacob Ruppert bought the team in 1915 (or maybe it was from the time it moved from Baltimore in 1903), the Yankees have been notorious for trying to manage information. I can remember the day in a playoff series when they went after a fly with a cannon. We were setting up the interview stand in the clubhouse as the Yankees moved to within a few outs of eliminating advancing. Suddenly, the door opened and as intense a series of obscenities as I’d ever heard resonated through the room. It was a player who was not happy about having just been removed from the decisive game before its conclusion. Obviously, we in the Fox crew were being given a great courtesy – a few extra minutes to make our “set” look good. None of us would have dreamed of reporting what the player did – the definition of a gamer who had every right to blow off steam – or to whom his invective was directed. We were reporters, and we were “there” – but we were there under controlled and agreed-to conditions. The threats started to pour out of every Yankee exec who had contact with any of us that if we reported a word of it, there’d be hell to pay and jobs and contracts threatened. And we were all dumbfounded by the overreaction. We got it – and still the Yankees yelled and threatened.

There were far more dire consequences threatened about a story about Roger Clemens nearly getting into a fist-fight with a fan during the subsequent World Series. I had obtained a videotape of the confrontation, but had already decided not to run it, because it showed only Clemens’ response, not the utter and unjustifiable provocation by the fan. It would’ve made a great front page for The Post, but the video not only told just half the story, in doing so, it completely erased the truth of the story and replaced it with images that implied Clemens was entirely at fault. As I say, I had already decided not to run it, told the Yankees I had it, and that I would have to run it if the story got out some other way. And while at least one executive understood my dilemma and thanked me completely for my journalistic restraint, others made efforts to somehow seize the tape from me, or prevent my network from running it (even though we weren’t going to).

I should also point out here that of all the story-suppression efforts, I never got any of them from George Steinbrenner himself. Not even when the story was about how a couple of other reporters seemed to be very close to confirming some very ugly rumors about the owner himself. I contacted the club, mostly to find out if the stuff was true (and potentially to break it myself), and while some of his underlings freaked out, Steinbrenner himself told me he had no complaints. “That’s your job. I get it.”

It’s also kind of a shame that whoever from the Yankees leaked this information about Old Timers Day to The Post put Yankees’ Vice President/General Manager Brian Cashman on the spot. In my previous capacities at SportsCenter, and later as the host of the Playoffs and All-Star Game on NBC, and of Game Of The Week and the World Series on Fox, I have often reported things Cash didn’t like, but he’s always been professional and pleasant and there are few in the media who have had the slightest serious problem with him (a record that very few other Yankee figures of the last 40 years can claim).

The day that The New York Daily News published the story of the tweetpic of Weber, four fingers raised, I happened to be at the ballpark and got corralled by the beat writers who were trying to figure out what it was all about. In the middle of this, Cashman came over to explain, and to say it was no big deal from the Yankees’ point of view (as I said it wasn’t from mine) and to very publicly reassure me that the team had no problem with what I did, or with me.

Today, this statement seems to be inoperative.

Back on that brilliant spring Saturday in April, Cash even had a joking explanation for this:“He was just ordering four beers, Keith,” Cashman said with a laugh.

So I showed him the picture I didn’t tweet and asked him (with my own laugh), if that was the case, if they really didn’t have a bigger problem than just improper hand-signaling:POSTSCRIPT: You will find this silliness in the comments. It’s worth it

I believe this also stems from Keith Tweeting a picture of Jorge Posada’s name crossed out on Joe Girardi’s lineup card on the day Posada asked out of a game. As he was NOT a ‘reporter’ that day, in my opinion, Keith had no right to post that picture other than to fuel his own ego to simply prove he can. Also, KO was obviously trying to embarrass the longtime Yankee catcher who was probably at the all-time low of a generally nice career. Who kicks a guy like that when he’s down? As a baseball fan, I find that itself is unforgivable.

FYI, I’m not only a 20+ year Olbermann fan, but a frequent and loquacious defender of his and the Posada incident has soured me so much I’m sad to say I’m starting to lose faith in his political message around which I have long based my own beliefs.

While the truth may never come out, don’t discount the Posada incident as a reason for Keith’s exclusion from this prestigious Yankee event.

Go Yanks!

Yeah, this is pretty dumb. The tweeted picture this poster has gone nuclear over was of a copy of the printed line-up/scorecard sheets the Yankees give out in the press box and to every spectator in the suites areas who asks for it. It showed where I had crossed off Posada’s name on my sheet and written in Andruw Jones’ name. It was obviously my handwriting. And I tweeted it only to illustrate tangible proof that even the Yankees had been crossed up by Posada’s unwillingness to bat ninth.

Where on earth would I get a copy of Joe Girardi’s line-up card, during a game?


  1. Lou Pickney

    I’m disappointed that the Yankees organization would let you find out via the newspaper as opposed to contacting you directly concerning Old-Timers’ Day.

  2. Leslie Coleman

    Hi, Keith. I’m with Lou up above – it’s disappointing, and to me it seems classless. I’m not a fan of any person or organization which tries to manage information.

  3. J. Moore

    It’s hard to not get to do something you love to do…and I’m sure that game experience won’t be the same without Keith but stuff happens. With that said, The Post joins the line-the-bottom-of-my-bird-cage folded print when it used the term ” liberal loudmouth”. While you can’t knock someone from breaking a story (after all that is their job)…name calling kind of says it all in the way of classless. It does stink that no one could pick up a phone…but this as an aroma of secret agenda around it.

  4. Katrina Rose

    To agree with the (laugh-accompanied) assessment of the second photo, I’d need to know what size the standard beer serving is at Yankee Stadium.

  5. Pingback: Keith Olbermann Relieved Of Duties As Old Timers’ Day Announcer | Los That Sports Blog
  6. Pingback: Yankees kick Keith Olbermann to the curb on Old-Timers’ Day | HardballTalk
  7. Andrew M.

    The Yankees famously released Phil Rizzuto as a player in a similarly classless manner — near the August 31st roster deadline in 1956 the Yankee brass invited him to the front office, handed him a copy of the Yankee roster and asked him who he’d release before the World Series. A few minutes into the discussion the Scooter (a former MVP and much beloved by teammates and fans) realized HE was the one being cut.

    The Yanks can hire and fire whoever they damn well like to announce their Old Timers Games. But they could’ve been a tad more polite towards Keith O. about it.

  8. Devon Young

    Didn’t Randolph find out through the papers that he wasn’t the Mets manager anymore? I guess you’re in decent company there too… he wasn’t too bad. At worst, we know that the Metropolitans problems weren’t his fault.

    • Dan Cichalski

      No, Randolph was fired at the team hotel in Anaheim after a game there. Omar Minaya didn’t want to do it at the ballpark, and said he didn’t want to fire a guy “in uniform.”

  9. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    Something is rotten in Denmark…it is that simple. People who like the truth usually like fair play as well.

  10. Brian Ross

    The only difference between MLB and organized crime is that organized crime lacks an antitrust exemption. Mr. Cashman, and his people in the Yankees organization are honorable folks in a very dishonorable organization that fronts one of the most corrupt and morally bankrupt professional sports organizations in the world. I documented their fake war on drugs in the sport, and the fact that there is no law banning drugs in baseball. Know, from start to finish, that the Yankees have their hand in every decision coming out of the Commissioner’s Office. That they would do something this cheap to Mr. Olbermann is not a surprise.

  11. Chris Bell

    Just thought it would be important to mention the seeming hypocrisy of a dude going on TV one night to tell America about the dangers of unchecked capitalism and then rubbing elbows with modern sport’s living embodiment of those dangers the next day. That outside of the fact that everyone on that team makes a salary that would dwarf every state employee in Wisconsin.

    Guess it doesn’t matter how many labor laws Wal-Mart breaks, just so long as you REALLY REALLY like watching them do it. Hey, do they make trading cards for that?

    Are you looking to actively be part of the solution, or just call color while the world burns?

    • Bethany

      Yeah, ok. Like we enjoy watching Wal-Mart break labor laws. Do they make trading cards for ridiculous comments like yours?

      • Chris Bell

        Wow, I can’t believe I have to illustrate this further. I am a progressive. I am being critical of Mr. Olberman for voluntarily working for an organization that utilizes capital to create an unfair competitive market. Furthermore, there is a meta-critique about the over-value of professional sports that allows organizations to receive tax breaks for stadium building while owners make grossly unnecessary profits and players make grossly unnecessary wages.

        I support Mr. Olberman’s political message. That is exactly why I am making this criticism. I believe that message has more value when actions support it. Blind worship can be dangerous in any form, but doing so to promote the person and not the idea pulls us away from having a real discourse about the problem itself.

  12. Art

    Personally, I think it has to do with Keith’s general tone towards the Yankees this season. He is the first to sauté Jeter when he has a bad game; for well or ill, the signal tweet was a “gotcha” attempt; and the “Posada Scratch” seems odd, too. If it were my game, I wouldn’t let him on the field or in the box either, for fear of him finding some other transgression to tweet after the game or in a commercial break. I love the guy’s politics, too, and was sad when Countdown moved to a network to which I don’t get access, but my respect for him has been diving all season, given how venomous he is about everything the yankees are doing.

  13. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    The card is in Keith’s handwriting. I recall it. It is amazing how people have twisted what happened into something so far from what it originally was! There is no evidence of KO hating Posada or the Yankees. Venemous? Damn! Now he is a snake…a Cobra loose in the Bronx. Baseball is one of the best things that ever happened to Keith…and truth be known…Keith is one of the best things that ever happened to baseball. Some here need to take their bats and balls and go home.

  14. sciarrino

    Olberman, there’s no room for your nonsense in the great game of baseball. You do yourself a disservice on a daily basis, please don’t do it to “our” game. Go away.

  15. James

    Call the waaahmbalance

    Or it must be the Republicans fault…(No I am not one)

    This guy is a hack and nothing is ever his fault, he is the kid that used to tattle on everyone then smile, invite them over and say another kid was ratting them out. That kid usually got his bell rung with an uppercut or two and fell into line or became ostracized…not Keithy, his parents problem sued the school and he became a professional b!t#h.

    Obermann, you should just walk into a closet and talk to yourself, since you are the only one that you think is right anyway.

    Your elementary, borderline intermediate knowledge of baseball does not negate your obvious faults.

    You are the Randy Moss Owens of broadcasters and baseball bloggers

  16. Ron

    It’s up to the Yankees who they want associated with the organization, but it’s disappointed they weren’t man enough to tell you to your face. Lou Gerhrig is rolling in his grave.

  17. David Burke

    Wish I knew how to unsubscribe from this discussion. What a waste of time.
    Seriously, if anyone knows how a person who asked to see follow-up comments can reverse that choice.
    Remind me to NEVER do that again. I’m old, feeble and online too much of the tie to be bombarded by banal banter between baseball bombasticators. Gimme shelter!

  18. Alex

    The Yankees are a classless organization. Today you should consider yourself the luckiest person on the face of the earth because you’re not associated with them.

  19. Kurt_from_SoCal

    I have forgotten the number of times I have been told my services were no longer needed via a 3rd party. Classless? Yeah. I just look at the source. Very doubtful I am the only person to be treated as such by the offending organization. Absolutely not surprised by what the Yankees do. Just another reason to rejoice “the yankees lose… theeee Yankees lose. … That always makes my day.

  20. Dennis

    If only Paul O’Neill were there, they could have just pretended that they were really just afraid he would take a swing at you.

  21. Michael Green

    I never ceased to be amazed at the people on both sides of the aisle who politicize this blog. Olbermann has political views, as we all know. He does not trot them out here. And I don’t read mlb.com and its blogs for them–and I would add, on most issues, I agree with Keith but think his approach does more damage to my cause than helps it; I don’t say that to reopen a debate, but to make clear where I come from on this.

    As to the behavior of the Yankees organization, it was without class, but anybody who expects class from the Yankees really needs a checkup from the neck up. This is the organization that wouldn’t show Don Zimmer on its telecasts because he and George III weren’t getting along (I refuse to make him in death something more than he was in life: an owner who loved the game and wanted to win, a good businessman, but often, behaviorally, a three-year-old badly in need of Ritalin) and continues to foist John Sterling on the public. Please.

    Actually, though, all of this begs a question. At 90, Bob Wolff is, I do not doubt, better at play-by-play than Sterling. Why does he do only that one game?

  22. Pingback: YankeesVine » Blog Archive » New York Yankees News: Movements and Questions
  23. Sam

    All these people saying the Yankees are a classless organization– such craziness. You think the fat cats in that corporate world are any different from the fat cats who run other teams? The Yankees do things like HOPE week and other community work. But that’s not the point. People who throw out the “classless” accusation act like the accused party is so bad that their own lack of tact, or class, is justified. They hate the Yankees so they just need to come up another excuse. I’m a big fan of Keith, but too often he stirs up this stuff against the Yankees (especially Jeter). I’d give my right arm (though it would probably cost me a leg or two as well) to sit in the seats where Keith sits at Yankee Stadium. Not that it’s a privilege– he has paid for them. But then to go and trash the team at every turn– it just seems inappropriate. If Keith enjoys the games, sitting near the front row, then why not simply enjoy them instead of dragging the organization through the mud on his blog?

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  25. Michael Green

    Sam, I despise the Yankees and am a Dodger fan. Being a Dodger fan, especially right now, I think I should be considered an expert on whether an organization has class. I think the Yankees (like the Dodgers) do good things for the community but until I see evidence that the younger generation is different than their father in treating employees like garbage, then occasionally doing a good deed and expecting their tame supporters to endorse their actions, I don’t see a lot of class there. Furthermore, I thought that when you buy tickets to a game, one of the things you’re supposed to be able to do is criticize your team. Maybe I’m wrong; that must be why fans never boo.

  26. Kiko Jones

    Both this post and the ensuing comments have become too unwieldy in so far as the actual importance of what happened is concerned. In other words, KO took that Murdoch rag’s bait and harped way too long about it here. And the comments have followed suit. Maybe this belongs in a memoir, but as far as a blog post, it was too much.
    As for the Yankee hate of some folks here, fine, go ahead, but spread it around for a change. Taking revenue sharing and keeping a team payroll more or less equal to that amount, while pocketing the profits, and selling false hope to a fan base, is quite classless. How ’bout it?

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    but as far as a blog post, it was too much.
    As for the Yankee hate of some folks here, fine, go ahead, but spread it around for a change. Taking revenue sharing and keeping a team payroll more or less equal to that amount, while pocketing the profits, and selling false hope to a fan base, is quite classless. How ’bout it?

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