BASEBALL, BRANDING, AND AMERICA’S PASTIME

Petco Statium – Photo: Phil Konstantin

“It’s an exciting afternoon here at Petco,” the announcer says. The Padres are playing the Mets. At Petco Park. The mental image this formed in my head were utterly un-baseball, totally non-sporting. The whole branding thing is out of control.

I looked up from the computer, wondering if we needed more dog food and biscuits. We’re forever running short.

But next, the announcer points out the pitcher has been, so far, throwing a no-hitter. Never, in Padre history has any pitcher thrown a no-hitter, so this should have been riveting baseball. Except the announcers couldn’t seem to focus on the game and instead, were busy talking all kinds of nonsense and showing clips of everything except the game in progress. Ultimately, I suppose it didn’t matter since the pitcher gave up three hits in the seventh, but they could have at least given the kid his time in the sun.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Finally they pointed out that the right-hander “… has a great, boring fastball.”

This made me wonder if they should be playing any kind of game at Petco, especially if the guy’s fastball is boring. I understand they are saying something technical about the pitch. Nonetheless, words matter. Boring has multiple meanings, the most common of which is “dull.”

So how boring was that fastball?

Does Petco Park sound like a dog park to you? It certainly sounds like one to me.

Someone once told me I’m “branding” my photographs by signing them. No, I’m not. I sign my art because I’m proud of it.

Branding would be if I sold my blog to Costco, after which this was no longer Serendipity, but Costco Web Thoughts — but I still did the writing and photography while they paid to put their corporate name on my work. That’s branding.

Garry points out the Padres not only have a crappy team and awful branding — Petco really doesn’t work as a stadium name — but they wear ugly uniforms. From Garry, that is condemnation.

Whatever else is wrong with the Red Sox, at least they have not turned Fenway into Burger King Stadium or Walmart Watcharama. To the best of my knowledge, our pitchers throw highly entertaining fastballs.

ME AND “THE NATURAL” (1984) – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“God, I LOVE baseball.”

It’s a line that comes up near the end of Robert Redford’s 1984 film, “The Natural.” Redford’s “Roy Hobbs” character is reflecting on the odd turns his life has taken, but he is still playing baseball, still chasing his dream. It’s a wistful, melancholy reflection because the protagonist has lost many productive years because of a bizarre and almost fatal incident.

As many of you know, I’m a life-long baseball fan with roots dating back to the late 1940’s and the Boys of Summer, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I’ve always loved baseball!  It’s had an almost hypnotic grip on me. I fantasize about baseball the way some men day-dream about a tryst with a beautiful woman. There are only a handful of really good baseball movies. Hollywood, for some reason, hasn’t been able to get a grip on baseball. The short list of good baseball movies includes “The Natural”, “Bull Durham”, “Field of Dreams”, “Major League” (The original), “42”, “Cobb”, “A League of Their Own” and one or two I’ve forgotten.

“The Natural” and “Field of Dreams” top my list.  Some baseball purists, including a couple of Boston sports writers I know, claim those films are too hokey and sentimental. I disagree. Both films carry the lyricism of baseball. They are “print the legend” movies about America’s national pastime. Pro football is great but baseball is special, part of the fabric of our American dream.

My favorite memories, then and now, are of baseball games played during hot summer afternoons. They are languid, not long. Each at bat is drama unto itself. What will the pitcher throw? Can the batter hit the 100 mph fastball? It’s really a chess match between two teams, managers trying to out-scheme each other. I still stand and gasp when great defensive plays are made. This year’s Boston Red Sox have several gifted young players. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr, and Andrew Benentendi are capable of highlight reel plays in the blur of a second. It’s a joy to watch them play.

Field of Dreams – the Ghostfield

The long-maligned Chicago Cubs were the talk of the Nation last year when they won their first World Series in over a century. Everyone felt good for the Cubbies and their fans. It didn’t really matter that your team was on the outside looking in. Real baseball fans have a special bond. Our political leaders might take note.

The New York Yankees have their own core of talented young players.  Mother of mercy, did I just say that?  Never in the wide, wide world of sports did I think I’d watch and appreciate the dreaded Yankees. Applaud “The Pinstripes”?  Family and old friends would gasp in disbelief. The “Baby Bombers” include Aaron Judge, a giant of a young slugger who is setting the baseball world on its ear. Judge, 6’7″ or 6′ 8″ is a muscled Paul Bunyon who appears on the verge of becoming a legend as a rookie. He’s already surpassed Joe DiMaggio’s record for home runs by a rookie and we’re just past the midway mark of the season.  Aaron Judge has the looks and personality of one of those old “Wheaties” Breakfast of Champions heroes. I tune into Yankee games just to catch Judge at bat. His home runs are routinely Ruthian.  You have to be a genuine baseball fan to appreciate Aaron Judge in a Yankee uniform. He appears to be (so far) this generation’s new superstar without the baggage of arrogance or rumors of drugs.

The new generation of Yankees and Red Sox promises to fire up their long rivalry, hopefully with appreciation rather than spiteful dislike.

The Yanks visit Fenway Park in a few days for a four-game series. It promises to be exciting and fun for all. It certainly will get me away from our national political angst.

All of which brings me back to “The Natural.” I’m 75 and still have boyish dreams. Yes, some are X-rated. Men are pigs. No argument. However, most of my dreams are about baseball. I’m Roy Hobbs who is a composite of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and (for me), Duke Snider.

Robert Redford admits he copied Ted Williams’ batting stance, even his uniform number 9. Redford’s grace on the base paths and in the outfield remind me of my hero, Duke Snider. There’s a sense of grace to his movements, even the way he swings his shoulders as he runs. I shamelessly copied those movements when I played baseball as a not-very-gifted youth and adult.

If I could have one genie wish, it would be to morph as Roy Hobbs in his prime. I think now, more than ever, America needs Roy Hobbs to hit a walk off home run and send us home with unbounded happiness.

BECAUSE I CAN – RICH PASCHALL

Wayne Messmer Sings, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Cubs Win

If you are from the Chicagoland area, or follow the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, you may know his name and his face.  You certainly know his voice.  As far as we are concerned here, he is the best National Anthem singer in the country.  There is no fooling around when Wayne sings.  He delivers the anthem as it was written.  There are no variations to the melody or guitar solos.  He delivers it each time in a rich baritone voice, full of passion and conviction. We consider it a privilege to follow along.  There will be no runs for beer or hot dogs when Wayne grabs the mic and takes to the field.

Wayne Messmer is a multi-talented guy.  His Facebook page introduces him as “Certified Speaking Professional, Singer, Storyteller, Live Entertainer. Chicago guy!”  In addition to singing for the Cubs, Wayne is Executive Vice President and national anthem singer for the AHL hockey team, Chicago Wolves.  He has a Sunday night Jazz and Blues radio program.  He gives live performances around the area.  While doing local theater many years ago he met his wife Kathleen, also a talented singer. They have performed together over the years at stadiums and clubs.

In 1991 Wayne’s dynamic performance of the Anthem at the NHL All-Star game in Chicago was carried around the nation and across Armed Forces networks.  It is still talked about for reasons that will be obvious here.  In the final year at the old Chicago Stadium, 1994, Wayne Messmer, age 43, was a beloved local celebrity.  It all nearly came to an end following a Blackhawk’s home game in April of that year.

Late at night following the game, Wayne left a restaurant and made it to his car in the old Stadium neighborhood.  When he got in his car there was a banging on the window.  Then a shot was fired at point-blank range.  It went through the driver side window, then through Wayne’s throat and lodged in muscle tissue.  Wayne drove off and back to the restaurant where he was found and taken to a local hospital.  Reportedly, one of Kathleen’s first concerns when she reached the hospital was whether Wayne would be able to speak and sing.

A few days later at the Chicago Stadium no substitute would do for the anthems at a Blackhawk’s playoff game.  Wayne appeared on tape.  There was no mistaking the sentiment of the crowd.  It would be the final anthem in that building.

It was a 15-year-old boy who shot Wayne in the failed robbery attempt.  The boy had a 9-mm hand gun.  He was with a 16-year-old accomplice.  It was a tip from another teen that led the police to the suspect.  Once caught, the shooter confessed to the crime.  Messmer underwent a 10 hour operation and was in serious condition after the shooting.  Chicago Wolves spokesperson, Susan Prather, said doctors did not want to speculate on the outcome. “They have no way of telling how this will affect his voice.”  The Messmers were cautioned that it might be a year and a half before they would know how his voice would sound.

The road to recovery was filled with doubt.  Would Wayne sing again? Would he be able to even speak well?  It is impossible to imagine what goes through the mind of someone who makes his living with his voice.  He was determined to succeed.  A quick return would take a miracle.  Wayne tells the story in this brief interview:

A miracle and some luck were on Wayne’s side as he returned to his passion.  He sang at a Blackhawks game six months after he was shot.  He has now sung for 33 consecutive Chicago Cubs home openers.  Sometimes he will take harmony as his wife sings the melody for the anthem, but mostly it is Wayne at the microphone at Wrigley Field when the organ starts to play.

Although I was never in a production with Wayne, we both did shows at Theater on the Lake and I have seen Wayne perform.  We have a number of mutual friends, not just on Facebook, as a result of community theater.  I have met Wayne a few times and can say he is as nice as he seems.  It is always a delight when a good person is a success.

If you asked Wayne now why he continues to sing, he will say “because I can.”  For this veteran performer and Chicago guy with a miracle comeback on his résumé, nothing could be greater than to sing the national anthem at a World Series for the Chicago Cubs.  Yes, he has that miracle on his résumé too.

THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Opening day at Fenway Park used to be my favorite day of my TV news career.

Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky. Since then, we are on a winning streak and we should be grateful because this may be as good as it gets. You can never be sure. Half the team has the flu, another chunk seems to need some kind of shoulder surgery. We live in hope, but know how it goes.

We watch. We wait. Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.” Fenway will be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse.

So far, so good. Not perfect, but not bad. And it’s just the beginning of a very long season.

THE BOYS OF SUMMER ARE BACK – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This used to be my favorite day during my TV news career. Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged the murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky.

Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.”

Fenway may be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout … and the clubhouse.

JIMMY, CASEY, AND THE DUKE – THOSE AMAZIN’ METS! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I was swapping old baseball anecdotes with friends on Facebook after Marilyn and I re-watched Ken Burns’ classic “Baseball” series recently. It began with memories of 1963, one year after the introduction of the New York Metropolitans into the National League.

The Mets were designed to lure back fans disenchanted by the flight of Brooklyn’s Dodgers and New York’s Giants to the west coast a few years earlier. It was also a great business opportunity to reclaim some of the money that overflowed the coffers at Yankee Stadium. The once three baseball team Gotham was now dominated by the Bronx Bombers.

1963-mets-rosterThe Mets began as a circus with aging baseball legend, Casey Stengel, as ring master and manager. George Weiss, ousted from the Yankees front office when Casey was dumped for being old and losing the 1960 World Series, was the Mets first General Manager. The old Polo Grounds, once home to John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, a young Willie Mays and a host of other legendary Giants, was now home for the Mets. You could smell the history. Sometimes you had to hold your nose.

It was a good year to be 20 years old and a budding reporter with a life long love for baseball. The national stage was being set by JFK and his new frontier. “Gunsmoke” was topping the TV ratings and Elvis was king of the pop world.

Now came the Mets! They had problems hitting, throwing and catching the ball. Otherwise, they were fine. There were instant heroes like “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry, the error prone first baseman who had a minus fielding range. “Choo Choo” Coleman was a pleasant catcher who had problems with pitchers who couldn’t throw strikes. Elio Chacon was a flashy shortstop who did tangos as ground balls went through and around him. Roger Craig was a veteran starter whose fast ball was behind him … by several years … back in the ghost of Ebbets Field.

Opposing teams feasted on the new Mets. Baseball games were like batting practice for the other guys. Their batting averages soared and their earned run averages dropped against Casey’s Amazin’ Mets who lost and lost and lost.

Management decided to hype the circus atmosphere of the Mets by bringing in aging stars who normally would’ve retired. The over-the-hill retinue would include Richie Ashburn, Jimmy Piersall and Duke Snider. Even the legendary Willie Mays would show up a decade later in the dark autumn of his career. But it was storybook time for a young reporter in that summer of ’62.

Casey Stengel was wrapping up a 10 minute, one question interview that I’d forgotten as we shook hands. The Ol’ Perfesser tapped me on the cheek and pointed to Duke Snider as my next interview. I froze!! My boyhood hero, the Duke of Flatbush, was standing a few feet away from me.

You have to appreciate the moment and its back story. Growing up in the city of three baseball teams was a very special time. The time of three great, Hall of Fame centerfielders. Willie, Mickey and the Duke. There were myriad brawls over who was the best. There was even a song about the three heroes.

Duke Snider

Duke Snider

Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider was my idol. He was the sweet swinging lefty slugger from Compton, California. I had the Duke’s baseball cards, magazine stories and photos of Duke and his wife, Bev. I copied Duke’s swing and classic running gait, with elbows slightly raised as I rounded the bases after my imaginary grand slam home run. We still have his Hall of Fame plaque on the wall in the kitchen.

Now, he was standing next to me. My voice shot up several levels as the interview began. The Duke stared at me and mumbled, “I’m busy, Kid”. I just stood there. Crestfallen. Duke? Duke? I was still standing there when the Duke returned with a small smile on face.

Casey was standing behind Duke as he stood and politely granted me the interview. I was mesmerized. He apologized for his earlier, gruff manner and posed for a polaroid moment with me. Behind us, I could see Casey winking at me. As I basked in the moment, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see the familiar face of Jimmy Piersall. Casey again was winking at me a few feet away. It was a wicked grin. I was puzzled.

Piersall who didn’t resemble Tony Perkins who had starred in the bio movie, “Fear Strikes Out”, also had a strange grin on his face.  It was a bizarre moment. In a blur of seconds, Piersall was running around the bases backwards with a bat raised over his head and yelling. I kept my distance. It was surreal!! Piersall approached me again, bat in hand and weird smile on his face. “I was just funnin’ with you, Kid”, Piersall explained. He went on with a rambling anecdote about the joys of playing for Casey and the Mets.

I don’t recall ever asking Piersall a question. It didn’t matter.

My tech aide, actually a pal from the college radio station, was laughing as he showed me the pictures he’d taken. We had proof. I hadn’t imagined the crazy events. I wish I had those pictures now!

So it was, some 54 years ago. One memorable summer afternoon, when all was right in my world.

BASEBALL: INTERVIEW WITH LYNN NOVICK – SEPTEMBER 1998

This piece was published in Planet Vineyard in September 1998. It was a short-lived magazine. Long on great writing, short on paid advertising. I realized that hardly anyone ever saw this piece. It is based on my interview with Lynn Novick who was the co-producer of “Baseball” with Ken Burns. Since we are watching the series again — for I think the third or fourth time since it premiered on PBS in 1998, I thought … “Gee, why not publish it where someone might actually read it?” And here it is. Because before I was a blogger, I was a writer.


Lynn Novick Profile

by Marilyn Armstrong

Take a passion for American history and mix it with a handful of Hollywood star-dust. Add a generous pinch of altruism. Spice the batter with a measure of luck. Bake for three and a half years in the oven of hard work. Voilà, meet Lynn Novick, co-producer (with Ken Burns of Civil War fame) of the upcoming 18-1/2 hour PBS mini-series, Baseball.

It’s a breezy, crystal clear day on Martha’s Vineyard. As she unwinds with her husband Robert and daughter Eliza in their summer home overlooking the sea, Lynn Novick emits bursts of energy you can virtually see as well as feel. The enthusiasm is contagious, even if you think that baseball has nothing to do with you. Though Baseball is “in the can and ready to go,” she remains a passionate advocate of America’s Pastime and what it means to the people of this nation. Making this mini series was arduous, but it was a labor of love.

It’s difficult to get Lynn to talk about herself. She wants to talk about Baseball. She wants to tell you how the game encapsulates America’s history and cultural development. She wants you to know how well it illustrates our changing values and shows as we really are, both good and bad.

“Baseball,” she says, “is our link to a collective past. It connects all of us, no matter where we come from, to the American experience. It’s our common ground, an historic thread woven into the fabric of our culture. The history of baseball is our history.”
Strong words, you think. She must have grown up a dedicated baseball fan.

“Actually,” confesses Lynn. “I was just a casual fan. My parents enjoyed baseball. My father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan … he never quite got over the Dodgers’ move to the West Coast. I grew up believing that Ebbets Field was sacred ground. My dad taught me to throw and catch, but I wasn’t a little league player or even a committed fan. I started out with an affection for baseball and a belief that the Yankees are the enemy. Everything else I picked up in progress. Now, I could go head-to-head with any baseball expert. Just try me.”

Lynn Novick with Ken Burns

Lynn Novick with Ken Burns

Lynn has had a total immersion baseball experience. Since 1990, she has lived Baseball. She dreamed it, planned it, read about it. She met heroes out of legend. The editing process alone consumed two and a half years. She was the architect of all sixty-five interviews and conducted more than half of these herself. She spent endless days and weeks on research, filming, and organizing every detail of the production.

Baseball has given Lynn Novick an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport.

“It’s had some interesting side effects,” she muses. “Baseball has turned out to be the key to the men’s room, so to speak. I find myself having serious discussions with all kinds of men, all ages, all professions. When they realize that I know my stuff, it’s instant acceptance. It’s a misconception that sports are a ‘guy’ thing, though. I’ve met plenty of women and girls who are serious fans, too.”

Lynn did not grow up yearning to be a film-maker. She never thought of herself as especially visual and had no pretensions of becoming the next John Ford. Until the day she decided she wanted to make documentaries, Lynn Novick never considered film-making as a career. From Manhattan’s upper West Side, where she grew up, she earned a bachelor’s in American Studies at Yale in 1983. The child of two academics, Lynn intended to follow in their footsteps. Her first job was at the Smithsonian Institute. But museum work didn’t “do it” for her.

“I needed something more hands-on, more engaging. Academia was too theoretical, too out of touch. I’m not sure how I decided I wanted to make documentary films. I think it was a combination of things. I’ve always loved the movies. I study history. I need my work to have social value. Making documentary films brings all the strands together. I can bring history to life.“

With the Giants in San Francisco

With the Giants in San Francisco

Once she decided what she wanted, she didn’t waste any time. She moved back to New York, interviewed at PBS. Shortly thereafter she began working on the Joseph Campbell series.

“That’s where I learned the basics of production,” she says. “How did I move on from there? Fate. Luck. Both probably. I knew someone who was working with Ken Burns on the Civil War project. She wanted to quit, but didn’t want to leave him in the lurch. So she introduced me to him, told him she was leaving and said “but look, here’s someone to take my place.” Ken was in the middle of the project. He didn’t have time to go looking for someone else, so he hired me as associate producer.”

Luck may have played a part in her first collaboration with Ken Burns, but talent earned her the co-producer’s slot on Baseball. Tapping into her extraordinarily high energy level, she worked flat-out for the duration of the project. She supervised a million details. She viewed hundreds of hours of film over and over again throughout the seemingly endless editing process.

In the middle of the project, Lynn became pregnant. She continued working throughout her pregnancy. After giving birth to Eliza, she took four months leave.

baseball-boxed-setHer personal choices made the transition from new mother to film producer less stressful. Rather than give Eliza over to caretakers, Lynn chose to bring the little one to work with her. Eliza made a delightful addition to the Baseball staff. If early environment is any indicator of future development, look for Eliza among the next generation of filmdom’s luminaries.

Right now, Lynn Novick and family are enjoying a well-earned time-out on a Chilmark hilltop. The home originally belonged to her husband Robert’s parents and is now owned jointly by Robert and his sister. The two families share the premises with ease.

“I’ve been coming here for eleven summers,” says Lynn. “Even though the place belonged to Robert’s family, it’s a very special place for me. I can’t imagine summer anywhere else. Even more than Robert, this is where I want to be. There’s something about the air here,” she smiles.

What’s next? “I don’t know yet,” says Lynn. “This is my time to get to know my daughter, reconnect with my husband and myself. There’s a kind of ‘post partum’ down period after a production finishes. One day you’re working full tilt, the next day, suddenly, there’s free time. It’s quite a shock.”

You can stream Baseball on Amazon Prime. You can buy the series on DVD from PBS and other places. The Major League Baseball Channel is running it right now and it shows up reasonably often on various cable channels.

If you have not seen it, whether or not you are a baseball fan or any kind of sports fan, this series so beautifully written and produced, it’s worth your time.