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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pitchman: How Tom Emanski changed the sport of baseball — and then disappeared

This checks out.

Teaching the Mechanics of the Major League Swing, featuring Houston Astros slugger Glenn Davis alongside a teenaged Eddie Taubensee, was released on VHS in the fall of 1986 and instantly became a hit. Newspaper articles about what Emanski — by then a New York Yankees associate scout (or “bird dog”), later poached by the Pittsburgh Pirates — was doing at Baseball World became more frequent. The Atlanta Braves even sent one of their struggling prospects, the highly touted Brad Komminsk, for instruction. Braves general manager Bobby Cox said one of his scouts was “fascinated” by Emanski’s video analysis.

But Emanski was still an inside story, and he was determined to see his baseball philosophies gain larger currency in the sport. “Something clicked,” Taubensee says. “He was always like, ‘Man, why can’t anyone else figure this out? Nobody is teaching this kind of stuff.’”...

Emanski flew to Chicago and picked up McGriff, who was in town to play the Cubs, and then drove him to a Little League diamond near Wrigley Field. McGriff donned that blue Baseball World cap that has become so iconic, looked into the camera, and professed that he “was so impressed with the instructional videos by Coach Emanski that I’ve given them my full endorsement.”

For baseball fans of a certain age, these words will live forever.

McGriff, who would not comment for this story, seems to have tired, over the years, of his long-lasting association with the immortal commercial. But as his career was winding to a close, ESPN declared the 60-second spot as the No. 1 athlete commercial of all time.

“Y’all,” a giddy McGriff told the network, “are making Tom Emanski a very rich man.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 17, 2014 at 01:11 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball drills, bobby cox, brad komminsk, eddie taubensee, fred mcgriff, glenn burke, tom emanski

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. smileyy Posted: July 17, 2014 at 04:33 PM (#4753080)
I have a soft spot for Eddie Taubensee.
   2. Batman Posted: July 17, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4753099)
I just finally finished the Mel Hall story. I hope the reason for Tom Emanski's disappearance is nothing like Mel Hall's.
   3. Matt Welch Posted: July 17, 2014 at 09:06 PM (#4753272)
Good article, though it's always frustrating to have the unsolved mystery at the center.
   4. pthomas Posted: July 17, 2014 at 09:33 PM (#4753279)
"Disappeared" in this case means "will not return a reporter's calls." Nice story, though.
   5. Der-K: downgraded to lurker Posted: July 17, 2014 at 10:55 PM (#4753313)
Whereas I have a soft spot for Brad Komminsk...
(Der-K is short for Der Komminsk-sar, which prompted too many typos)

Interesting article.
   6. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: July 17, 2014 at 11:40 PM (#4753334)
Finally, in 1997, a tip led Emanski to the right contact inside ESPN and he was able to negotiate the same kind of deal for which he'??d grown accustomed. Called "??per inquiry" in advertising parlance, it essentially meant that ESPN would get a cut of every video that Emanski sold from the commercials. Telemarketing companies in Omaha, Nebraska, would handle the grunt work.


The other thing about this type of advertising that the article doesn't get into is that they don't cost anything. If you have a dubious product and you don't want to spend a ton, you can get stations (or networks) with time to fill to air your spot. It's completely their choice - they can air it late at night, or in the "bonus breaks" which only see the light of day if the baseball game on the air goes 13 innings. There's a toll-free number at the bottom of the ad. If a viewer calls the toll-free number, the first question they're asked is where they saw the spot, so the appropriate channel gets paid if a customer makes an order. You'll see these types of ads late at night or in low-viewership Seinfeld reruns. They're usually 60 seconds, not thirty. And you'll never, ever see one during a high-profile event - NFL or whatever.
   7. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: July 17, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4753341)
Also, I don't claim this type of fame very often, but I worked at ESPN watching commercial reels from 1997 through about 2002. I've seen this commercial more than any of you. *sticks tongue out*
   8. Shredder Posted: July 18, 2014 at 12:27 AM (#4753370)
Here'??s what happens when you set out to order the complete set of nine Baseball World instructional videos: After heading to BaseballWorld.com and entering your information into a web form that resembles a GeoCities page from 2002 — seriously, that's the copyright year at the bottom of the page —? you input your name, shipping address, and credit-card information. Your DVDs (or VHS tapes, still available!) arrive at your home within two business days ... even though it's quite possible that both your first and last names will be misspelled on the address label, as mine were.

The DVD cases inside, buffered by crumpled-up two-day-old pages from the Orlando Sentinel, contain cover art that looks like something cobbled together by a teenager with rudimentary Photoshop skills. One casing has a stray period after an exclamation point. Another has a smudge of ghostly, random letters. Best of all, without a doubt, is the cover that promises a "thrilling bonus section"? on the balk.
Awesome. Really good article all the way through, but this was my favorite part.
   9. esseff Posted: July 18, 2014 at 01:05 AM (#4753384)
We need the excerpt already quoted twice at the top to be posted one more time. To make it "back to back to back."
   10. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: July 18, 2014 at 07:09 AM (#4753407)
That was an excellent article. When I first saw the ads in the mid-90s I was just getting to be a jaded teenager and fell out of love with baseball for a few years (and I had been truly passionate when I was a little kid) I wondered if this guy was a crank or not. It's pretty clear that he was actually a heck of a coach.
   11. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: July 18, 2014 at 08:29 AM (#4753419)
Someone needs to add "thrilling bonus section on the balk" to their handle.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 18, 2014 at 09:00 AM (#4753436)

The other thing about this type of advertising that the article doesn't get into is that they don't cost anything. If you have a dubious product and you don't want to spend a ton, you can get stations (or networks) with time to fill to air your spot. It's completely their choice - they can air it late at night, or in the "bonus breaks" which only see the light of day if the baseball game on the air goes 13 innings. There's a toll-free number at the bottom of the ad. If a viewer calls the toll-free number, the first question they're asked is where they saw the spot, so the appropriate channel gets paid if a customer makes an order. You'll see these types of ads late at night or in low-viewership Seinfeld reruns. They're usually 60 seconds, not thirty. And you'll never, ever see one during a high-profile event - NFL or whatever.


Yep. Just ask Lesko!
   13. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: July 18, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4753460)
Yep. Just ask Lesko!


I do remember seeing some of his ads run in better spots, like Sportscenter. I wonder if that's mainly because ESPN was struggling much more back then to fill advertising holes and the ad was giving them more revenue than they'd see from other pay-up-front customers.
   14. baerga1 Posted: July 18, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4753467)
All Tribe fans have a soft spot for Eddie Taubensee
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM (#4753538)

I do remember seeing some of his ads run in better spots, like Sportscenter. I wonder if that's mainly because ESPN was struggling much more back then to fill advertising holes and the ad was giving them more revenue than they'd see from other pay-up-front customers.


Also, cable carriers are allowed to sell advertising too, which is you'll see a couple crappy local ads during Sportscenter. I wonder if Lesko went through them rather than ESPN.

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