Baseball On Radio And Television

Media Attention

Partly because we were living in the New York area when the second volume came out, Oxford University Press obtained considerable media attention for it, including radio and TV interviews. Mike Wallace interviewed Seymour on his radio show in August of 1971, complimenting Seymour afterwards on a good performance.

Howard K. Smith

Seymour also starred in a 1959 pre-recorded television interview with ABC’s Howard K. Smith. The program was taped at Tavern on the Green in New York. Smith, a well-informed interviewer, asked questions covering a broad range of baseball’s aspects, from its organization to pitching styles. At once point he inquired about baseball’s effect on social life. To exemplify baseball’s effect on language, Seymour pointed to the common use of baseball images like “born with three strikes on him,” trying to “get to first base with her,” and “they don’t belong in this league,” even by people who have never seen a game. Film clips with Casey Stengel and Jackie Robinson were inserted into the final broadcast. At one point in this filmed interview, Seymour was asked to explain how several pitches were thrown. As he described how to throw each pitch, the film’s editor inserted a graphic showing how grasping and delivering the ball affected its trajectory. Sporting News commented particularly on the effectiveness of this part of the show.

Jackie and Campy

In 1960 Jackie Robinson also invited Seymour to participate in his radio show, opening his questions with the remark, “You say I wasn’t the first black in major league baseball. Who was?” whereupon Seymour got his opening to explain about Moses Fleetwood Walker being the first. Seymour also got invited to “Campy’s Corner,” Campanella’s radio show. Campy was a very pleasant fellow.

Long John

Another New York radio show Seymour was asked to take part in was an all-night talk show, “Long John Nebel,” in which he answered call-in questions. It was long, all right. I found myself too sleepy to stay up for the whole thing. Seymour also appeared on Jack Sterling’s radio show in 1961. In Boston in 1966 Seymour appeared on TV’s Boston Forum with Palmer Payne. Some of these were paid appearances, but most merely represented publicity for the books.

Ken Burns and Baseball

Request to Consult

In 1987 we moved to Keene, New Hampshire, and in 1990, while we were in Cooperstown so I could deliver Seymour’s Symposium speech, we were approached at lunch by Lynn Novick, the co-producer of the film Ken was preparing on baseball. She asked that Seymour become a consultant for his film. Ken’s company, Florentine Films, was and is still located in Walpole, New York, not far from Keene. Lynn then wrote, “We do not think we could do justice to the subject without your participation.” Seymour, reluctant at first, finally agreed. Ken then drove over to our house in his little red convertible and talked to Seymour.

Ken’s Filmed Interview

The following week Ken brought a film crew to interview Seymour on film. Ken’s recording instruments were so delicate that I had to turn off both the refrigerator and the phone. At one point I was asked to run next door and ask the neighbor to stop using his lawn mower! The neighbor reluctantly acquiesced to my request.

I stayed in my office with the door closed while Ken interviewed Seymour in the living room. Unfortunately, by that time Seymour was quite far gone with Alzheimer’s disease. Afterward, Ken reported to me that the resulting interview was unusable because Seymour’s voice and personality did not register sufficiently.

Instead, after Seymour’s passing Ken sent his researcher, Susanna Steisel, to me for help, and she called me often to ask where she might find certain answers she needed for Ken’s documentary. That’s why my name is listed among the main credits at the end of Ken’s film.

Eight Men Out

The only other film Seymour was asked to consult upon was John Sayles’ 1988 film, “Eight Men Out,” about the Black Sox. I received a phone call one day from a Sayles researcher, who offered no fee but asked what sort of calls from fans in the stands might be heard during the games. I looked it up and talked to Seymour about it, then returned the call with our suggestions.