SBJ/Feb. 3-9, 2014/People and Pop Culture

My Start in Sports — Chris Lencheski



I was just ecstatic I could actually work in a career where a suit and a baseball cap were completely acceptable to wear in the office. The God’s honest truth. I always thought that was the coolest thing. I’d be in my best suit with a baseball cap on.

Lencheski during his time with the Scranton/
Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
Photo:
COURTESY OF CHRIS LENCHESKI
I opened up the new baseball stadium in Scranton, now PNC Field. At the time [in 1989], it was a pretty big Triple-A facility.

Opening night of the ballpark. Matthew Futterman, now at The Wall Street Journal, wrote a story. … For some reason, Scranton had never built one of these stadiums. The phones in the dugout were actually working phones, they weren’t single lines, so guys from the opposing team were ordering pizzas from Domino’s. Futterman wrote a whole story about that.

In 1989, the Phillies were not a very good baseball team, mathematically out of it by May. I went down to Prism, [a network] started by Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider, way ahead of regional sports networks. … It had the Flyers, Phillies and movies. I convinced Prism to air the games — the Phillies loved it because it took a little focus off of how bad the team was doing that year. We did these segments in Philadelphia of the Triple-A games, which had never been done, never been on pay cable.

Jim Fregosi was a scout with the Phillies at the time. My job was to pick up these guys at the airport. I’m the young guy doing whatever they need me to do. Fregosi rode me hard just to bust my balls.

He was leaving Scranton to go to Buffalo and said to me in the dugout, “Where do I need to go?” For whatever reason, I plainly said, “You go out of the stadium, take a right, head on [Highway] 81 and go this way.” Essentially I gave him the absolute wrong directions. In Scranton, he would have probably been 100 miles into State College before he realized he was going in the wrong direction. … Fregosi comes back and said … “You did that deliberately, right?” I didn’t say anything. He goes, “That’s pretty good, I’ve been riding your [butt] for four days … you put me in my spot.”

I remember interviewing with [former general manager] George Young of the New York Giants. I got to the meeting and I told Mr. Young that I had this opportunity with the Olympics and I had whatever I was going to interview with him for. We went to Rutt’s Hut, a hot dog stand off Route 3.

Lencheski today
Photo by: FRONT ROW MARKETING SERVICES
He looked at me straight up and says, “You know, I have to be honest with you, you’re welcome to come here, but the Olympics, that’s pretty special. If you take that job, a job with us or someone in the NFL will be here whenever you’re ready, because those five rings will leap off your résumé your whole life.” He could not have been more right, he could not have said it any better. I took the job with the [1996 Summer] Olympics and I’ve never looked back.

My first [unpaid] job was an internship with Dennis Murphy, founder with Gary Davidson of the ABA and the WHA.

I was asked to call Mr. [Howard] Cosell, who was still at ABC at the end of his career. We were going to do this event at the Meadowlands and I had to call people to confirm they were sent the invitations and if they were going to show up. I called him and got him on the phone and he sounded just like he’s heard on “Monday Night Football.”

Even though we weren’t affiliated with the Giants at all, you know that he wasn’t ever happy that the Giants left New York. He was doing everything he wrote about the “New Jersey” Giants. He said to me, “Do you mean to tell me the Mara family, and everybody involved with that stadium, have the audacity, the chutzpah” … and he goes through this whole thing. I put it on speakerphone so people could hear … “Listen to this guy, he’s just reeling into me.” It was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me.

See also: My Start in Sports — Sean Downes
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