THE PASSION OF BASEBALL – On sale October 5, 2016
About the book –
Bob Wirz has lived out his childhood dream, growing up in a tiny Nebraska town and cherishing a lifetime working in major league baseball. Using humor and sentimentality plus rare photos, he relives many an exciting moment from an unlikely beginning to being involved with the sport’s greats in World Series, All-Star Game and Hall of Fame settings. He was the Kansas City Royals’ first publicist and chief spokesman for more than a decade for baseball commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, then successfully ran his own sports public relations and marketing company with clients such as Major League Baseball, Little League, the Rolaids Relief Man, IBM, Just For Men haircolor and Baseball America magazine. Wirz also shares the tear-jerking success and near-success stories he has written for many years about players striving for the major leagues through the wilderness of Independent leagues.
FROM THE CORNFIELDS of rural Nebraska TO New York City SKYSCRAPERS and baseball’s executive suite, Bob Wirz takes us on a one-of-a-kind journey through his life with baseball.
Author Guest Post –
I am alternately staring at my computer screen and gazing out the window at an abnormally mild October day. The World Series has been over for less than a week with my childhood idols, the St. Louis Cardinals, back on the baseball pedestal. The remaining golden leaves will soon have fallen on the 18th fairway that I face. And I know that it will be more than 100 days and most likely several New England snowfalls before pitchers and catchers gather in the warmth of Florida and Arizona to start another beautiful season. I will get through these days until mid-February. I always do.
Between now and then, though, I hope to be able to string together enough of my memories of these past 65 years or so of baseball.
I am doing this little project for myself. I do not know how many others will enjoy my personal journey, but it will be here if you so choose. I like to joke, and it may not be too far from the truth, that if this lad who is no longer quite so young were to slide off the face of the earth today a dozen people may show up to pay their respects. If word reaches others across this land they likely will sigh, maybe offer a smile (or frown) from some long ago incident, then keep reading the newspaper.
Oh, no. I’ve dated myself already. “Reading the newspaper?” More likely it is whatever type of electronic device is nearby at the moment. I have no idea exactly when—or why, for that matter—this eternal passion for baseball started. And I doubt there is anyone around who can explain.
What I do know was that it was long before August 16, 1949, which was the day this soon-to-be 12-year-old saw his first major league game. The historians will recognize that was one year to the day after the great Bambino, George Herman (Babe) Ruth, passed away. I have so many vivid memories of that day.
I lived every one of my days until college in the metropolis of Halsey, Nebraska, which is tucked away on the Blaine and Thomas county lines along Highway 2 in what we consider the beautiful Sandhills.
It sometimes takes outsiders a while to agree about the “beauty” of mid-Nebraska since the more citified people sometimes consider the area to be an endless stretch of rolling hills more heavily populated by cattle than by people. If given a chance, the area will win even most of the non-believers over because of the gentleness of both the scenery and the people. The worries of the metropolises of our country do not exist, which is not to say Sandhills people do not have reason for a troubled brow from time to time. Their worries most likely stem from whether there is too little moisture, will the summer be too hot to allow a good hay crop or will cattle prices be reasonable when it is time to take the yearlings to the sales ring.
Halsey’s population sign read 141 for most of the time I was growing with my friends in the Class of 1955. That is 141 people. Yes, 141. Many of them, probably a near majority, were relatives.
How in the world does a young lad among those 141 fall in love with baseball? We played in school, and we had a Town Team for a few Sunday afternoons in the summer. The World Series had some meaning to a good number of the men, and they would listen on the radio if they weren’t tending to the cattle and if the reception was strong enough to bring in some distant signal. But no one else fell so deeply into the throes of Mr. Doubleday’s game.
About the author –
While best known as chief spokesman to two major league baseball commissioners for more than a decade and for running his own sports public relations and marketing company since 1985, Bob Wirz has been a professional in the sports world ever since graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1959.
A native of the Nebraska Sandhills village of Halsey, Bob wasted little time when he entered the university before he started broadcasting Huskers events for the campus radio station KNUS and writing stories for the student newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan.
He later had eight years of newspaper, radio and television experience, which started during his senior year at the university as he prepared for work in the professional baseball industry. He had coveted such an opportunity since his youth. Wirz worked in the news and sports departments of The Lincoln Journal, largely covering local high school sports, and then spent a combined four years as sports director of KHAS Radio and KHAS-TV in Hastings, NE.
During this time, he broadcast up to 80 American Legion baseball games a season, including serving as the radio voice of the 1960 American League World Series, plus 50 high school and college basketball games a season and 20-25 football games. He also hosted weekly bowling, wrestling and sports talk shows on both radio and television. He interviewed the likes of Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) and golfing greats Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. One season, prior to much live coverage of games on television, he was the play-by-play voice of University of Nebraska football games, which were shown in their entirety the day after they were played on KHAS-TV.
He later became a member of the sports staff of both The Wichita Eagle and The Denver Post, covering professional, collegiate and high school events.
His first professional baseball position was as Public Relations Director of the Denver Bears (Pacific Coast League) in 1967-68. He was the Kansas City Royals’ Publicity Director for their first six seasons (1969-74), and then became Major League Baseball’s Director of Information from 1974-85, serving first under Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and later under his successor, Peter Ueberroth.
It was during those years in the New York City offices when baseball started centralizing the organization of its major events, the All-Star Game and World Series, with Wirz coordinating with the host teams to accommodate the requirements of about 600 journalists who needed work space and access to the headline-makers.
He formed Wirz & Associates, Inc. in the spring of 1985, and the client base eventually included such well-known accounts as IBM, Little League Baseball, USA Baseball, Major League Baseball and Baseball America magazine. Wirz and his staff handled publicity as well as many promotions for the highly-acclaimed Rolaids Relief Man program for 21 seasons, and ran national promotions for the hair-color giant Just For Men. He authored a year-round column (Independent Baseball Insider) for 12 years and has become a major voice nationally on Independent Professional Baseball.
Wirz and his wife, Maybeth, reside in Stratford, CT. They have four children and five grandchildren.