Monday, June 14, 2010

Brush with greatness: Ted Kubiak

I am down to the final three Brush With Greatness posts -- four if I can find a card of Jeff Datz, who managed in the Indians organization for a number of years. I discovered only a couple of months ago that he had one or two cards.

Ted Kubiak is one of  the final three or four. Kubiak was a typical good-field, no-hit infielder during the 1970s. He won three World Series rings as a member of the Oakland Athletics during their dynasty from 1972-74.

Kubiak has spent the last 20-plus years as a manager and instructor, mostly in the Cleveland Indians organization. He is now the manager of the Lake County Captains, a Class A affiliate of the Indians in the Midwest League. I talked to him during his three-year stint with the Watertown Indians from 1996-98. He was the last manager for the Watertown Indians, who left for Staten Island for the 1999 season.

Kubiak had a couple of run-ins with our reporters during his time there. He wasn't a hostile kind of manager and didn't have a gruff personality. But I think he might've been having issues with the organization at the time. And he was one of those guys who seemed to think that the reporter was forever trying to catch him in a lie or make him, or one of his players, look bad.

Speaking as someone who has written stories for newspapers for more than 20 years, I can say that I have never once set out to make anyone look bad in one of my stories. Just want to know about the game. And I know many reporters who could say the same thing. As for catching someone in a lie, I am only going to do something like that if I have reason to believe that someone is lying to me about something important to a story. My job, after all, is to inform readers of the truth about whatever I am reporting. And we reporters are forever running into people who are attempting to hide truth. There are a whole mess of Truth-Hiders out there, in all walks of life.

Anyway, our beat guy for the Indians back then did not have a good time with Kubiak. It was a battle. My one encounter with him was unmemorable. I just now read the quotes he gave me. Nothing rang a bell.

Years later -- in fact it was last fall, I believe -- we flipped on the local TV news sportscast for the evening and there was Kubiak, 10 years after last managing the Indians. He was back in town, being interviewed by the local hack sports anchor -- who meets just about every horrible stereotype that you could ever think of regarding small town sports anchors. Why Kubiak was being interviewed, I have no idea. There was not one ounce of news in the interview. Why Kubiak was back in town, I have no idea. The poor excuse for a sports anchor didn't tell his audience. And why Kubiak was yucking it up on TV, I have no idea either. He didn't seem to particularly enjoy his time with the media when he was managing.

I immediately thought of the guy who covered the team back then (he's no longer with the paper) and wondered if he was watching Kubiak on TV. I can only guess at what he said at the TV.

Dealing with the media isn't easy. I realize that. A team has its objective. A newspaper has its objective. Most of the time those objectives are at odds.

The secret is dealing with it in a way that makes both sides happy. I don't think Kubiak figured that out during his three years here. Then again, maybe we didn't figure it out either.


  1. Hey, that Jeff Datz guy is in my set, the 1990 CMC one. He's a Columbus Clipper. I have a ton of doubles, just not a double of Jeff Datz. It was actually on my want list until a few weeks ago when a cool reader sent it along. Unfortunately, I can't that cool of a reader.
    And how was the stadium up there in Watertown? We've get to a lot of the fields, but there are obviously some that we'll never get to, like Watertown, Utica and Glens Falls, because they don't have teams anymore.

  2. The stadium is makeshift, Steve, like a lot of old NY-P stadiums. There is a large grandstand behind home plate. They added seats along the first- and third-base lines as well as in front of the grandstand.

    The press box used to be this contraption behind home that I thought was going to collapse while I was in it. A number of years ago they built a sturdier press box, but it's along the third base line. Not the greatest way to see the game.

    All in all, not a bad park. It's still used for a collegiate-league team and high school games.

  3. When it comes to dealing with people on this level, you have to realize who you are dealing with. Everyone is different so how you talk to one person may not work for someone else.

    It's touchy because personalities are so different.

  4. Datz also has a card in the 1990 Debut set. It may be the only card of him pictured in a major league uniform.