02/06/2008 1:42 PM ET
Steinberg takes Dodgers Hollywood
Former Red Sox exec has plans for team's 50th anniversary
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Charles Steinberg, here with Joe Torre in China, has big plans for the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Tom Catlin/Dodgers)
For a guy who works to generate publicity, Dr. Charles Steinberg is not one to read his own press clippings.
Sure, as executive vice president of public affairs for the Boston Red Sox, he took what used to be an ordinary fan experience and turned it into a nightly sold-out Fenway fiesta. But this master of ballpark entertainment has moved his tack out west to a position as chief marketing officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the ideas, imagination and creativity keep coming.
In short, since arriving in Hollywood, he's been busier than Brad Pitt.
"There's always new and exciting ways to keep people interested and captivated in a game they love," Steinberg says. "Everyone connects with baseball. That's why it's easy to sell."
Since arriving on New Year's Day, the longtime baseball man -- Steinberg started in the front office and as team dentist of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1980s and also worked for the San Diego Padres before moving to Boston -- has orchestrated several important projects and campaigns for the Dodgers for 2008, the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the club moving to Los Angeles.
The first undertaking was a trip to China with new Dodgers manager Joe Torre to announce the club's preseason series there against the Padres. While there, the pair teamed up to film a powerful ad for the new campaign, which revolves around one simple statement: "We're all Dodgers. When did you fall in love?"
"We visually planted a Dodgers flag on the Great Wall of China and photographed and videotaped it," Steinberg says.
"We're out there on the Great Wall, it's easily sub-freezing, maybe sub-zero, and Joe's wearing a ski cap bought at the Great Wall that says, 'Great Wall of China.' We improvised a commercial on the spot that shows our growing international fan base and basically says, 'We're all Dodgers, from L.A. to the Great Wall of China.' The Dodgers family is everywhere. We're all Dodgers."
Steinberg says that by tapping into the nostalgic feelings Dodgers fans have for when they first became fans, "the stories propagate and give us journeys into our own souls."
"For me, it was Sandy Koufax," Steinberg says. "For others, it was Kirk Gibson. So as long as you go back to your youth and regenerate your feelings of where and why and when and how you fell in love with baseball, then your soul gets replenished."
In another project that Steinberg originated in Boston, he arranged for schoolchildren in Los Angeles to learn about Jan. 31, the birthday of Jackie Robinson, from former Negro Leaguer and Dodgers hero Don Newcombe and several members of Robinson's family.
"I want children to learn why they should teach the story of Jackie Robinson to their grandchildren," Steinberg says. "Don Newcombe can tell them first-hand why Jackie needs to be remembered.
"By telling the same story year after year, that story lives in perpetuity. Sixty years from now, when these kids are 70 years old, they can say, 'When I was a little kid, I met Don Newcombe, and he played with Jackie Robinson. He told me what it was like.'"
Steinberg's full plate also includes an elaborate farewell celebration as the Dodgers say goodbye to their longtime Spring Training home of Vero Beach, Fla., before they move to Arizona in 2009. Also, he's heavily involved with the Dodgers' record-breaking exhibition game that will take place at the Los Angeles Coliseum on March 29.
Overall, Steinberg is proud of his place in baseball as a pioneer of the fan experience. To see examples of this in their full glory, all you have to do is attend a Red Sox game in Boston. From the random sing-along of "Sweet Caroline" to the fan jukebox (fans can record songs and have them possibly played at the stadium during games), Steinberg's influence is everywhere.
"Instead of being stuffy, snobby and arrogant and saying 'No' to fans, we'd rather be in the 'Yes' business," Steinberg says. "The ballclub recognizes that it's all about fans and they understand how cool it would be for your tasteful song to get played in front of 50,000 people. There's still plenty of room for the Beatles."
And there's plenty of room in Steinberg's head for more creative promotions and Dodger Stadium innovations. After all, according to Steinberg, sometimes all it takes is a personal experience or clubhouse coincidence to spark a summer-long fad.
"Try to tell me why everybody stops what they're doing and sings 'Sweet Caroline' in Boston," Steinberg says. "There's a Rally Monkey in Anaheim. The Beer Barrel Polka is a signature in games in Milwaukee.
"I don't think you can necessarily try to invent some gimmick and impose it. I think you need your eyes and ears open so that when something emerges and connects, you're ready to capitalize on it."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.