Larry Shenk, a 1956 graduate of Myerstown High School and Millersville College in 1961, started his sports writing career for the Lebanon Daily News. A short time later, he went to a newspaper in Wilmington, Delaware to cover high school sports.
Shenk, also know as ‘The Baron’, spent 44 years as the Philadelphia Phillies public relations director. He explained how he got his big break.
“The assistant sports editor in Wilmington told me the Phillies were looking for a new PR guy, a job that I applied for twice before and was turned down,” said Shenk. “I was happy where I was and since this was the third straight year the job was open, it didn’t seem to be the best thing to do, but I did apply, and this time I was hired right away. I was concerned about job security, but just figured I’d out work everybody and was not going to fail, which is what happened to the previous two people, and I was there until I retired in October 2015.
“My first office in old Connie Mack Stadium had a big Army metal desk and chair and a phone with buttons on it,” added Shenk. “I opened a drawer and there was money in there for yearbooks from the previous year and another drawer with a pair of underwear. I’m 6-feet and there was a concrete beam above the desk that was about a quarter-inch higher. Ruly Carpenter and I started the same week in October 1963, and nine years later, he became the team’s president and I was still in PR. Over the years, I was part of closing Connie Mack Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Jack Russell Stadium, and the opening of Citizens Bank Park.”
Shenk continued, “As a kid, I loved roaming around Connie Mack Stadium. One time I found Mr. Mack sitting behind home plate and some guy chased me away, but Mr. Mack waved for me to come to him. He signed a piece of paper for me but ,I have no idea what happened to it. He was a special person.”
When questioned about players who might have caused him problems, Shenk quickly replied, “Over the years, the number one person who was a problem for me was John Kruk, from that 1993 team. He didn’t want to do interviews or sign autographs, and was always complaining about stuff. Now he has a great career as a broadcaster and is in the media world.
“I went through 17 managers and I always told them when they’d give me a hard time that I would out last them,” Shenk added. “The year we fired Jim Fregosi, as we walked out of the press conference he put his arm around me saying….you were right!”
Going to the positive side on good guys, Shenk said, “The best guy was Darren Daulton. I tried not to befriend the players because they were players, and I was part of the front office and we all had to get along. The 1964 team I started with were all my age, so Bobby Wine and I became long time friends because we were the same age.
“Daulton and I became good friends because he was always there to help me with that ’93 team that was a difficult bunch,” added Shenk. “He was a special person and was the greatest leader I ever saw, without a doubt and was tough as nails.”
Shenk admitted he was a baseball traditionalist and voiced his disapproval of having a mascot.
“We had staff meetings every Tuesday morning, so in 1978 Executive Vice President Bill Giles talked about doing the Phillie Phanatic with David Raymond,” said Shenk. Early in his career, Raymond would come out on the field in the fifth inning and hold up the game, while I was in the press box yelling at him to get off the field. But I have to say he’s the greatest thing we ever did, so Giles was right.”
Another spur under the Baron’s saddle had to do with the designated hitter.
“My biggest gripe with the DH is that at the Double and Triple A levels they’d use it when you played an American League affiliate, and didn’t use it for National League teams,” said Shenk. “I don’t like that there are different rules for each league. I like the National League game better, but I guess they’ll never get rid of the DH.”
Shenk’s career ended in 2007 when the team surprised him with a bobble head give-away.
“The next year they went to the World Series, and again in 2009 and I started to wonder if I was the problem,” said Shenk. “I told Bonnie Clark, who replaced me, that she had to understand that you don’t always go to the World Series. Some years you’re going to lose 95 games and I reminded her of that in 2017.
“The team never lost 100 games during my time, but I did get two World Series rings and two parades,” continued Shenk. “Those are things you’ll never forget. That’s not too bad for a kid from Myerstown. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened. I wasn’t the smartest guy, but nobody was going to outwork me.”