The story is now part of marketing folklore. Back in 1958 the late, great famed press agent Irving Rudd went to work for Yonkers Raceway, a New York horse track that had fallen into disrepair and was closed for refurbishing. Rudd's job was to create a buzz for its reopening, a task he found daunting until one day a masterful idea sprung inside his fertile head. Rudd told painters to purposefully misspell the sign outside of the track "Yonkers Racewya". Phone calls came into the track and more importantly to the city's newspapers, radio stations and television networks mocking the mistake. Photographers from the city's numerous newspapers rushed out to snap a picture of the sign before it could be corrected (haha) and put it on their front pages. Radio stations reported it, there was even television video shot. According to his 2000 obituary in the New York Times, Rudd's public relations masterpiece "generated clippings around the world".
I got to know Irving when I covered boxing in the '80s and early 90s and he worked as a press agent for Sugar Ray Leonard. My dad had worked briefly for UPI back in the '50s, and Rudd actually recognized my name and asked if I was his son. He also invented bat day, camera day and music unappreciation day while working for the old Brooklyn Dodgers. Pretty amazing dude.
Anyway, I can't help but think there's a sharp mind among the new Sixers group that conjured up his spirit in this whole mascot debacle. Imagine if they had launched a contest before presenting us with the three hilariously bad cartoons that have appeared everywhere over the last three days. Would that moose have been on the front page of the Daily News today? Would we have dedicated more than three pages to improving upon their candidates? I think not.
Irving, I believe, coined the phrase "There's no such thing as bad publicity". So I hope he is up there in heaven with both thumbs under his lapels, looking down proudly.
And thank you, Sixers brass, for putting a smile on my face this week as I remember an old and dear friend.