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Monday, December 7, 2015

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Michael Rutstein, Captain of the Fame Schooner and Publisher Extraordinaire of Marlinspike Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

Mike Rutstein

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Michael Rutstein was a 24-year-old Red Sox fan dissatisfied with the team’s official program. His response? He hit up his parents for a small loan, bought a computer, scanner, modem, and scanner, and started handing out his own 12-page game program outside Fenway Park. That was in 1990. Twenty-six years later, he has sold nearly three million copies of Boston Baseball, and launched a unique publishing career that has taken him from the back fields of spring training to the leafy campus of Boston College and finally to the high seas.

It wasn’t easy. The Red Sox initially urged the City of Boston to pursue a licensing case against Rutstein. The City abandoned that case in the face of media scrutiny, but the relationship between Rutstein and his old favorite team has fluctuated wildly over the years. Rutstein filed a federal suit in 2002 against the Red Sox and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to prevent the City from leasing the street outside Fenway to the team for its exclusive use on game days.

“I still, after all these years, have never set foot in the press box at Fenway Park,” says Rutstein.

By then, however, Rutstein had moved beyond the sidewalks. In 1993 he stepped in at Boston College, where an independent sports publication had recently gone out of business. In its place, Rutstein has published first a magazine, then a newspaper, and later a 900 recruiting number and premium website as part of the nationwide Rivals network, now owned by Yahoo.

Rutstein has also published programs for the Cape Cod Baseball League, the Lowell Spinners, and the Tall Ships Challenge series which brings visiting Tall Ships to American ports each summer. In 2013, amid widespread cries that “print is dead” he launched another new magazine, Marlinspike, devoted to traditional sailing vessels and sail training.

In 2003, Rutstein branched out into an entirely new line of work, combining his love of history and sailing to build a replica of a privateer schooner from the War of 1812. Rutstein is a licensed captain who can often be found at the helm of the schooner Fame as it sails from its historic home port of Salem, MA each summer. The schooner is one of the highest-rated attractions in town and was named “Best in the Region” by Yankee Magazine.  We are absolutely thrilled to present Mike Rutstein as our latest Mover and Shaker, particularly because Peachy Deegan worked for him when she was a student at Boston College.  He is the first person we worked for that we've published on.

Peachy Deegan: Who were the most influential sports journalists or broadcasters in your life when you were growing up?
Michael Rutstein: 
Peter Gammons, for his groundbreaking baseball coverage, and Bill James, whose Baseball Abstracts revolutionized the way baseball performance is measured.

What are your favorite sports to play and your favorite sports to write on?
Baseball in both cases, because frankly as much as I enjoy pro football I don’t know enough about the game to add anything to the billions of words already devoted to it. Unfortunately ignorance does not stop many would-be sportswriters.

What should everyone know about Boston Baseball today?
BB was in the forefront of the revolution that took sports journalism away from the mainstream media and the teams themselves and gave it to the people — first through the availability of desktop publishing and then, once and for all, through the internet.

Congratulations on Marlinspike's inception! What should the world know about it and what is your audience like?
If you don’t come home at the end of the day smelling like pine tar, you probably won’t like this magazine. It is aimed at the small niche market of those who sail traditional vessels and run education programs on board. It’s a great life, and sail training is a life-changing experience for many people. But it’s not for everyone.

Please tell us more about the schooner, Fame.
It’s a replica of a privateer schooner from the War of 1812. People come to Salem, and to New England generally, to experience American history, especially the colonial and revolutionary periods. FAME is a bit of hands-on history, because we’re taking people on a real schooner, on a real cruise. We’re not just hoisting the sails and then motoring around and pretending to be pirates. We take history and sailing seriously and yet, we have a lot of fun. People can tell we’re having fun and they appreciate the authenticity of the experience, and that’s why our reviews are so ridiculously good.

In addition to sailing Fame, are you a big sailor yourself with other vessels and what and where do you like to sail?
I will sail anything, anywhere, and I am looking forward to spending the winters sailing in the Caribbean, now that we are sending our youngest child off to college this fall.

What do you love most about being a publisher?
Writing is hard, but through 26 years of diligent practice I have gotten reasonably good at the writing and editing piece. It’s layout that I really enjoy, the fitting together of all the pieces to finish the puzzle. That’s very satisfying. I also love when the printed magazines are delivered and we open the first box to see the new issue in the flesh. That’s a moment. You don’t get that in digital publishing!

You are quite talented at recruiting great writing talent for your publications; what do you attribute this to? 
Lots of folks want to be sportswriters, and most of them are fooling themselves about the depth of their knowledge. You’ve got find people who are passionate — not in the sense of being opinionated, but in the sense of being willing to do their research and understand the games at a deeper level.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
It is myself. I am just never satisfied with my work. The next issue always has to be better. Luckily there is always room for improvement!

What are you proudest of and why?
I am proud that my publications have been financially successful, of course, but I am more personally proud of the consistency I have provided to the folks who have worked with me and for me. They know I’m going to deliver. The deadlines will be met and the bills will be paid. They can count on me.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Build a bigger boat and run overnight summer camp programs on it.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I get nice awards from time to time relating to our partnerships here in Salem with the Park Service, or relating to providing jobs for young people, or our focus on historical education. When FAME was named “Best Day Sail” in the region by Yankee Magazine a couple years ago, I was blown away. They are so many great boats and great skippers in New England, to be singled out like that was amazing.

What one word best describes you and why?
Open-minded. I think that for someone in my position, I do a decent job of seeing things from other people’s perspectives. Often people who have been “the boss” for a long time get into a rut, and they’re not able to appreciate other lifestyles or viewpoints. They don’t see people around them as individuals, but rather as means to an end.

What do you take your sense of identity from?
My family that I love and the work that I do.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
South Street Seaport! What an amazing job they do there, and what a great group of volunteers!

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
I’m not much of a shopper. One that stands out is the gift shop at the Museum of Sex. I don’t think I bought anything but the browsing was enormous fun.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Some sailors were sitting around at the end of a dock in Gloucester two summers ago when one of them began telling a story that I thought was so funny, there was nothing to do but get up and take the plastic chair I was sitting on and smash it into tiny bits. They still give me shit about that.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
That’s like asking, what’s your favorite grain of sand on this gorgeous beach? Then again, there are no good delicatessens in Salem, so take your pick of the many in NYC.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
Bright Lights, Big City. Sorry, but I came of age in the ‘80s! Or in Mass: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Dan Moreland, captain of the Picton Castle. He’s got it going on.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
Maybe a little gaff-rigged sloop down at South Street Seaport. Or in Mass, at Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And Massachusetts?
Watching my beloved Penn Quakers beat up on the Columbia Lions. In Massachusetts? Watching Penn beat Harvard.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And Massachusetts?
Going out to Ellis Island and seeing the Statue of Liberty. Going to the 9/11 Memorial. Powerful stuff. In Massachusetts? Ever since I was small, I have loved going aboard USS Constitution, and I still do. That would also be my pick for the best gift shop in Boston!

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
JFK. He was a sailor.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And Massachusetts?
I love the Guggenheim, and here in Boston, the MFA, which incidentally has a fine collection of ship models!

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Well, never enough, but I try to convey to the next generation a sense of their responsibilities to the global community and to the planet.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And Massachusetts?
The Yankees are the most overrated. Cheering for the Yankees to win championships is like going to Tiffany’s and cheering for rich people who purchase expensive jewelry. Unfortunately, the Red Sox are right there, too. The lack of a salary cap has ruined Major League Baseball.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Peachy Ahoy, of course. Anything to do with boats! But IMHO Peachy needs to get out on the water under sail. There are terrific schooners in both the Chesapeake Bay and on Manhattan. There are the Adirondack schooners that sail from The Battery, and of course PIONEER at South Street Seaport. [Note from the Editor: IHHO (in her humble opinion) she agrees and if you own a boat, reach out; she needs to do a lot of things away from the computer more often like golf and go to more hotels like the Hay-Adams...stay tuned]

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I was up until midnight last night playing Napoleon: Total War. Awesome game. Don’t tell my wife.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Come sailing on Fame next summer, and you can have two hours of my undivided attention!

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