In the kitchen with Geoff Belinfante By Ginny Privitar

| 19 Jan 2017 | 11:06

You could sum up Geoff Belinfante's career in two words: entertainment and baseball. But that wouldn't begin to do him justice. He's an innovator who paved the way for others who followed.
Belinfante, a West Milford resident for just about two years now, started his entertainment career back in high school in Newton, Massachusetts, where he took care of the audio for his high school's plays. He entered Brandeis University, intending to study government and politics, but the university started a film program and he was hooked. He earned his undergraduate degree in politics and decided he wanted to be a documentary filmmaker. He continued at Brandeis and earned a MFA in theater arts/film and went to New York to seek work.
Belinfante got a job with the commercial ad agency Kenyon and Eckhart, where he worked on advertising campaigns for the likes of Libby's, Pabst beer and Motorcraft auto parts. The agency purchased a PR firm, Robert Landau, whose client was Major League Baseball. Belinfante worked on the production of the 1975 World Series film for them. He spent the rest of his career as a producer or executive producer, mostly in baseball, but other sports as well.
!In 1976, Hall of Fame broadcaster Mel Allen was coaxed out of retirement to provide the narration for a show Belinfante produced called "This is Baseball" that featured clips from old World Series films. Belinfante's production group was given Major League Baseball's extensive historical library of baseball film going back to the early 1900s.
The new technology of 3/4 inch video tape had come out and Belinfante's group recorded games in each of the major league ballparks. He and his team produced the TV show "This Week in Baseball" in 1977, again with Allen doing the narrations.
"Major League Baseball decided to buy us away from the ad agency(in 1978) and we were constituted as Major League Baseball Production, a division of Major League Baseball Promotion Corporation," Belinfante said.
He continued to develop TV shows and had a long-standing relationship with NBC. He produced a 15-minute pregame show which ran on TV affiliates before the game of the week. He produced TV shows, home videos; VHS and DVDs for major league baseball.
Belinfante's group became the production company for the National Hockey League as well, producing the weekly show "Hockey Week," and the official Stanley Cup films and video tapes.
He developed a show for HBO called "Race for the Pennant." He also produced a kids' show, "The Baseball Bunch," which featured Johnny Bench and was the first show to teach kids how to play baseball. The show incorporated lessons and entertainment and won an Emmy.
Belinfante decided to create a private company: Phoenix Communication, and was its executive producer. "We invented the baseball blooper and did specials every year. We sold lots of video tapes and DVDs," he said.
At the same time, he founded Sports NewSatellite (SNS), the only independently produced news feed service supplying TV stations with sports highlights and features. At one time, Belinfante had over 60 people working in TV production out of the studio he built in the Meadowlands, in South Hackensack, a mile and a half north of Giants' Stadium. It had 13 satellite dishes which scanned the skies and retrieved sporting events in the U.S. and Canada. Employees, usually young people, would watch the recording and make notes and editors would cut highlights and send them back out to 400 TV stations in the U.S. and Canada three times a day.
Belinfante met many sports figures. In addition to Allen, he was close to Johnny Bench and knew Tug McGraw and Ozzie Smith.
The best part of what he does has always been the same for Belinfante. "I enjoy the people I work with. It's always really about the people. In a production company you try and surround yourself with other talented people who are better than you are," he said.
He enjoyed mentoring. He said many of those who started out as young people working for him "have gone on to work on some very high end documentaries on HBO, Showtime and ESPN. I had a great time," he said, "It was a great place and time. Now we have the baseball network that replaced what we did on a bigger scale."
Trained as a filmmaker, Belinfante was not a particular baseball fan, but, he says, "I surrounded myself with people who were far greater fans and I provided them with the voice of reason."
"Baseball is part of the fabric of American life," Belinfante said, and his innovations made it more accessible to everyone.
Now retired, Belinfante and his wife Judy moved from River Vale in Bergen County to West Milford two years ago.
"Unlike most people our age, we kind of upsized, and went north instead of south," said Belinfante.
They had a vacation home in Lake Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania, and planned to retire there, but chose West Milford because it was closer to family and still afforded the outdoor lifestyle they loved. They live on Kitchell Lake and enjoy boating there and on Greenwood Lake.
He and Judy take pleasure in spending time with their daughters Carrie and Lacey, and five grandchildren.
Belinfante now contributes his skills to the township by volunteering at Channel 77, the municipal station, where he records many township meetings.
Belinfante's wife Judy contributed one of her go-to recipes - quick and easy and always a big hit.