100 Years Ago Today, They Watched Baseball Play by Play at the Bijou Theater in Evansville

Actually, I’m not sure if it was 100 years ago exactly today.  It might be 100 years ago today ± a couple of days. But I’m going to take that liberty here.

The Evansville (Ind.) Courier-Press, like many newspapers, occasionally publishes a feature article in which they recall items that ran in the papers on that day 100 years ago, 75 years ago, 50 years ago, 25 years ago, etc.  I say “papers” because they were separate newspapers on this day 100 years ago. They entered a JOA in 1938 in which they continued publishing as separate papers except as a joint edition on Sundays, before fully merging into an everyday single paper in 1988.  I don’t know whether the item in question ran in the Press or in the Courier, but I guess that doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is what was published on this day in 1915:

Knowing the great interest in the Evansville baseball team, we have decided to try the experiment of producing the out-of-town games on a new baseball board which we have leased. Today’s game will be reported play by play over a direct wire from the Wheeling ball park to the Bijou theater stage. If the additional patronage at the theater justifies the expense, all out-of-town games will be reproduced in this manner. The ball will hardly have left the pitcher’s hand in the Wheeling ball park before the life-sized baseball at the Bijou will reproduce this movement on the mimic diamond. Play by play, every movement of ball and players, will be shown almost instantaneously. Crowds are hypnotized by the fascination of the game shown on this board.

The Evansville team at the time was the River Rats, who played in the Class B Central League along with the Wheeling (W. Va.) Stogies.  It was an eight-team loop stretching from … well, Evansville to Wheeling, with six other clubs in between.  The 1915 edition of the River Rats featured four former major leaguers, none of whom had much more than a cup of joe in the bigs. (Punch Kroll had the best career among them.)

But even if the team was populated by has-beens and never-would-bes, they were still so popular in town, even as a third level club playing in a Class B league, that it was considered worth the expense by the local newspaper to set up a telegraph line and baseball board and charge admission for locals to sit inside a presumably non-air-conditioned theater in southern Indiana during the summer to take in the remote action live.

I don’t know for how long this service continued on in Evansville, but however long it did, it started 100 years ago today, and more importantly, it’s a good example of the only way ballgames at the time could be “broadcast” live to an audience, since consumer-based radio broadcasting wasn’t quite yet a thing. This falls within the purview of our mission to report on how the media cover baseball as an event, and that’s why we’ve posted here.

A Sportswriter’s Response to ABC-TV’s Wacky 60-Game MLB Schedule Idea

On Wednesday we shared the—how to put this diplomatically?—”out of the box idea” that ABC-TV, or at least its president Thomas W. Moore, offered up to Major League Baseball: cut your season to 60 games, play only on the weekends, promote the games as major television events along the lines of college and pro football, and watch the money roll in.

OK, I’m liberally paraphrasing (probably), but that was the gist of his proposal.  Mark Aubrey, who runs Baseball Nuggets, a really interesting historical baseball site composed mainly of old newspaper articles offered up “as is”, tipped us off to that one.

One might think that the tepid response to this nutty idea by network rivals CBS and NBC (who had actual major league baseball games on their airwaves while ABC did not), as well as by then-Commissioner Ford Frick, would have been pretty much the extent of the response.  I mean, come on: who was going to take this idea seriously?

Francis Stann. That’s who.

A sports columnist for the Washington Evening Star, a major DC daily that published until 1981, Stann took the proposal seriously enough to fashion a response that could best be described as “indignant”. Because when you spell out the word you use to describe the nature of an obviously ridiculous and unworkable proposal as “G-R-E-E-D”, you’re undoubtedly steeped in indignation in a deep way.  If he’d’ve written this article two decades on, he might have been advised thusly: “Lighten up, Francis.” That said, it is an entertaining read, which we present to you below.

For more articles related to this, including a happy ending article in which ABC-TV is awarded the rights to baseball broadcasts for a cool $12 million over two seasons starting in 1965, check out the rest of Mark’s article over at Baseball Nuggets.

Stann Article

ABC-TV Once Suggested that Major League Baseball Reduce Their Regular Season Schedule to 60 Games!

Rob Manfred, the rookie Commissioner of Baseball, stoked increased discussion about MLB reducing its regular season this past February. You yourself have probably had discussions with other fans about this many times over the years, so you likely know that a lot of people who consider themselves big fans of the game nevertheless wouldn’t mind seeing less of it. Proponents of shortening the schedule usually maintain that 162 games is just way too many to play in a season and argue that the season goes too late in the year, topping it off with the horrific vision of a November World Series game getting snowed out.

The weather point starts to frost up a bit when you consider that in cities where playing in cold weather is an issue, early November runs anywhere from one to five degrees warmer on average than early April, as well as drier. No matter: the weather argument has a lot of traction in the debate, and occupies a trump card in proponents’ hand at the moment.  A better, recently proffered argument is that players would benefit from a season of fewer games to help preserve their health and perhaps lengthen their careers.

There is some general merit to the latter point, although the funniest thing to me about this debate is that the number of games most advocates invariably choose to reduce the season to is 154.  The difference between 162 and 154 is not all that great, less than 5% of games, so would a season of 154 games provide all that much more relief to an everyday player than one of 162?  That seems a somewhat dubious proposition.  So why is 154 always the magic number in these debates?  Why not 144, or 140, or 134? Might it be that nostalgia plays a significant role in the advocacy of the 154 solution? I might place a bet on that, if one were available.

Nothing nostalgic about a solution that ABC television came up with over a half century ago to reduce the season, though.  They didn’t suggest 154, or 144, or anything as incremental as that. Their suggestion: play a 60-game season, on weekends only, and promote it the way that football is promoted, as a major television event.

This idea brought chuckles of disbelief from their rivals at CBS and NBC and the kind of dismissals reserved for the crazy political ideas that one uncle of yours evangelizes at every Thanksgiving dinner. Commissioner-at-the-time Ford Frick was reportedly equally unimpressed, the article stating flatly that “the public is satisfied with the way things are now, and he is too.”

Undaunted, ABC did not stop there with the out-of-the-box ideas. They believed other sports could benefit from dramatic changes, too, such as professional golfers competing with each other on a season-long points system administered by the PGA; the USOC holding regional Olympic competitions to better prepare the nation for the actual quadrennial event; and college football doing away with the bowl system and replacing it with a March Madness-style playoff instead.  As you can see, not all their ideas were total clunkers.

The original article, published in the wonderfully alliterative Rockford Register-Republic in April 1964, is reprinted below.  Hat tip to Mark Aubrey, who featured this in a post on his own blog located here.

 

ABC-60games

Working the Game: An Interview with Pete Abraham, Boston Red Sox Beat Writer

For the next installment in our series, we switch from the broadcast booth to the press box and chat with Pete Abraham, the beat writer who covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe.

Peter ---- AbrahamPete is a Massachusetts native,  He joined the staff of the Globe in 2009 after spending nearly 10 years in New York covering the Mets and Yankees for The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. Pete also covered the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team for the Norwich Bulletin.  You can follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

 

When did you become aware that you wanted to seriously pursue a career as a baseball beat writer or journalist?

I wanted to be a journalist since high school when I landed a part-time job at my hometown paper, the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. I loved being in the newsroom and observing all the various characters there. My ambition at the time was only to go to college then come back and cover New Bedford High games.

In terms of baseball, I loved covering amateur baseball but had no designs on covering MLB until well into my career when the opportunity presented itself while I was working for The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. I started working there in 1999 and realized pretty quickly that getting to cover Yankees or Mets games, even sidebars, would be good for my career.

Prior to going to New York, I worked 13 years at the Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin covering UConn men’s basketball. They tried to make me sports editor but I wanted to keep writing so I went to New York.

 

What was the first baseball game you ever worked (if not exactly, then approximately), and how did you get the gig?

This is a somewhat amusing story. My final year at UMass-Amherst was in 1986 and by then I had worked part-time for The Standard-Times for seven years. As a reward, they got me a credential to cover a Red Sox game. I don’t recall the date but I have a vivid memory of going to the game and being amazed that the press box at Fenway Park had beer taps that flowed all game.

The Sox lost the game and afterward the reporters were lined up in the hallway outside of manager John McNamara’s office. They were talking about why Dwight Evans had not been used as pinch hitter late in the game. As the postgame interview went on, nobody asked McNamara about Evans. So I mustered up the courage to ask him. I tried to be polite about it but he shot me a glare. “Where the hell are you from?” he said. Before I could answer he profanely told me to get out of his office. The only way out of the crowded office was through a door that led to the clubhouse. I walked out and was the only reporter in the room and all the players were looking at me.

Evans of all people was standing right there. “What did you ask him, kid?” he said.

“I asked him why you didn’t pinch hit,” I said.

“Good question,” Evans said as he walked away.

I had a beer when I got back to the press box. I needed it.

 

How did you get your break covering a beat for a major league baseball team?

I started working at The Journal News in 1999 for two terrific editors, Mark Leary and Mark Faller. I was a general assignment writer who did mostly high school and college games for a while. I volunteered to do anything and within a few months they allowed me to do sidebars for Mets and Yankees games. That progressed to writing game stories and occasional features.

In 2002, in the middle of the season, they moved the Mets writer to the Jets and I was given the Mets beat. I’ve been covering baseball ever since.  Looking back on it, I was incredibly fortunate they gave me the chance. Covering baseball in the NYC market is a huge challenge and they would have been well within their rights to have hired from outside the staff and gotten an established writer. Mark Leary, who passed away, was a huge influence on me. He taught me things I think about every day. So did my editors in Norwich, Jay Spiegel and Gary Samek.
When did you realize you were going to make it as a baseball beat writer?

I don’t know that there was a particular day. The Mets were a challenging team to cover. During my tenure there I covered Fred Wilpon buying out co-owner Nelson Doubleday, a few manager firings, the Bobby Valentine vs. Steve Phillips feud, a GM firing, assorted trades, scandals and even silly things like whether Mike Piazza was gay.  Meanwhile I was competing for stories against terrific writers from papers like the Times, Post, Daily News and Newsday.

That I survived and kept coming back for more seemed like a sign I could cover baseball.

 

Let’s take about game day: What do you do to prepare for a game before you get to the ballpark?  You wake up in the morning, and you do … what, before the game?

I prepare the night before usually. I unwind after games by updating a stat book I keep and doing a legal pad sheet of various notes that help me write on deadline. There are trends, assorted stats, how the starters fare against particular hitters, etc. I like having the information handy during games.

In the morning, for a typical night game, I’ll wake up around 9:30 (depending how late the previous game was), read the Red Sox clips we get from the team every day, then have a little breakfast. For the last few years, I’ve been pretty good about working out before I go to the park. I could stand to be better about it, for sure. On the road, it’s about the same but you have more time generally.

 

How long before a game do you arrive at the ballpark, and is it different at home versus on the road?

It’s about the same. The clubhouse opens to the media 3.5 hours before first pitch. I usually get there an hour before that to do a little work and just see what is going on at the ballpark. So for a 7:05 game, I get there at 2:30.

 

What are the key things you do at the ballpark between the time you get there and the time the game starts?

I spend time in the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice talking to the players and gathering information for stories. The manager does a pre-game media session. I’ll usually try to talk to some of the coaches or front-office types. It’s better to talk to people in person than get back three-word text messages. I work for NESN, the network that carries Sox games, and appear on their pre-game show. I also get started on my stories for the website and paper. I try to have my “notebook” story done by the second inning.

 

How long before the game do you go to the press box to watch the game from?

I generally try and get in my seat sometime around the national anthem. That can vary depending on whether I’m on the phone working on a story or even just something innocuous like seeing some friends who are at the game.

 

Once the actual game starts, what are you doing?  Are you working the entire time the game is going, and on what?

Once the game starts I try to limit how much I’m on the web (outside of Twitter) and how much I’m texting and just watch the game. It can be easy to get distracted. For night games, I need to file what is called “running” by the 7th inning and then that gets a top for first edition.  If there’s an injury or a trade, that is when it gets complicated.

 

In what way does an injury or a trade complicate your in-game routine?

An injury does not really complicate much of anything; we deal with that most every day. A significant trade adds to the workflow. I’d have to do a separate story, call around for information from scouts, perhaps get on a conference call with the GM. The Globe has at least three reporters at every home game and two on the road, so we can divide up the work pretty well.

 

What is your process once the game finishes? 

Once the game ends you get the manager then get in the clubhouse, hurry to get what you need then go back to the press box and write. You might have a little more time for day games. But it’s usually about 35 minutes tops.

 

Do you do all your writing and filing of stories while at the ballpark, or do you write and file stories after you’ve gotten home or to the hotel room?

Everything at the ballpark after a game. There’s no time to go anywhere else.  Even if there were I’d be afraid I’d get hit by a bus or something. My job is to get them a story quickly.

 

Is there anything about working every day in Fenway that makes it unique among ballparks to work in?

Fenway is not an especially good place to work beyond the vista once you sit down to watch the game. The clubhouses are small and crowded and access to the clubhouses post-game is going against the flow of the crowd. The press box at Fenway is pretty high, too. You don’t get the same view as you would at places like Camden Yards.

 

How many stories are you responsible for submitting on a daily basis, or perhaps in the course of a week?

Daily it’s usually three things. A game preview for our web site then a game story and a notebook. The game story usually has two versions and the notebook as many as three or four. With the web, the updating never ends. So for a week I night do 18-25 stories, each updated several times.

 

In addition to game accounts, are you assigned additional feature stories to write?  If so, who typically comes up with the idea for the subject of the feature?  You, your editor, combination?

Sure, I do features all the time. Typically I generate my own ideas and run them by my editors.  Sometimes they’ll come up with ideas that are good. The Globe’s executive editor, Brian McGrory, is a baseball fan and a few times a year he has some great ideas. I get caught up in the day-to-day details and it’s good when people see the big picture. For instance, in 2013 Brian asked about doing a story on the personal relationship between Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. It worked out great. Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan and his deputies are great to work with and talk ideas over with.

 

Do you get any vacation or free time during the season?

No vacation. I get a 1-2 days off a week. I like covering all the road games and taking my time off when the team is home.  I usually cover 125-128 games. That’s after spring training and then we cover the playoffs whether the Sox are in or not. Then the GM Meetings and the Winter Meetings.

 

What are the easier things, and what are the harder things, for you to do as a beat writer during the season?

The easier things? I’m not sure anything is “easy.”  It’s hard sometimes to cover the team when execs leak stories to national writers to curry favor with them.  It’s hard to cover the trade deadline, that 10 days or so generally is awful.

 

What are the most common pitfalls to avoid while covering a baseball team?

Two things. You have to remember to write for your readers and not to impress other writers, or yourself or your editors. Write for people who follow the team and care about the team. Inform them. The other thing is to remember you aren’t with the team. It’s a shared experience a lot of the times, going around the country and living in hotels and dealing with travel. But you don’t work for the team and aren’t beholden to the team. Ask what needs to be asked, write what needs to be written and be honest. It’s unpleasant sometimes to write something critical about a person you’ll be face to face with a few hours later. But that is the job sometimes. I think sometimes, especially for outlets that don’t have editors or much in the way of accountability, the “coverage” is basically a lot of back-patting and propaganda. You aren’t doing the job right if the manager doesn’t get mad at you from time to time.

 

Beyond interviews and conversations, what are some of the top resources you use to keep informed about the players, the teams and the game of baseball itself?

Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference are two sites I’m always on. I read a lot of individual writers, mostly analytical or informational reporting. Opinion doesn’t really help much. There are some podcasts I like. MLB Network Radio is really good, too.

 

When the team has a day off, how do you spend your time?  Do you get a day off too, or are you still working a full day?

I usually have a story to do. We cover the team every day of the season.

 

When you’re traveling with the team, what is your favorite thing to do while on the road?

Depends on the city. I have friends in NYC, Tampa, Baltimore and a few other places. I’ve been doing this long enough and been to every MLB city often enough that I’m out of things to see. I’ll occasionally check out museum listings to see if there is some interesting exhibit. Beyond that, it’s baseball, getting ready for baseball and trying to stay organized.

 

How do you spend your time during the offseason?

I have two nieces and a nephew and try to see them as often as I can along with other people in my family. I love attending Patriots games and we usually hit a road game every season. I’ll go on a vacation and every few weeks I’ll drive to a casino in Connecticut and play $10 blackjack all night just for fun. Blackjack is very relaxing. Movies, reading books not about baseball, binge-watching television shows I missed all summer.

 

What baseball writers do you most admire, retired and/or currently active, and why?

There are too many to list and I wouldn’t want to leave anybody out. I respect dozens of people in the business for various reasons. I will say that the camaraderie among baseball writers is strong and we help each other out a lot. I learned a so much watching and reading the people who cover baseball in NYC. A lot of real pros there.

 

What is the thing about covering a baseball beat that most surprised you, that you didn’t expect when you first started?

The general friendliness of the players. I came from a background of covering college sports and most of the players were unspoiled and easy-going with the media. I was fearful professionals would be harder to deal with. But probably 95 percent of the players I’ve covered have been gracious with their time and respectful of my job. The outliers are annoying when they’re All-Star-type players but for the most part MLB players are decent guys.

 

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in covering a baseball beat since you started in 2002?

When I started covering baseball there was no social media and newspapers did not have web sites. So the notion of being on a 24-hour news cycle was foreign. That by far is the biggest change. There’s never really a time you’re not working unless you force yourself not to work. The urge to check Twitter is overwhelming. There have been days I’ve done updates for our web site 10 times on various things.

 

If you were the King of Baseball Journalism and you could make any changes or improvements to the profession or to the process, what would they be?

Anybody who starts a question with “Talk about …” has their credential revoked for two games. Second offense is a week.  That is just lazy.  Also people on Twitter should get electric shocks for asking beat writers questions about their fantasy team.

 

Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would want people, such as ordinary fans, to know about your job?

Not really. I’m incredibly fortunate to do what I do and never take it for granted. It’s nice knowing that something you do hopefully gives people a few minutes of pleasure a day, or at least a distraction from the realities of life.

Two Things You Should Know Today About Major League Baseball on TV

 

1: Televised baseball is not dying.

Several times each year over the past several years, we have been treated to predictions of the demise of baseball in America, and the main proof of that always comes in the form of comparative TV ratings.  Just last year, for instance, we were informed that the opening tilt of the Royals-Giants World Series was the lowest rated Game 1 in history.  “[The World] Series is on, and everybody is watching … football”, gloated the New York Times headline.  Not only that, but more people watched “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS: New Orleans” than the World Series, which was outdrawn even by “The Walking Dead”, a cable show about zombies, for crying out loud.  In case you were too thick to understand the implication, the Times made it clear in so many words: “Baseball is no longer the center of attention in a new landscape”.  Translation: Baseball is dying.

So what are we to make of Maury Brown’s article in Forbes yesterday: that in most of the largest markets in the country, baseball is actually outdrawing the NBA and the NHL in TV viewers?  You can see from these ratings in 14 markets from last Wednesday night, when two top NBA playoff games and the NHL’s Rangers-Capitals overtime win competed against the Mets and Cubs on ESPN, that baseball won the night against basketball and football:

RSNRatings1
h/t Forbes. Click through graphic to full article.

Isn’t this going against the narrative we’ve become so accustomed to hearing lately?

Yes, it is, but the thing is that that narrative always contemplates baseball’s national telecasts versus those of the other sports, particularly football, and especially in October.  Here is the thing to remember, though: baseball is a local and regional sport.  People care about their teams.  So when their team is on their local regional network, people will watch those games over playoff games in other sports involving out of town teams.  And that’s what we see in the chart above: baseball on regional sports networks beating other sports on the national sports networks.

Granted, none of the markets above had any local teams in the NBA or NHL playoffs, so there was no competition between multiple local teams in different sports in any of these markets.  And the NBA and NHL national telecasts did beat the baseball national telecast.

But really, that’s the point: baseball, and all league sports in this country, are a local and regional obsession.  People are naturally more interested in their local team than in out of town teams.  And people are naturally more interested in playoffs games than in regular season games.  If the Mets did not beat the Rangers in New York, or the Braves did not beat the Hawks in Atlanta, that’s really understandable, isn’t it?  After all, the Rangers and Hawks are in the playoffs fighting for their lives.  In baseball, it’s still mid-May.

But if televised baseball really were dying, it would be losing to televised basketball and televised football every time, regardless of the team involved.  That’s the central conceit of the (admittedly strawman) argument.  But it doesn’t, because baseball is a local and regional sport, and a thriving one at that.

Just remember the part in italics above next time anyone suggests to you that baseball is no longer important in the “new landscape” of American sports.

2: The potential removal of the MLB blackout restriction took an important step forward on Friday.

Judge Shira Scheindlin, the judge from the Southern District of New York who is hearing the suit against MLB and the NHL brought by a group of fans, has allowed the suit to advance to class action status.

The fans claim that the leagues engage in anticompetitive behavior by forcing out of market fans to purchase a high-priced complete bundle of every game except those involving their local teams, which forces those fans to also subscribe to their local regional sports network through a cable or national provider in order to be able to see their local teams, which from the plaintiffs’ view must be the worst of both worlds.  This circumstance mainly hurts the fan choosing to see their baseball on MLB.TV who, unless they are smart cookies, may never be able to see their local team on TV while they’re at home.

By allowing the suit to be heard as a class-action suit, fans can now fight the leagues in court collectively rather than on an individual basis, which makes it easier and cheaper for the plaintiffs to pursue the suit at all.  The plaintiffs are seeking lower prices for streamed games resulting from greater competition; to be able to pick and choose which out of town teams whose games they want to purchase rather than buying a bundle; and to be able to watch their local teams via streaming.

This is a fairly slow moving case that will probably take a period of time measured primarily in years to resolve, but the suit is moving apace.

WGN Ran a Radio Baseball Quiz in 1938, and Players Were Involved.

Came across this while perusing some old newspapers looking for baseball media stories.  This is not exactly baseball media, but it’s close enough to mention here.

In the late 1930s, the Big Thing on radio was quiz shows.   The airwaves were lousy with ask-me-another type programs like Vox Pop, Professor Quiz, Uncle Jim’s Question Bee, and the highbrow Information Please, so high-falutin’ it spawned an almanac that remained popular decades after the show’s demise.

Far be it from Baseball to ignore so obvious a trend, so Chicago powerhouse WGN (or, more exactly, “W-G-N”) got into the game with Bob Elson’s Baseball Quiz.   Teams of seven (why stop at seven?  Why not nine?), handpicked by area chambers of commerce or service organizations, would be questioned on their knowledge  of the game and the players who play it.

There are two really cool things about this, in my opinion:

  • Actual players from the Cubs and the White Sox were to appear on the program as judges. Why you need judges in a quiz show is a little beyond me–after all, you get the question correct as written on the card or you don’t, right?  Or is it really not that simple? Either way, having major league players involved in the program can’t be bad for the Crossleys, right?
  • After the quiz season plays out, the two “grand champion” teams were to receive all expense paid trips to the World Series.  That’s a pretty ambitious prize for a local quiz show, I think.  Then again, the 50,000-watt blowtorches of the day were more like regional stations than local affairs, as their signal would cut across a double-digit number of states, somewhat similar to how a regional sports network like ROOT Rocky Mountain does today.  So these stations were mighty big deals, and generated very high numbers of listeners, maybe even a lot more than today’s iteration of WGN does 77 years later.  As it turns out, ‘GN dodged a bullet somewhat: the Cubs made it to the 1938 series against the Yankees, so they only had to pay the winners’ expenses to travel to one city instead of two.

No word on who the “grand champions” ended up being.  They are lost to the ephemera of history.

Here’s the short original article about the show, accompanied by a short blurb about a similar show out of New York, in the March 15, 1938 Chicago Tribune:

1938 WGN Baseballl Quiz

New Biography: Bob Addie

We’ve posted a new one to the site, this one written by Committee member Larry Baldassaro, about the life and times of Bob Addie, who served as the Senators beat writer for the Washington Post and the old Washington Times-Herald from 1954 until the team left for the Lone Star State after the 1971 season.

The biography is posted on our site here:

Bob Addie

… as well as on the BioProject section of the SABR website.

Here’s an excerpt:


With his trademark dark glasses and red socks, Bob Addie, the son of a New York City butcher, was a respected and popular fixture on the Washington sports and social scene for almost 40 years. A columnist and Senators beat writer for the Washington Times-Herald and the Washington Post, Addie served as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America and received a National Press Club Award and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. He served in both World War II and the Korean War and married a US Open and Wimbledon tennis champion. He was on a first-name basis with Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and counted among his friends a Supreme Court justice, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and prominent congressional figures.

[…]

Addie’s [journalism] career was interrupted … in 1951 when he was called into service during the Korean War [after having also served in World War II]. This led to another encounter with General Eisenhower, who was then in France as supreme commander of NATO. While escorting a group of American newspaper publishers interested in interviewing Eisenhower about a possible run for the presidency, Addie was assigned to deliver a secret message to the general. When asked by Eisenhower if he was a career service officer, Addie, who felt at ease with even the most eminent personalities he encountered, replied, “Hell no, I’m a sportswriter who was recalled in the Korean war.”

They discussed sports for a while, then Eisenhower asked Addie for advice as to what to say if the publishers were to ask him about the presidency. Addie suggested that he say he was focused on his job with NATO but that he would not entirely rule out the possibility of entering the presidential race. That, said Addie, led to many US papers saying for the first time that Eisenhower might become a presidential candidate. Later, when Eisenhower was president, he said to Addie: “I don’t know whether to thank you or damn you. Look at all the time you’ve taken away from my golf.”

After two years in the service, Addie returned to the Times-Herald. When the paper was purchased by, and merged into, the Washington Post in 1954, publisher Philip Graham asked Addie to stay on. With the two papers, he served as the Washington Senators beat writer for 20 years until the team moved to Texas in 1971. Addie was proud to say that he never missed a day covering the team.


Read the full biography here or here.

Working the Game: An Interview with Charley Steiner, Los Angeles Dodgers TV and Radio

This is the next installment in our “Working the Game” series of interviews, in which we seek to reveal what it is like to work as a baseball media professional on a day-to-day basis.

Today we feature Charley Steiner, one of the play-by-play announcers for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Steiner is a four-plus decade veteran of sportscasting, starting in Peoria in Charley Steiner 1402_09 LA DODGERS00941969 before moving through Davenport, Iowa; New Haven, Conn.; Hartford; Cleveland; and then New York in 1978. He broadcast play-by-play for the New York Jets before landing at ESPN in 1988 as their lead boxing analyst.  Steiner started his baseball broadcasting career with the “Worldwide Leader” in 1998 before joining the New York Yankees radio booth in 2002 and, finally, securing his dream job as the Dodgers play-by-play announcer in 2005.  Steiner was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2013, and his alma mater, Bradley University, named its school of sports communication for Steiner in March of this year.

When did you become aware that you wanted to seriously pursue a career as a baseball broadcaster?

When I was 7 years old.  I grew up in New York and I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan.  Everybody I know was a Dodger fan.  I didn’t know any Giant fans, and only a few Yankee fans.  I [grew up] about ten or fifteen miles away from Ebbets Field.

When I was six, I remember vividly the seventh game of the 1955 World Series.  Johnny Podres shuts out the Yankees, 2-0, and there were grown-ups in the living room who were crying.  Not like a six year old who’d just fallen off his Schwinn Racer—here were grown-ups crying for joy, because the Dodgers had at long last beaten the New York Yankees.  When I was seven, in 1957, I’m listening on WMGM radio to the Dodgers and I was mesmerized.  I was the RCA Victor dog with his ear pressed up against the speaker.  And I could hear the crack of the bat, heard the umpire bellow “strike!”, heard fans cheering and booing—and then I heard this transcendent, umbrella-like voice, and it turned out to be Vin Scully.  He had me at “Hello”.  I was just smitten with the medium and the broadcaster.

This was 1957, and there was some televised baseball, a few games here and there, but my knowledge of baseball began by listening to Vin; by reading the afternoon papers that my father brought home from New York; and that was it.  There was never any doubt in my mind about what I wanted to be when I grew up: the Dodger announcer.

Unfortunately, [the Dodgers] moved the next year.   My career dream was smashed. So now I’m watching the Yankees, now the only game in town since the Giants had left too.  I was listening to Mel Allen and Red Barber.  So between Vin, Mel and Red, I grew up listening to the Mount Rushmore of baseball.  So from the time I was seven to the time I arrived on campus at Bradley University, this is what I wanted to be when I grew up.

What was the first baseball game you ever broadcast, and how did you get the gig?

My first baseball game was in college, and like any first broadcast, thankfully it dissipated on old acetate, so it’s all gone.

How did you get your break announcing major league baseball games?

My first major league game was at ESPN.  I don’t remember exactly when it was.  It was probably 1994, and it was one of the “B” games, the secondary game which aired in the markets where the primary game was blacked out.  So I spent a lot of time in my early television career talking to myself.

Thankfully I did not have to ride minor league buses.  I’d covered a lot of [minor league] teams along the way as a reporter.  In 1972, I worked at KSTT in Davenport, Iowa, the home of the Quad Cities Angels, who had a young phenom named Frank Tanana.  My path to the baseball booth was probably so different than most in that there were so few jobs.  I was a radio guy in Peoria and Davenport and New Haven and Hartford and Cleveland and New York, and then to ESPN and then to the Yankees and the Dodgers and … [big sigh]. So I was much more of a reporter and a news director along the way. I made it to management prematurely, so when the station I was at needed a sportscaster, I hired me. And rarely did the sportscaster argue with the news director.

When did you realize you were going to make it—really, truly make it—as a baseball announcer?

When ESPN radio got the rights to games in 1998, that’s when I started going whole hog.  I would do the Wednesday night television game on the “real” network and the Sunday night games on the radio.  All of a sudden it was beginning to happen.  That’s when I realized, “Ooh, I can do this!”  Because I had done all the other things along the way to get to this point, whether it was football, SportsCenter, boxing.  [Baseball] was all I’d ever wanted to do, but I’d still never achieved my goal, which was the Dodgers.

The next big turning point took place—sadly, happily, somewhere in between—in 2001, around 9/11.  A week before we were doing an ESPN game and I was sitting in [New York Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman’s office, talking about stuff before the game, and George Steinbrenner, who I’d known from my time in Cleveland, walked in.  He says, “Cash, I wanna talk to ya!” and he turned to me and said [doing Steinbrenner imitation] “I saw you on TV when I was in Tampa, you were pretty good!  You’re very good!”  George left and Cashman got up to follow him and I said as he was leaving, “Hey if there’s any opening with this new [YES] network …” You know, who knows?  An hour goes by, Cashman comes into my booth and he says to me, “I have some good news and some bad news.  Bad news is I told George you would be interested, and he berated me because broadcasting is not my end of the business, my job is to build a World Series champion, ‘get out of my office!’  Good news is, he wants to hire you.”  So I took the Yankee job, and I was there for three years.

Then, out of the blue, at the end of the 2004 season from the Dodgers telling me they are going to replace Ross Porter, and would I have any interest? And I did not enhance my negotiating position by saying [something along the lines of “heck, yeah!”].  And that was it.   And so finally I had achieved my lifelong dream.

Let’s talk about game day: What do you do to prepare for a game before you get to the ballpark?  You wake up in the morning, and you do … what, before the game?

I begin preparing after I get home the night before.  I would take a look at what we used to call “the wire”; now we have the internet.  I will try to read as many game stories and sidebars as I can, just looking for little factoids that might be helpful tomorrow.  I sleep, get up about 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning, have some coffee, then I will go through the Internet again.  I’ll look at the statistics from MLB, Dodgers [splits data], all that kind of stuff.  And I’ll look at all the previews that are done by Stats Inc. and Sports Network and so on.  Then I will collate the information in the Cuisinart in my brain, and then start jotting down ideas, conversation points I can have with Mo [broadcast partner Rick Monday]. So I would guess that I prepare for each game at home in the morning for an hour to 90 minutes, and then if it’s the first game of a series, it might be a little longer than that.  And then it’s lunchtime.

How long before a game do you arrive at the ballpark, and is it different at home versus on the road?

I head to ballpark around 2:30, and I get to the booth and then everything is unpacked, and I’m ready to go about 3:15, 3:30.

What are the key things you do at the ballpark before the game starts?

I’ll take a look at the latest notes that we get from our club and the visiting team, or if we’re on the road, vice versa.  I’ll start making out the lineups as soon as we get them, and start writing appropriate stats for each player in the lineup.  Then about 5:15 or 5:30, Vin, Mo and me, we have dinner every night—same table, same conversation, same guys, and then the [darn] game gets in the way of this wonderful dinner.  That’s it, and it really doesn’t vary very much.  I might ask someone with an independent set of eyes, “What is interesting about today’s game to you?”  And sometimes there’s a good idea, and sometimes none whatsoever.  So I get a lot of information from a lot of sources and a lot of different places, I funnel it all together, and then I talk for three-and-a-half or four hours.

How long before the game do you step into the booth, and what are your final preparation steps?

I’m in the booth by 3:30, 3-1/2 hours before the game.  Time permitting, I might go down to the field talk to a given player.  There are other things I might do.  You and I are talking today; yesterday I was in a lengthy interview for a documentary; there’s another I have to do on Friday.   So it’s not just showing up five minutes before the first pitch and starting to talk.  It’s at least an eight-hour day, about which you will never hear me complain once.

What is the easiest thing to do, and what is the hardest thing to do, while the broadcast is in progress?

That’s a tough one … I think it all boils into one 3½ hour project.  There are some easy moments, where you’ve written down a story or an anecdote and you go on a jazz-like riff.   And then there are those rundown plays.  You know, your basic 9-6-4-3-2-5-2-1-2 double play.  You go, “ah, jeez, why me?”  But talking about research, I came across a story about Justin Maxwell, the Giant right fielder.  He grew up in Virginia, near Washington [D.C.], and says he’s been a lifelong Giant fan, which made no sense to me, but it turns out his father was a Giant fan, so when [Justin] got the Giants job, it was a big deal. But the real story was that his father was the dentist to the presidents.  He was the dentist of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  So I thought, what an opportunity to tell the president, “say ‘ahhh’”, and watching the president drool on his hand.  When I’m preparing for a game, when I can find stuff like that, that’s gold.

What do you do in between innings and during the seventh inning stretch?

Between innings, we now have two minutes and twenty-five seconds, and one of the great additions to Dodger Stadium this year was the placement of a “private restroom”, ten feet from Vin’s booth and my booth.  This is greatest invention to me since cable remote on TV.  So now I don’t have to spend all two minutes running back and forth!  But generally speaking, headphones go off, kind of lean back, write down  the number of  pitches that were thrown in the inning, look at the spots I have to read in the next half inning, and just kind of sit there and do nothing and look out.  It’s like a fighter in between rounds.  Then it’s “stand by, ten seconds”, and you’re back again.

What are the most common pitfalls to avoid while broadcasting baseball games?

Don’t get excited too early.  I learned a wonderful lesson from (legendary New York sports announcer) Marty Glickman.  He taught me, very early in my career: [slight falsetto] if your voice is going to be up here in the first quarter of the third game of the season, [back to normal voice] where do you put your voice when it really counts late in the year?  Keep the game in perspective.  There’s a big difference between a second inning home run and a walk-off home run; between two out and nobody on in the fifth and a rally in the eighth; between the fifteenth game of the season and the final game of the season.  Keeping the moment prioritized—it’s not a big deal yet [this early in the season].  That’s a common pitfall for a lot of young guys: they get too excited too soon.

The other pitfall, the young fellas are so preoccupied with having a home run call that they can’t wait to hear on SportsCenter or MLB Tonight.  [It’s as though] they’re broadcasting for that moment when they can hear themselves on television, as opposed to broadcasting to that one listener that [he should be] trying to communicate with on a one-on-one basis.  I think me and [Jon] Miller [San Francisco Giants radio play-by-play] and [Denny] Mathews [Kansas City Royals radio play-by-play], I think we’re the last generation that grew up listening to radio.  Now you have then twenty- and thirty-year old fellas who have been “SportsCenterized”, who are trying to broadcast on radio with a television sensibility.  That is also a pitfall.

Once the broadcast is over, what are the final things you have to do before you leave the ballpark?

[Laughs] Pack up my computer and my scorebook and my binoculars and put them all in the same roller case that I will bring in the next day.  To that extent, the day is very regimented.

What are some of the top resources you use to keep you informed about the players, the teams and the game of baseball itself?

I really scour the Internet.  I will look at local newspapers, for whatever stories there might be.  I will go through the MLB site, ESPN, CBS, Yahoo … god, I feel like Sarah Palin! At least I can name the stuff that I look at! [Laughs]  Here’s how manic I am: I have subscriptions to the New York Times and the LA Times, they are dropped off at the front door every morning, but I read them the night before [online].  Then I’ll read them the next day to see if I missed anything.  I look at a lot of stats—I don’t get too crazy about the stats, because on radio, I’m telling a story.  I’m not reading a spreadsheet.  So there’s a big difference between the print, the Internet and the radio.  I try to keep the stats in perspective: “38.3% of the time he throws a slider …” You know, please.  On radio, it doesn’t work.   On the computer that looks great, you can make some context.  But I will try to pick out half a dozen nuggets that I can mix into the bouillabaisse every night.

When the team has a day off, or you get a day off because of national broadcast, how do you spend your time?

I do all 162.  The games that Vin does not do on television, about seventy now, I do, and when he’s on television I do the remaining ninety on radio.   So even on a Sunday night broadcast I’m working, and I prefer it that way, because with baseball, there are 162 chapters of the book.  If there happens to be a season-changing game when you have a day off, I would feel like I missed out.    But tomorrow [an off day for the Dodgers], I’ll sleep in.  I’ll be hosting a panel with Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson and me, one of Joe Torre’s Safe at Home things. So that’s what passes for an off day.  You will never hear me complain, but rarely are there days when I can wake up and say, “Well, I guess today I’ll just go fishing and do nothing.”  I have the pleasure of working every single day for seven months, and then having the great pleasure of doing nothing for five months.

When you’re on the road with the team, does your routine differ significantly?

Only to the extent to where I’m sleeping at night!  I still get to the ballpark three-and-a-half hours before the game, and instead of driving to Dodger Stadium, I’ll leave for the hotel on the team bus to get to said ballpark.  But instead of doing preparation for the game in the office, I’ll do it in my hotel room.  But [everything else] remains the same, because all of the games remain the same, at least until they go out and [actually] play them.

What is your favorite thing to do on the road?

I must tell you, I’m so boring.  I don’t do that much on the road.  It depends on the city.   In San Francisco, I’ll just walk the streets because I love it.  I love Chicago, and I grew up in New York.  So I’ll be more likely to spend time on the [streets] in those cities.  Walk, shop, have a bite to eat with an old friend.  I don’t eat dinner after [a night] game like some folks do.  I’ll just have a glass of wine and call it a day.

How do you spend time over the All-Star break?

I’ve got tickets to a couple of concerts here in LA.  It’s funny: they call it an All-Star break, but it’s really a long weekend.  I don’t go anywhere, as if I don’t travel enough!  I’m already in Los Angeles—where am I going to go for better weather?  I stay home, go to the movies, get reacquainted with friends I haven’t seen for a couple of months, and that’s it.  Real simple.  And then I get back to work.

How do you spend your time during the offseason?

The older I get, the better I am at [doing] nothing.  I’m really good at it.  I’ll read the morning paper at two in the afternoon, I’ll get caught up on all the movies I missed—I will see, in the offseason, seventy movies or so.  Read some.  Lunches and dinners.  Rarely do I travel, and if I do, it’s not very far.  I tend to relax.

One of things that has changed, and for the better: my alma mater, Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, named a school for me, at the end of March.   Peoria, for whatever reason, has spawned an inordinate number of great sportscasters: Jack Brickhouse, Chick Hearn, Ralph Lawler, Tom Kelly (who did USC games for years), Denny Matthews, Bill King, Bob Starr, Mark Holtz.  It was serendipitous.  Peoria is the “San Pedro de Macoris” of sportscasters, which of course makes me Jose Offerman.

Because of this, Bradley started offering courses in sports communication.  Five years ago they opened the sports communication department, and then this past year they named the school for me, the Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication. So now, in future offseasons, I’m going to go out there to teach or lecture and do whatever one does, so I’m getting heavily involved in this school.

What baseball announcers do you most admire, both retired and currently active, and why?

Vin, of course, is, I think, the Babe Ruth of our industry, and I get to “play pepper with Babe Ruth” every day, which is pretty cool.  I listened closely to Mel Allen and Red Barber.  The guys who are contemporaries of mine now, Jon Miller has been an old friend for many, many years, and whose skill level I admire greatly.  Duane Kuiper [San Francisco Giants TV play-by -play] , I was working in Cleveland when he was playing [there], so we go back a long [way]. He and Krook [Mike Krukow, San Francisco Giants TV color] are just a wonderful team.  Dick Enberg [San Diego Padres TV play-by-play] has become a friend over the years.  It’s one of those “too many to mention, don’t want to leave anybody out” things, but those are the guys who immediately pop out for me.  I am living out this improbable dream, and I get to know all of these guys whose talents I admire so much.  P.S., and they’re paying me, too!

What are some of the things, or maybe even the one big thing, you wish ordinary fans knew about your job?

It ain’t as easy as they think it is.  In the case of broadcasting, it is hard to make it sound easy.  You have all this stuff going on at once, to process all of that, and to come out and try to be as eloquent as you can be.  To maintain a breezy, colorful, informative, accurate conversation for about 650 hours a summer, without a safety net.  You are live and you’re going to make errors, just like the players do, just like insurance salesmen do, just like anybody does.  The difference is, we’re making those errors (hopefully not many) in front of a lot of folks.  To people who say, “Well, this guy can’t do this or that”, I say, come up to my booth and try to do my job for one inning.  It’s not a frustration, but it’s a reality, and our business is a very subjective business.   Someone might hear me and say, “Hey, he’s pretty good”, and someone else hearing the exact same thing would say, “Ugh, he’s awful.”  You have no control over that.

Mariano Rivera gave me a great piece of advice.  He’d blown a couple of saves back to back, and of course they wanted to hang him in the New York Post, and they wanted to beat him senseless in the Daily News, and that was even before the talk shows [got a hold of him].  So I asked him, “Mariano, when you go home at night, do you take it with you? Does it bother you?”  And he looked at me as though I were from another planet and said, “Once the ball leaves my hand, I have no control over it.”  And I thought, “Wow!” And that’s how I go about my business as a broadcaster: I do the best I can, and hopefully it works out pretty well, and the odds are I’m going to be back tomorrow.

If you were the King of Baseball Announcing …

I’d abdicate!

OK, but if you couldn’t abdicate, and you could make any changes to improve the profession or the process, what would they be?

I would like younger announcers to do more research, have greater understanding, and have more respect for the old radio announcers.  Radio is the place where words count the most.  In many cases it’s the economy of the words.  More words doesn’t make it better.  More often than not, less words do.  And on television, let the picture tell the story.  The thing I tell my students is, “We are storytellers.  We are not the story.”  The ones that understand that best have the greatest chance of being successful.  So to the younger guys I would say, “Take your foot off the accelerator, let the game breathe, and remember the guys who got you to this place where you are now.”

One of the things that I remember about when I think about you, probably more than I should, is the great Melrose Place spoof ESPN commercial you did as the pool boy.

“Do you want to rub some cocoa oil on my back?”

[Laughs] I love that!

Well, thank you…I think!

Watch Bob Uecker Get Rescued From His Own Broadcast Booth

Well, not exactly rescued.  Well, yeah, he was eventually rescued, but you don’t see that here.  OK, so maybe the headline is a bit misleading.

Point is, Bob Uecker got locked into his own broadcast booth during the sixth inning last night’s Dodgers-Brewers tilt at Miller Park.  As if the guy doesn’t have enough wacky stories to tell.

If you subscribe to any of the services where you can replay the radio broadcast of any major league game, call up last night’s Brewer game and tune to the bottom of the sixth inning.  His description of the proceedings must have been priceless.

In the meantime, enjoy this:

New Biography: Ned Martin

Committee member Bob LeMoine has just penned a new biography of Ned Martin, the legendary Red Sox broadcaster who called the games for the club from 1961 through 1992 on both radio (WHDH; WMEX/WITS) and television (WHDH-TV, WSBK-TV, NESN).  Martin called many of the Crimson Hose’s signature moments, including Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 walk-off home run in the 1975 World Series; Roger Clemens’ 20-strikeout game in 1986; and the entire “Impossible Dream” season of 1967.

We have posted the biography on our site here:

Ned Martin

The biography also appears in the newly published SABR book, “’75: The Red Sox Team that Saved Baseball“, which is available for free download for all SABR members, or for purchase by generous members (in paperback) and non-members alike (download or paperback).

Here is a brief excerpt from LeMoine’s biography:


“Oh, Gertrude, when sorrows come they come not as single spies but in battalions.”

Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5, a favorite quote of Ned Martin
when the Red Sox were having a particularly bad day.

“With this back and these knees? Mercy,” Ned Martin asked rhetorically, using his trademark exclamation when asked if he was going to dance the jitterbug at his 50th high-school reunion. Still, he and his classmates of the Upper Merion High School in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Class of 1940, danced to the Big Band tunes of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and Harry James. Martin also reflected on his English teacher and his “old country school.” “Marie Wolfskill. Just an excellent English teacher in a little country school. … What a major role that woman played in my life. … it was largely because of her teaching I’ve been able to make my living through my use of the English language; it was because of her I developed a love for that language.”

Ned Martin could be called the Shakespeare of the broadcast booth, or baseball’s Hemingway scholar-in-residence. He could inject a broadcast at the right moment with literary quotes, poems, or song lyrics, while his catchphrase of “Mercy!” summed up many moments of Red Sox history. Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione called Martin “the most literate of all broadcasters … a scholar of literature and a great Hemingway expert. He had a way of describing things very succinctly, honestly, and openly. He never interfered with an event.” Dave Weekley of the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette recalled Martin’s “low-key quiet confidence … His delivery was easy on the ears and his renowned wit allowed him to refer to his beloved Shakespeare when the time was right.” Curt Gowdy called Martin “a highly intelligent guy with a great vocabulary and a good voice.”

A Red Sox announcer for 32 years, Martin also served his country in World War II, celebrating victory at Iwo Jima. But he was most at home behind the radio microphone, where his mastery of language painted pictures in the minds of his listeners. “Active verbs are really helpful. It isn’t an awful thing to have a vocabulary and use it,” Martin remarked.

Those active verbs could be a ball “caroming” off the wall or “lofted” over it; a lead was “tenuous,” and fans “vociferous.” Home runs were “long gone and hard to find.” The aging Gaylord Perry was called “sparsely thatched” on top. He would greet fans during a West Coast game with “Hello, wherever you may be at this ungodly hour,” or sum up a poor Red Sox performance with “‘It was death in the afternoon,’ as Hemingway would have said.” Martin’s rich usage of literature gave us calls like “So the little children shall lead them as rookies Rice and Lynn have driven in all of the Red Sox runs,” and it is often his descriptions Red Sox fans remember when reliving moments of Red Sox history from the 1960s through the early 1990s.

(Continue reading here.)