He’s Been Everywhere: Why Vin Scully is Baseball’s Forrest Gump

In case you missed it, there’s a really fun article over at The Sporting News, written by Jason Foster, that describes and shows video of many of the iconic plays that Vin Scully has called during his career.

You would expect a boatload of them from someone like Scully who has worked the course of two-thirds of a century, and I’m sure you’ll be able to name many right off the top of your head: Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series; Sandy Koufax’s perfect game against the Cubs in 1965; Kirk Gibson’s gimpy game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1988 Series; Bill Buckner’s five-hole fielding gaffe in Game 6 of the 1986 series; the list goes on, and I might have left off your favorite call.

But there are also a bunch of calls of iconic moments that I bet you didn’t know, or at least didn’t remember, Scully making the call on. For instance, did you know that Scully called Joe Carter’s Series-winning home run from 1993?

How about the epic 1991 Series Game 7 between Jack Morris and Jon Smoltz? Did you remember that Scully called this one as well?

But above all, if you knew that Scully called the following play, then you must immediately be crowned the King of Vin Calls:

I, myself, had no idea about this one, so I bow to you, Your Majesty.

You can check out the entire very-well-written article over at the Sporting News here:

He’s been everywhere: Why Vin Scully is baseball’s Forrest Gump

Joe Ritzo’s Baseball Dream Leads to the San Jose Giants’ Broadcast Booth

It’s not often that a young kid dreams of being on his hometown professional baseball team and then actually achieves it.  It might be even less often when the kid wants to be a broadcaster instead of a player, and the hometown team is the local High-A ballclub.

That’s what has happened with Joe Ritzo, the young radio (and sometime TV) broadcaster for the San Jose Giants of the California League. Sure, he’s looking to make the move up to the majors at some point. Every kid wants to be a major leaguer when he grows up, and every minor leaguer eventually wants to be a big leaguer, too, whether a player or not. The majors is always the ultimate goal for any baseball professional serious about his craft.

In the meantime, though, Ritzo seems very happy to be toiling for his hometown’s minor league Giants, as evidenced by the story below that first appeared in the Los Gatos Weekly-Times, part of the Bay Area News Group, and written by Dick Sparrer. You can read the story on its original website here, if you prefer.

If you are also a fan of our Working The Game series, pay particular attention towards the end, in which Sparrer briefly describes Ritzo’s typical day when there is a 7:00 pm home game. Spoiler alert: it’s a really long day, and there’s more to it than just talking into a microphone.


Baseball dream leads to the broadcast booth

It’s not uncommon to find youngsters scrambling around the grounds of Municipal Stadium during San Jose Giants games, proudly wearing their baseball caps and gloves while chasing down foul balls and playing catch between innings as they play out their dreams of one day making it there themselves.

Joe Ritzo was no different … well, maybe just a little.

He cherished his time at the ballpark as a kid because he loved the game of baseball so much. It’s just that he left his glove at home and brought his tape recorder along instead.

As it turns out, just as those boyhood dreams came true for guys like Joe Panik and Matt Duffy as they flashed leather on the infield at San Jose Muni on their road to become Major League baseball players, so too is the dream coming true for Joe Ritzo, who pushed the record button on his way to earning his place as the play-by-play broadcaster for the San Jose Giants.

“I always felt that I could talk a good game,” said Ritzo. And now he does, at least 140 times a year–mostly from his small perch in the booth atop Muni Stadium, but also from some less glamorous locales throughout the California League.

Still, while there may be more exciting places to visit than Rancho Cucamonga or Bakersfield, and more pleasant ways to get there than by riding a bus, Ritzo is very happy to be a Giant, even if it is at the Single A level. Because San Jose won four Cal League championships in over a six year span (from 2005-2010), and many of those Giants who have gone on to win three World Series titles played for those teams as they passed through San Jose on their way to San Francisco.

GIANTS PRIDE

“All of us here have a real sense of pride, not just because they’ve made it to the majors but because of the success they’ve had,” said Ritzo of the Giants. “It’s been an unbelievable ride.

“They were very successful here, so no one was real surprised after seeing the talent that rolled through here,” he added. “They were all great and a pleasure to be around. They were all approachable and very respectful people. We were lucky to have a great clubhouse.”

In that clubhouse were the likes of Panik and Duffy, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt and Andrew Susac, and so many more.

“We knew we were seeing something special when [Posey and Bumgarner] were here,” said Ritzo. “Posey was still trying to feel his way out, but he was a quiet leader, and [a 19-year-old Bumgarner] was still learning how to deal with the media and fans when they talked to him.”

And who were his favorites? Panik and Susac ranked near the top.

“I really liked talking to those guys,” said Ritzo. “They each have a lot of personality.”

Ritzo got a chance to reacquaint himself with Susac recently with the young catcher back in San Jose during an injury rehab. Of course, this time Susac came back as the owner of a World Series ring.

“It’s almost like they come back and they’re all grown up,” said Ritzo of the rehabbing big leaguers. “Our players really look up to these guys and watch how they prepare for a game and everything else they do.”

But it’s not only the young players who get enthused when the San Francisco Giants make appearances in San Jose–the fans like it, too.

“We try to take advantage of that opportunity for our fans,” said Ritzo. “There’s always a buzz; it’s electric.”

Especially when guys like Susac and Belt return to San Jose and blast home runs like they did this year during their rehab stints.

PASSIONATE FANS

“We have a very passionate fan base,” added Ritzo. “We see that on a regular basis, but it really comes out during a rehab.

“We have knowledgeable fans, and I’m entrusted to tell that story and try to make it interesting and entertaining every night,” he said. “Every game is its own entity, and I try to paint that picture as best as I can.”

In the true tradition of line, “I saw it on the radio,” from Terry Cashman’s song “Play By Play,” Ritzo can paint a picture with his words.

When he said on an Aug. 15 broadcast, “A bouncing ball snared by Kobernus as he drops to his knees … sliding, lunging to the ground on the infield dirt with a nice play,” we could almost see the dust fly as the third baseman made the play.

It’s just that sort of picture painting that could be Ritzo’s ticket to the next level.

“Just like a player, I have aspirations to get to the Major Leagues,” said Ritzo, who lives in Redwood City and will marry Emily Schwartz in October. “I like the aspect of being connected to a big league club. At the same time, it’s a very competitive field.

“I knew that going in,” he added. “If I never get to that level that’s fine. I love what I do and I’m happy to work for my hometown team.”

In that role he had the chance to join a Giants broadcast with Hall of Famer Jon Miller and his booth partner Dave Fleming in San Francisco.

“I got the chance to jump in with them to talk about our team here,” he said.

For a 31-year-old who grew up a Giants fan, that was a moment to remember.

“I never had idols,” he said. “I would get to a game and turn to look at the booth to see what the broadcasters were doing.”

So while Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and the other Giants were going about their business between the lines, Ritzo was paying more attention to Miller, Hank Greenwald and Ted Robinson.

Robinson “had a real influence on me,” he said. “He was great. He would talk to me about the things I could do to improve.”

BASEBALL FAMILY

It’s not like Ritzo never played the game. He grew up in a baseball household. He is named for his paternal grandfather, Joseph Ritzo, who played the game professionally, and his father Dale, a doctor in San Mateo, was a pitcher at USC. Young Joe played on the infield and pitched a bit in the Palo Alto Little League and later the Babe Ruth League before playing at Palo Alto High School.

“It was in my blood,” he said of baseball. “I grew up loving the game.”

As a player, he said, “I was OK, but I always knew I wanted to get into broadcasting; that’s where my heart was.”

“I always knew that I had a good handle of what was going on,” he added, “even if I couldn’t play.”

So there was never a thought in Ritzo’s mind to pursue baseball as a player; he had his sights set on the broadcast booth. In pursuit of that goal he headed to Santa Clara University to major in communications “and get involved in their radio station.”

He did that and then some. Growing up in Palo Alto he was a Giants fan, and in addition to attending games at Candlestick Park he went to many San Jose Giants games–with his tape recorder, of course. But he also attended many games at Stanford University as a teenager and managed to find his way into the press box.

“They even let me jump on [the broadcast] for an inning, and I loved it,” he said. “They said, ‘You’re pretty good. Why don’t you do a little more?’ So here I was a 17-year-old high school junior doing Stanford games. I was very fortunate; it was really exciting that I had that chance.

“That’s probably how I got the job here,” said Ritzo, who sent his tapes to Giants executive Mike McCarroll in 2003, just a year after his high school graduation. “He said that my tape sounded great, and I came in to do six or seven games. I was 19 when I started here, and by my senior year [of college] I was doing half of the home games.”

It was only a few years later when his position went fulltime. That was 2007, and he has been doing all of the home and road games ever since.

A TYPICAL DAY

For Ritzo, his day includes more than just a few hours in the broadcast booth. His typical day begins at 1 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game. He provides coaches with statistics and other information, visits the clubhouse to talk to players and coaches to gather facts for his broadcast, “grabs someone for the pregame interview” that he tapes for airing before the game and compiles packets for the visiting media.

“Then I spend a fair amount of time preparing for the broadcast,” he said. And when that radio broadcast begins, he’s all alone on the air (Joe Castellano joins Ritzo for color commentary on televised games).

But Ritzo’s night doesn’t end when the umpire signals the final out–far from it, in fact. There’s the full post-game show, followed by a write-up of a game recap that he sends to the media and posts on the team website and social media sites.

After having dinner at home at about midnight, he puts together game notes, and his usual day ends at about 2 or 2:30 a.m.

It’s that sort of work ethic that will serve Ritzo well as he attempts to live up to the claim on the San Jose Giants website: “Listen to the stars of tomorrow today.” That, and the fact that he comes across as a no holds barred, tell it like it is play-by-play man–which can’t always make those long bus rides home with the very players and coaches he critiques too comfortable.

And on Aug. 24 he’ll be back on that bus, heading south to San Bernadino to call the play-by-play for the Giants in a game against the Inland Empire 66ers that night, so that local fans can “see it on the radio.”

Is Social Media Killing the Post-Game Radio Show?

Bill Shaikin, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has written an article that was given a very contentious headline: “How social media is killing the post game radio show.”

Wow.

Bad social media. Bad boy. (Swats social media’s nose with rolled-up newspaper.)

Reading through the article, I don’t really see that hypothesis fully supported within. What the article does discuss is how the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I can’t believe I still have to write that whole team name out) made the decision to eliminate their post-game radio show, hosted by play-by-play announcer Terry Smith, only for road games this season, and that hardly anyone has noticed. The decision was made because the calls to the show have been declining precipitously during the past few years.

Yet in the next paragraph, one of the hosts of the post-game show for in-market rivals Los Angeles Dodgers says their own post-game show is “thriving”.

So, whom to believe?

Reading through the piece, it appears to me that the problem might lie with the Smith’s unwillingness to both pre-engage Angel fans through social media to stoke interest in the show, and to expand the discussion beyond the game itself to the state of the Angels team in general.

I do agree that the post-game call-in show has ceded its preëminence as the place for fans to make their opinions known to others, given the rise of online forums, Facebook, Twitter and other digital avenues by which people can make themselves heard. But as with any other medium, it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision: that is, either call in to the radio show, or tweet or post your thoughts instead—choose one. Human expression has never limited itself in that way. We humans use all the tools at our disposal to make ourselves heard, for the simple reason that most of us are hard-wired to make ourselves heard.

So why not use social media to augment the reach of your post-game show by proactively posting thoughts and opinions to stoke discussion? That’s how Marty Lurie does it in San Francisco, and judging from Shaikin’s article, it seems to be working well for him.

If a host is still not willing to do this, the station can pull back on the show instead. But if that’s the decision, it wouldn’t be fair to blame the rise of social media for killing off the show. It would be fairer to acknowledge the inability to utilize social media effectively to increase the audience for the show. That’s not on the social media itself—that’s on the host.

Shaikin’s piece is below. If you’d prefer to read it on the LA Times site, click here.


How social media is killing the post game radio show

Broadcasters Terry Smith, left, and Victor Rojas talk to fans during a call-in show on 830 AM. (Facebook)
Broadcasters Terry Smith, left, and Victor Rojas talk to fans during a call-in show on 830 AM. (Facebook)

It is a rite of baseball, like singing in the seventh inning, or military jets screaming overhead on opening day.

It is the postgame radio talk show — Angel Talk, Dodger Talk, pick your team and talk. After the game, the phone lines open, and fans call in to celebrate, to debate and to complain — about the manager, the general manager, the players, maybe even the hot dogs.

The Angels are trying something new this season. They have eliminated the call-in show after road games — and hardly anyone has called in to complain about that.

“I’m not the only one who feels that way.”

A generation ago, a fan’s voice might only be heard by a call to the talk show, or a letter to the local newspaper.

With the rise of the Internet — with blogs and message boards, with Twitter and Facebook — the hosts of those talk shows are debating whether technology is enhancing their programs, or slowly killing them.

On Angel Talk, Smith said, the volume of callers has declined significantly in recent years.

“You don’t want to have the same people on every night,” he said.

David Vassegh, one of the hosts of Dodger Talk, said his program is thriving. In the car culture of Los Angeles, with fans driving home from the game, he said a postgame talk show is a natural fit.

Beyond that, he said, the program engages a much wider swath of fans than a message board would.

“Baseball is built around that feeling of community,” Vassegh said. “Listening to baseball games on the radio is part of that feeling of community.”

Lurie, one of the hosts of the San Francisco Giants’ call-in show, said social media has presented a challenge for him and his colleagues.

“You have to work harder to engage the audience,” Lurie said, “because they have other ways to express themselves.”

Before a show starts, Lurie sometimes takes to Twitter to ignite a debate. The other night, he asked fans via Twitter if they would trade Madison Bumgarner, Mike Leake and Jake Peavy for the top trio of starters on any other team in the National League.

“I must have had 150 people right away,” Lurie said.

He read the best responses on the air, then invited callers to weigh in.

Smith said he would be reluctant to solicit fans to call in and identify, say, their all-time favorite Angels second baseman.

“The idea of Angel Talk, for me, is to talk about the game,” he said.

On the last trip, the Angels invited fans to use Twitter to ask questions during Smith’s broadcast of the game, with replies from as far away as Australia, England and Italy. Smith said the Angels could consider similarly incorporating Twitter into the call-in show.

He said the Angels have made no decisions about the call-in show for next season — including, for that matter, whether he will be part of the radio team. His contract expires at the end of the season.

Smith, whose 14-year tenure is the longest of any radio broadcaster in Angels history, said he understands the team is focused on finding a new general manager and he expects to resolve his situation in the off-season.

“I have no desire to retire,” he said.

Radio was supposed to die when television was born, but the radio industry continues to prosper. Lurie predicted the call-in talk show would continue to prosper as well.

“Calling in on radio is part and parcel of baseball on the radio,” he said. “I think that is something that will live on.”

In that case, Vassegh is well aware of another tradition that will live on.

“When the team wins, you’re not going to get as many calls,” he said. “When the team loses, everybody wants to call in and voice their frustration.”

 

What, Now it’s the Baseball Box Score That’s Dying?

SABR’s Baseball and the Media Committee formed a couple years ago for the purpose of researching how the media cover baseball, both as news (journalism) and as an event (in game).  The thought was that we would seek to examine, illuminate and celebrate the people who and institutions that bring us the game by the pen and over the air (and through the wires).

The one part of covering the game that did not occur to us at the time was the most basic, and probably first, form of transmitting to the public what happened during any given game: the box score.  It is neither poetry nor prose, but it is in the rawest sense the building blocks of telling you, the interested person who couldn’t manage to swing a day off to take in a ballgame, exactly what transpired during those 75 or so minutes.  (Hey, it was 1859.  Games were faster then.) And for the past century and a half, the box scores in the newspaper have been a staple of the baseball fan’s diet, and often the very first thing that fans turned to when they opened up the newspaper in the morning.

Ed Sherman, a sports media writer based in Chicago, just published a pretty good, tight piece on how baseball box scores are dying. Well, not completely dying.  Box scores, in fact, are better and more complete than ever.  Just compare the box score for the Tigers-Indians game from September 10, 1915:

Tigers Indians Box 19150910

To that of the Tigers-Indians game of exactly 100 years later to the day:

2015-09-11_11-07-06

Just about the only thing that’s the same is that both are not good news for Tiger fans.

Sherman’s point is that the newspaper box score is dying, which makes sense, since by most accounts the newspaper medium itself is dying. Personally, I don’t believe that newspapers will completely die off, for the same reasons books made of paper won’t die off: people just like holding things they want to read in their hands, especially now that the riddle of how to keep newspaper ink from smudging your fingers has been solved. The newspaper will transform into something that will still satisfy that need for tactility, but might well be very different from how it looked when the Boomers and Gen Xers were kids, or even from how it looks today. But the baseball box score almost certainly will not be a part of the future of newspapers, which Sherman discusses in his article.

Will I miss the newspaper box score? In a way, I guess. It had been an essential part of my own long history of reading newspapers, but I haven’t relied on newspapers for box scores since years started with 19. It’s been so much easier just to buzz on over the Baseball-Reference, where I can see the box score for any game in every teams’ entire histories like *snap*, or my favorite teams‘ websites. Once you have that convenience available to you, it’s hard to picture ever having to rely on the old way ever again.

But that’s just me.  How do you feel about the “death of baseball box scores in the newspapers”?

Before you comment on that, check out Sherman’s article here:

The slow death of baseball box scores in newspapers

Broadcast Passion Comes Across Loud and Clear for Trenton Thunder Announcers

Ever wonder what it is like to be a broadcaster for a lower level minor league team? That’s what this story from Paul Franklin for the Times of Trenton seeks to shine a light on as he speaks to the two young fellows who do the games on radio for the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate for the New York Yankees.

You might think that a broadcaster of a Double-A team might actually be able to make a living to some degree of comfort. That might be true of some broadcasters of some Double-A teams, but not for the Thunder’s radio team of Adam Giardino and Jon Mozes.  They are young men in their twenties using this gig as a way-station along the roads of their respective careers, which comes through clearly in the piece, who is reproduced below.  Alternately, you can read the piece on the original website at nj.com here.


 

 

Broadcast passion comes across loud and clear | Trenton Thunder

Paul Franklin | For The Times of TrentonBy Paul Franklin | For The Times of Trenton

Thunder Thunder broadcast announcers Jon Moses (left) and Adam Giardino call a game held on Aug. 23 against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. (h/t: Photo by Michael Mancuso | For NJ.com )
Thunder Thunder broadcast announcers Jon Mozes (left) and Adam Giardino call a game held on Aug. 23 against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. (h/t: Photo by Michael Mancuso | For NJ.com )

TRENTON – Days off are rare, if at all. From early April to early September, Adam Giardino and Jon Mozes are in the broadcast booth doing Trenton Thunder baseball games.

Some baseball fans probably feel they are off every day in a job like that.

Of course, there have been bus rides that would challenge such opinions; like when Giardino worked for the Lakewood BlueClaws and had a 12.5-hour trip to Kannapolis, N.C. Or for Mozes, when a trip from Winnipeg that began at 2 a.m. turned into a 16-hour ride when the bus broke down. An independent baseball team was heading to Gary, Ind., and wound up getting caught in Chicago’s evening rush hour.

Mozes, from Philadelphia, played the game into college and loved listening to Harry Kalas doing Phillies games on radio. Giardino’s parents painted a mural of the Green Monster in his bedroom, and even today when he returns home in the off-season he sleeps in a room painted like Fenway Park. Tupperware protects thousands of baseball cards in the basement.

Each was introduced to announcing as a direct result of their passion for sports; appropriately enough by teachers who happened to be good listeners.

“My high school teacher who was the girls’ basketball coach realized my passion for sports and told me I should take videos and do commentary of their games and submit it to the town-run TV station.”

He did, and that suggestion would pay dividends when Giardino enrolled at the University of Connecticut in 2007. Immediately contacting the student station on campus, WHUS, 91.3 FM, within a week he was doing men’s soccer.

 

Majoring in Journalism and Communications, he would eventually cover the men’s basketball team making a national championship run, as well as calling the Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma with a crowd of 60,000 keeping him fired up.

Mozes had a similar introduction to sports media when he was a freshman at the University of New Haven. The dorm Residence Assistant was also campus radio director, and after hearing Mozes talking sports, asked if he would be interested in doing color for the women’s basketball team: WNHU, 88.7 FM.

“I wasn’t sure of my career,” said Mozes, who majored in Sports Management. “By the time sophomore year was over it was pretty clear.”

Internships would follow throughout college; Mozes had stints with ESPN Radio (Hartford affiliate) and the 76ers. Giardino landed a summer job in Pawtucket; Boston’s Triple-A affiliate just outside of Providence.

Being in the right place at the right time can be as crucial as in any profession, and so it was when two weeks before Giardino graduated the media relations intern with the PawSox left. With no job prospects, the kid’s first paying job would be just 30 minutes from where he grew up.

Meanwhile, Mozes, a year behind Giardino, landed his first gig in Abilene, Texas, as an assistant broadcaster. Not all the games were played, however, as the league ran out of money.

“Was making $400 a month,” Mozes said with a smile.

Returning home, he dabbled in part-time opportunities; some Rider University women’s basketball, Montgomery (Pa.) County high school football and Gwynedd Mercy University men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Giardino would go from Pawtucket to Lakewood, and in 2012 flew to Nashville to work the room at Baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Making connections there would land Giardino the Thunder job in 2013, where he is now Broadcast/Media Relations Manager.

Mozes followed Giardino’s path to the Winter Meetings a year later in Orlando, and that in part led to him being hired part-time last year by the Thunder. When the No. 2 guy left in mid-season, Mozes stepped into the assistant’s position.

Giardino goes solo on road games, but the 71 home games are split over the air; one doing play-by-play and the other color.

Ideal job?

“Harry Kalas,” Mozes said, meaning Phillies games on TV or radio.

Mercer County resident Tom McCarthy used to do Thunder radio and is now the TV play-by-play guy for the Phillies. The radio booth at ARM & HAMMER Park is named in McCarthy’s honor.

Giardino wants to return to his roots, doing radio at a Division I program for football and men’s basketball.

“I romanticize more with a job where you get to be excited when a school does well and accomplishes things. At ESPN you get to be excited about the game, but you don’t necessarily care who wins. They want the exciting outcome; the Hail Mary pass to always be caught, the half-court shot to always go in. I’d rather be tied to and emotionally invested in whatever school.”

Mozes agreed about coving a team as opposed to having a producer talk in your ear.

So by the nature of the business, they will continue to grab opportunities season by season, hoping eventually to grab the proverbial brass ring.

Mozes, one of three boys in the family (including a twin), will continue at Rider and Gwynedd, and do some public address announcing for the University of Pennsylvania; staying close to home for now. Giardino recently landed the play-by-play job for Dartmouth football, and in winter will handle color for Holy Cross men’s basketball in Worcester, Mass.; again close to home.

Giardino actually had a visit from his older brother, Sean, last week, a talented musician who stopped by to entertain fans by playing the organ at ARM & HAMMER Park for two nights during games. His full-time job is an engineer for the Long Island Rail Road.

“We have two jokes in the family,” Giardino. “One, my brother is the only guy who drives a train with a Master’s in Music Education. The second is that if you took a snapshot in our house 20 years ago, I’d be sitting there with my baseball cards and he’d be playing with his trains. Twenty years later it’s the exact, same, thing.”

 

On the Road with Minor League Broadcaster Doug Greenwald

Back in July we ran an article reprint about SABR member Doug Greenwald, a SABR member who is the radio voice of the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.  Doug is also the son of long-time Giants broadcaster and Media Committee member Hank Greenwald. That article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and was written by John Shea.

Now comes to us an original article written by Gary Herron, another SABR member who specializes in New Mexico baseball history.  Gary corraled Greenwald as he was passing through Albuquerque with the Grizzles, who’d come to take on the local Isotopes in a Pacific League tilt. Gary submitted the article to Jacob Pomrenke, who then passed the article along to us for publication here on SABRmedia.org, and we are very pleased to do so here.


 

On the road with minor-league broadcaster Doug Greenwald
By Gary Herron

When the subject of father-and-son baseball broadcasters comes up, it’s easy to rattle off the Bucks (Jack and Joe), the Brennamans (Marty and Tom) and the Carays (Harry, Skip, and Chip.)

How about the Greenwalds?

Hank, the patriarch and a SABR member for more than 35 years, got some run in Curt Smith’s The Storytellers, first about seeing his batboy/son Doug picking up a bat dropped by the San Francisco Giants’ Brett Butler in 1989 and fearing pitcher Rick Aguilera was about to pitch to him, and later when he laments the drudgery of a pre-game show — and how a “lady of the evening” said she’d do anything for $100, and it was suggested she do the pre-game show for a week.

Weaned on the voice of Tigers broadcaster Harry Heilmann while growing up in the Detroit suburbs, Hank got his start on the air in 1957 while attending Syracuse University and describing the football exploits of Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.

After college, Hank called games for the Hawaii Islanders franchise of the Pacific Coast League, plus basketball games for the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors.

In 1979, KNBR hired him to work San Francisco Giants games, but after some problems with management at the radio station, he went to the other coast to do New York Yankees games for two seasons. He returned to San Francisco to do Giants games in 1989, working there until retiring in 1996.

All told, Hank broadcasted ballgames for 20 years. Yet despite his love for the game, son Doug says his father tried to discourage him from the wandering life of a baseball broadcaster.

The biggest difference between the two: Hank, now 80, didn’t care to get out and see the sights and, despite living in San Francisco, he’s never visited Alcatraz — “a place for bad guys,” is how he views it, Doug says.

Doug, 40 years old and the voice of the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League — a Giants farm team for 17 years until the big shuffle that preceded the 2015 season — can’t wait for an off-day to see the sights.

His Facebook friends are privy to his day trips before heading to the ballpark — and invariably there will be at least one post office among the photos, displaying its ZIP code. Ever heard of Sandia Park, Tijeras or Cerrillos in New Mexico? Greenwald recently ventured there, taking photos of post offices at each village, and visiting what is said to be the first ballpark west of the Mississippi to get lights. That’s found in Madrid, New Mexico, which, to Greenwald’s chagrin, didn’t have a post office. (Some scenes in the film Wild Hogs were filmed in Madrid.)

Doug Greenwald outside of the old ballpark in Madrid, NM, said to have been the first park west of the Mississippi to feature lights for night games. Photo: Gary Herron
Doug Greenwald outside of the old ballpark in Madrid, NM, said to have been the first park west of the Mississippi to feature lights for night games. Photo: Gary Herron

Doug has a fascination for post offices, and has a collection of at least 3,500 photos of different POs. And, yes, he has been told he should write a book: “Going Postal” has been a frequent suggestion for the title.

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1974, where his parents had ventured hoping Hank could find a job, Doug was schooled in the Bay Area and later educated at Boston University.

It wasn’t hard to admire his father’s work, as Doug loved hanging out at ballparks.

“He did the Golden State Warriors for eight years, him and Bill King,” Doug explained. “Bill King was the man — and still is amongst all Bay Area broadcasters. Bill did the A’s, the Warriors, the Raiders. Bill was like an uncle to me.

“Baseball was always (my dad’s) first love,” he said. “The Warriors were his first major sport, on the West Coast.”

Candlestick Park, where the Giants played before AT&T Park was built, was remembered as “cold.”

“It was really where I grew up. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest ballpark in the world; even the ‘cookie-cutter’ ballparks of the 1980s were prettier,” Doug said. “I was pretty much, once school was out, at every Giants home game. … There were times when the Giants were on the road for an extended period of time and my parents would ship me off to summer camp. But I’m not into the wilderness, I’m into the ballparks.”

Candlestick Park “wasn’t the prettiest place in the world, the neighborhood wasn’t great, the weather was awful for baseball. There’s no dispute about that,” he said. “It is really where I cut my teeth.”

Being the son of a broadcaster had its perks, like being able to take a bunch of friends to Giants games, chatting with ballplayers, even spending time in the opposing team’s broadcast booth: “Vin Scully, the Brennamans, Jerry Coleman, Bob Murphy, Joe and Jack Buck. You can go down the list — I know I’m leaving out tons of guys.”

Doug decided when he was in high school that maybe that, too, would be the life for him.

“Sure, ideally, I’d like to be out playing every day,” he said. “But I’d only known what my dad had done for a living since I was five years old.”

In high school, Doug did morning announcements. At BU, where Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane once played, “They didn’t have much of a baseball program; in fact, they did away with baseball a few years after I graduated.” The Terriers were better known for their hockey team.

“The site of where BU is, the football field, is the same site where Braves Field was,” he said. “It’s a really good school for journalism, there’s no doubt about it.”

Being able to see Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics games enhanced the enjoyment of matriculating in Massachusetts.

Doug Greenwald earned his degree in broadcast journalism in 1996 and, he quipped, he minored “in sleeping.”

Next, he said, came “sending tapes everywhere and being willing to move.”

The first opportunity came in Bend, Oregon. As often happens in the real world, being in the right place at the right time is the key. Greenwald learned a friend of his had just left the broadcasting job in Bend; Greenwald made a few calls and had his first job.

“You take a short-season job to start, and then, from there, try to find a full-season job,” he said. “From there, Hawaii Winter League, 1996 and ’97. … Burlington, Iowa; Lafayette, Louisiana; Stockton, California … Shreveport, Louisiana, for two years.

“I found myself back in the Cal League in Modesto after 2001. It was ideally where I wanted to be, after being in the Texas League, but lack of openings or just lack of getting a job here or there,” he said. “I ended up in Fresno in 2003 and I’ve been there since.”

Greenwald has had a “handful of regular-season games with the Giants” and some spring training games broadcast exclusively on the Internet.

“You pretty much name the level, I’ve been there,” he said.

Greenwald also did Centenary University basketball games in Shreveport for about 10 seasons, until they dropped from Division I to Division III.

But, like his old man Hank, baseball is Doug’s first love, and his travels sometimes pop up, he said, in his play-by-play work, once describing a home run socked by Tommy Murphy of the Albuquerque Isotopes as possibly coming down in Santa Fe.

“I guess what makes me different is I like to share my experiences,” he said. “I’ll talk about that on the air. Most of the broadcasters in our league will joke with me: ‘Doug, what post offices did you see today?’

“I like to take advantage of, you know, we get to travel for a living on the company dime,” he said. “Yes, it’s a job; first and foremost, we’re at the ballpark three hours at a time — I’m not showing up (at the ballpark) a half-hour before a game, let me make that clear.

“But I take the early morning, let’s go out and see these places, let’s share what I’m doing today with the listeners. The listeners like you to paint a picture, not just of the ballpark, but what else is in the area?’ What other neat towns are in the area? There might be a fan out there, ‘Hmm, I’m going out to Albuquerque in two weeks. I didn’t know about this ballpark in Madrid. I didn’t know Santa Fe is unique because it’s more like an art gallery than an actual state capital.’

“What also might make me different is I like to get to know the players: Players aren’t [just] batting .267 with 12 homers and 70 RBIs; [rather,] players came from a college and learned from a certain coach. Players were raised by an insurance man and a baker, who took them to Little League. … If a player’s born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and goes to high school in Hollywood, I’ll ask what’s the connection?

“I don’t know if there’s many broadcasters that dig into that,” Doug said. “I don’t think that’s too personal. … Anybody can read from a media guide.”

And anybody can visit that 95-year-old ballpark in Madrid, but only one has done it.

“They know me as Hank’s kid,” he said, proud of the Greenwald lineage and someday hoping to be at the mic full-time for an MLB team.

Maybe someday, these adventures — Hank Greenwald refers to his son as the “modern-day Charles Kuralt” — could pay off in another occupation.

“If I had to choose another path, I would have gone into furthering my education and becoming a U.S. history professor,” he said. “I’m speaking as the world’s worst student, but that was one subject that I did like. … And it ties into baseball, because baseball goes back to the Civil War and the small mining towns (like Madrid) and the development of the New York City area in the 1850s … Cooperstown is just up the block.

“My appreciation of baseball history ties into U.S. history,” he said, not ruling out a job as a tour guide. “As a baseball broadcaster, you’re informing; that way you’re informing and teaching.”

For now, though, it’s time to “Play ball.”

Doug Greenwald’s advice for aspiring broadcasters:

  • “Don’t get caught up with, ‘He’s in Triple-A, he’s the next guy going up,’” when it comes to broadcasting. Knowing as much as he’d like to be doing Giants games, there’s no guarantee.
  • “You don’t get rich in minor-league baseball.”
  • “Be prepared; at some levels, the hours can be very time-consuming.” In Burlington, he said, he hadn’t read the contract language — “They looked at me more like the janitor and the grounds-crew person and the handyman more than they cared about the broadcast being done. … I’ve learned to ask the proper questions.”

New Biography: 1966 Atlanta Braves Broadcasters

A new biography about the Atlanta Braves broadcasters of their maiden season of 1966 was written by Bob Barrier for the SABR Biography Project, and has also been published here on the SABRmedia.org website:

1966 ATLANTA BRAVES BROADCASTERS

If you have written a biography about a figure in baseball media, whether on the broadcast or print side, please consider allowing us to add it to our site.

 

Read More about Long-time Astros Broadcaster Gene Elston, 2006 Ford C. Frick Award Winner, Who Passed Away on Saturday

The Houston Astros announced this past Saturday that Larry Elston, who called Houston Astros games from the team’s inaugural season of 1962 through 1986, has passed away at the age of 93.

Elston was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award, aka became a Hall of Famer, in 2006 for “major contributions to baseball”, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a broadcaster.  At the time he was only the thirtieth to be so honored in the entire 90+ year history of baseball broadcasting.

The Houston Astros released the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Gene Elston. Gene helped introduce baseball to Houston as a part of the original broadcast team of the Colt .45s when the franchise was born in 1962. For 25 seasons, he served as the lead voice of the Colt .45s and Astros and called many of the great moments in franchise history. The memories he helped create are cherished fondly by the generations of Astros fans that he touched. On behalf of the entire Astros organization, I send my deepest condolences to Gene’s family members and to his many friends and fans.”

You can read more about Elston on the Astros website, or you can choose from among the many current stories that have been published recently about Gene Elston by clicking on this link:

Google News: Gene Elston

We offer our fullest condolences to the family of Mr. Elston and to the entire Houston Astros organization.