Category Archives: Local

Mets Radio Producer Chris Majkowski, Backbone of the Broadcast, Loves his Job

Regular readers may remember that the “Working The Game” was a series of interview articles with working members of the media that we have published during this past year. (And for those of you who don’t remember, “Working The Game” was a series of interview articles with working members of the media that we have published during this past year.)

On the electronic media side, those articles typically featured only broadcasters, but as we all know, there is an entire team of dedicated professionals whose jobs are just as important in putting together a baseball broadcast as the jobs of those we hear on the microphones. Producer Chris Majkowski is one of those people. Already fairly well known among loyal listeners of Mets radio broadcasts, notably for his Twitter feed @MetsBooth, Majkowski has been working as a producer on Mets radio broadcasts for a couple of decades now.

The article below, which was first published on SB Nation’s Amazin’ Avenue blog, provides a rare glimpse into the kinds of things producers have to do not only to ensure that the radio broadcast we listen to goes off without a hitch, but also to maintain the thinly-veiled illusion that the broadcasters themselves are merely just showing up and speaking off the cuff when relaying the details of the unfolding game to us. Again, we all understand that’s not how it really works, but a successful execution of that illusion is the sign of a good broadcast. After all, just as with umpires, the best baseball radio broadcast producers do their job so seamlessly that we do not realize they are there, even though we really know they are.


Mets radio producer Chris Majkowski, backbone of the broadcast, loves his job

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Majkowski-1Mets fans haven’t always had a great team to root for, but they have been treated to outstanding broadcasts of the team’s games on the radio and television for decades. The current incarnations of those booths are beloved: Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling in the SNY booth for TV, and Howie Rose and Josh Lewin in the WOR booth for radio.

Chris Majkowski, the producer and engineer who operates behind the scenes in the radio booth, isn’t exactly an unknown among die-hard Mets fans. He hasn’t taken a day off in over twenty years, a streak that has had Howie Rose calling him “‘The Immortal’ Chris Majkowski” on broadcasts for years. And his Twitter feed, @MetsBooth, is popular.

Majkowski doesn’t really think of what he does as work. He considers his seat the best one in the house, or at least the next-best to Rose’s seat. He clearly appreciates that he gets to do what he does for a living and thoroughly enjoys it.

A lifelong Mets fan, Majkowski who grew up in Albertson, New York, a town in Nassau County, and graduated from Fordham University in The Bronx, where he got the radio bug while working at WFUV, the school’s well-regarded radio station. He remembers the first game he attended as a child, sitting in the back rows of the field boxes at Shea Stadium for a double-header between the Mets and Reds on a sweltering day. But it was tough to see much of anything from those seats, and they only stayed for the first game.

His first vivid memories of sports came in 1973: the Mets’ playoff push late in the regular season, Rusty Staub dislocating his shoulder against the A’s in the World Series, and literally running home from school to catch playoff games—which were all played during the day—on the black-and-white television in the basement at home.

Majkowski got his start in the radio business about a year after he graduated college when Bob Jewell, who was the chief engineer at WFUV, told him he knew a couple of guys that were looking for someone who could handle radio equipment and had an understanding of sports, someone who could keep a scorecard and know when timeouts were coming up to assist the broadcasters.

“Oh, well that sounds like something that would be up my alley,” Majkowski thought.

So he started with those guys: Joel Blumberg and Brian Ferguson. Some of the first games he worked were Hofstra football and Islanders hockey. And he worked his first baseball games at Shea for visiting broadcasting legends Harry Caray of the Cubs and Harry Kalas of the Phillies.

“Harry Caray was funny because I had to go and find him to record the manager’s show. Harry didn’t do anything when he recorded the manager’s shows, except he took a hold of the microphone. You had to go with a tape deck at the time, hand Harry the microphone, tell him, ‘okay, we’re recording,’ hit a stop watch, and signal,” he says as he holds up one finger at a time, “one minute, two minutes—because you’re supposed to do four minutes—three minutes, four minutes, and then he knew we had to wrap it up.”

Majkowski-2

The technology in the booth at the time wasn’t nearly as advanced or useful as what’s available today. Majkowski filled out lineup cards for Murphy with home run and RBI totals. He laughs a bit and says, “We didn’t get into the on-base and the slugging and everything else that we pull in today.”

Out-of-town scores, which can be tracked easily in real time in a number of ways now, were a bit of a production.

He did some work at Madison Square Garden, too, and the Mets’ gig opened up in 1993. He went to work with Bob Murphy, the Mets’ own legendary broadcaster, and Gary Cohen in the radio booth.

“We used to have this sports ticker and this roll of paper that would keep spitting out. And at that time, it made a bit of a racket, but if you were doing it long enough—it was a dot-matrix printer,” he says as he mimics the sound of it. “If you did it long enough and you were sitting next to this thing for hours upon end like I was, a home run had a certain rhythm to it. You know somebody hit a home run, not even by looking at it, just by hearing how that thing was going—’oh, that’s a home run, I better check that out.’”

Majkowski-3

A couple of decades later, he might not feel like he’s at work, but Majkowski says the longest days are the first days of a road series or a home stand. He sets up the booth on those days—running cables and checking mics—and is naturally fond of long home stands.

There isn’t quite as much work to do before the following games of a series, but there are still things that need to be done. There’s research for ‘This Date in Mets History’ and the compilation of clips from MLB.com and the piecing together of the pre- and post-game shows.

My conversation with ‘Maj’ took place during the next-to-last game of the Mets’ regular season. It’s late in the game, and Max Scherzer is in the midst of pitching a no-hitter against the playoff-bound Mets. Jerry Seinfeld has just departed the booth after an impromptu guest appearance on radio following his appearance in the SNY booth.

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The game is zipping along, but Majkowksi, Rose, and Wayne Randazzo, who handles the pre- and post-game shows but is filling in for Rose’s regular partner, Josh Lewin, as co-host, have to make up for lost time. The regular mix of promotions went out the window while Seinfeld was visiting, but they all still have to be worked into the broadcast.

So Majkowski rapidly exchanges sheets of paper with both Rose and Randazzo, making it all look seamless as he tends to all of his other regular duties. His left hand operates the sound board, which has microphones all over the place, while his right mostly works on his laptop. To the right of the laptop, there’s a small, portable printer, which spits out the parts of the broadcast that Majkowski writes and passes up to the broadcasters.

To the left of the laptop, there’s a stopwatch, which he still uses to time commercial breaks, even though he has a finely-tuned mental clock for such things. And there’s a small recording device, too, for saving things on the fly and piecing them back together later.

Majkowski is essentially the drummer of the band that is the Mets’ radio broadcast. Constantly doing multiple things at once, his desk—on which his rig fits perfectly—is slightly elevated and a sits a couple of feet behind the broadcast’s front-men. He’s the backbone of the production, keeping everything in order and working with the broadcasters in front of him to maximize everyone’s collective talent.

And like any good drummer, Majkowski has a great sense of humor. He has, on at least a couple of occasions, worked pranks into the scripts he writes. And at least one of those jokes once made it on the air a couple of years ago, even if that wasn’t necessarily the intention.

“Let’s just say we laugh a lot,” says Howie Rose. “He keeps the place loose.”

Hear Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, a Modern Day Re-Creator, Call a Game

A couple weeks ago, we published an article discussing the aesthetics and significance of re-created baseball broadcasting, written for a journal of baseball essays by Committee member Bob Barrier.  It received a lot of attention, including from a gentleman named Jesse Goldberg-Strassler who, among other things, broadcasts games for the Lansing Lugnuts of the Class A Midwest League.

Goldberg-Strassler does something that no other broadcaster we know of: every season, he re-creates one game out of the 140-game Lugnuts season, as an homage to the great baseball broadcasters of yore who had to deliver re-created broadcasts on a routine basis. Goldberg-Strassler doesn’t have to do this. It is something he chooses to do, and his excellent article below explains why he does and part of how he does it.

Also included in the article is a link to his re-created game from the 2015 season. I highly recommend you read his article, but if you just can’t wait, the link to his broadcast is in green, toward the bottom of his piece.


 

Jesse Goldberg-Strassler at work in various settings, including re-creating a game, top center. (jessegoldbergstrassler.com)
Jesse Goldberg-Strassler at work in various settings, including his annual re-creation of a game, top center. (jessegoldbergstrassler.com)

Baseball is an ideal medium for a radio broadcast, providing the freedom and space for story, analysis, and visual description through unhurried words. You can relax in your living room, take a loose hold of your steering wheel, or go about the duties of an outdoor chore while the game fills the background and instructs your mind’s eye.

This is the challenge – and the delight – of the game re-creation broadcast: putting the broadcaster in an equally blind situation, cut off from the field, with only imagination and the barest communicated play-by-play to guide description forward.

It is understandable why broadcasters were forced into game re-creation broadcasts. Even today, broadcasting with a secure connection from a remote diamond is no sure thing, and lodging and transportation cost money. The complications caused by sending a broadcaster on the road with his employer club could well cause more trouble than it was worth, even for major league teams, in the 1930s-1950s.

Over a half-century later, once a year, I re-create a live Minor League baseball game on the FM radio airwaves in Lansing, Michigan. My first re-creation broadcast occurred my rookie season, mandated by my team president. I had no choice in the matter. My second came from pure desperation and resulted in one of the most memorable games I’ve never seen.  Since then, I have spent the last seven seasons putting together an annual August re-creation broadcast in tribute to those great broadcasters and re-creators of yore.

*

In the independent Can-Am League in 2005, future Major Leaguer Chris Colabello was a rookie on the expansion Worcester Tornadoes. My team was the Brockton (MA) Rox, a team that churned out attention-getting promotions as much as any other Goldklang Group club, if not more.

In a past life, Rox team president Jim Lucas had formed a noted team with blind color commentator Don Wardlow; the visual description of a baseball broadcast circulated from the heart of their broadcasts. (One of their other favorite elements was the opening of a pack of baseball cards live on the air, conversing about each card that they revealed. They were uniquely entertaining.) On this night, Lucas benched lead broadcaster Dave Raymond and sent Brockton’s other two broadcasters, Matt Meola and myself, in to the radio studio. There one of us listened to the game’s goings-on and wrote notes to the other to re-create, banging mini-bats together for the crack of the bat, slapping a ball into the glove for every pitch taken (or swing and a miss), trying desperately to capture the true pace of the national pastime. As I remember it, I had a devil of a time, Matt excelled, and Dave, on his way to a Major League job the following season, was proud of us both.

Three years later, a terrible thunderstorm swept through Chicagoland. (My team was the Frontier League’s Windy City ThunderBolts, and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” roared out before each home game. Perhaps we were courting trouble, or perhaps it was just part of the region’s expectations.) The opponent in the other clubhouse was a road squad, the Midwest Sliders; they did not have a radio broadcaster on their staff. With the Sliders as the opponent, Windy City had the responsibility of broadcasting for both teams. But the storm had knocked out all internet in the press box. No broadcast connection, no broadcast. We were stymied.

A Plan B emerged. There was still working internet in the team’s front office, located down the third base concourse in a separate building. If a broadcast was to be held, that would have to be its site, away from a vantage point to the field. Catalyzed by a memory of my 2005 re-creation (while concurrently trying to forget how difficult and exhausting it had been), I swept into the souvenir shop and grabbed a baseball and a pair of team mini-bats. A semblance of a broadcast booth was set up at a desk in the main office, not ten feet away from the box office windows and the reception area. For the first three innings, a team intern messaged the game’s details from a vantage point just outside the office, and I slapped a ball into a glove and cracked mini-bats together, delivering vivid depictions to the cubicle wall in front of me. (My amused ‘Bolts co-workers paraded past, mimicking peanut vendors and outraged fans.) We switched for the middle three innings, placing broadcast assistant Nick Kovatch at the controls of the mini-bats and the listeners’ imaginations, and then switched again for the final three. Of all things to occur: The ThunderBolts defeated the Sliders, 13-0, and 22-year-old left-hander Isaac Hess posted the first no-hitter in franchise history. If nothing else, it sure sounded special.

That 2008 re-creation, caused not by a promotional stunt but by our obligation to broadcast the game, has left a lasting impression. The participating players and their fans are the primary concern, and the broadcaster is the liaison.

With each subsequent re-creation, from 2009 through this past season, the broadcast gets slightly more polished and realistic. I use canned crowd noise, recorded during a routine Sunday tilt from weeks earlier, and spice in a canned roar or crescendo of boos if I am feeling courageous. The crack has shifted from mini-bats to wooden spoons to broken game-used bats, though nothing sounds quite right yet. (That slap of a ball into the glove remains as perfect as ever.) There is no subterfuge. At the start of each half-inning, it is made clear to the listening public that this is an historic Re-Creation Broadcast, a tribute to an important part of baseball’s heritage.

During each re-creation, I inch closer, too, to understanding the true mechanics of an ideal broadcast. If fans listening from their couch, car, and patio can’t see the game, the picture needs to be painted for them. What separates one pitcher’s windup from another? What is the weather and how will it affect play? What are the idiosyncrasies of the ballpark? What are the batter’s strengths and what plan does he bring to home plate?

(The audio to the 2015 game re-creation)

The day after my game re-creation broadcast, returning to the broadcast booth, an open window, and a direct view of play, I absorb and deliver everything so much clearer: the smell of the barbecue, the whip of the bat, the speed of the shortstop, the admiration in the crowd. The game unfolds as the sun rolls away.

There is a story tied to Ronald Reagan in which the ticker went down and a re-creating Reagan frantically bought time: in one telling, reeling off a string of foul balls; in another telling, bringing a dog onto the field to frolic a delay the proceedings.  In either case, we can imagine the listener sitting at home and wholeheartedly buying it. Why? Perhaps it is unfettered trust; the right play-by-play person earns as much unquestioned good faith as an old friend. Or perhaps it is that wonderful knowledge that this is baseball, and most anything at all can happen during a ball game.

No matter how removed we are from the field, we can still see it clear as day.

*

Jesse Goldberg-Strassler

Radio Broadcaster

Lansing Lugnuts

Hear the 1957 Braves Pennant-Clinching Inning Featuring a Walkoff Home Run by …

Hank Aaron!

This clip was sent in by reader Karl Schindl, a regular reader who has several old time baseball radio clips, and shared this one as an example.  The quality is decent, with play by play announcer Earl Gillespie clearly heard with good timbre, although there is an audible hum in the background on the recording.

It’s the bottom of the 11th inning, with the Braves hosting the Cardinals at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.  Rookie Billy Muffett is on the mound working his third frame for the Birdos, and Red Schoendiest, serving the first full year of his exile from St. Louis, opened with a flyout to center.  Johnny Logan slapped a single to center field, with the big guns coming up.  Eventual Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, who’d already knocked home a run with a double to tie the game in the seventh, failed in the clutch this time around, just getting under a pitch to hit a high flyout, again to center. Aaron, already 2-for-3 with two walks and a run scored, knocked the first pitch he saw from Muffett out of the park to secure the win, and the pennant, for the Bravos.

The box score for the win is here:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MLN/MLN195709230.shtml

And the story from the next morning’s Milwaukee Journal is below.

Coincidentally, this pennant-clincher occurred on the same day the Little Rock Nine were escorted into Central High School to finally integrate schools in the state of Arkansas.

Thanks for sending this along, Karl!

MKE Journal 1957 Clinch

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.”

 

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.”

 

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.

 

Vin Scully Will Extend His Unbreakable Record for One More Season

"I know, right? Can you believe I'm coming back for another season?!" (h/t Deadspin)
“I know, right? Can you believe I’m coming back for another season?!” (h/t Deadspin)

 

One of the things baseball fans like to debate is which records are unbreakable.

There are certain records that fall into this category because the game is completely different and will never go back to the way it would have to be for the record to be broken.  A lot of pitcher records fall into this category: Cy Young’s 511 career wins is an obvious one, as are Old Hoss Radbourn’s 59-win season in 1884 and Matt Kilroy’s 589⅓ innings in 1887.  Those can never be broken because the game is just not played that way anymore.

Then there are the records that are virtually unbreakable: technically possible, even with the game played as it is today, but so unlikely as to not even warrant serious consideration.  Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak of 2,632 (and, to the end, his consecutive innings streak of 8,264); Chief Wilson’s 36 triples in a season for the 1912 Pirates; Hank Aaron’s 25 All-Star games; even Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is arguably in this territory.

But one record almost never gets mentioned, even though nearly everyone would agree that it is probably impossible to break: Vin Scully’s 66 years of broadcasting games on a regular basis for a major league baseball team . And now comes the word that Vin will be extending that record by returning in 2016 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 67th and final season which, at that level, makes it exponentially more likely that his record will indeed never be broken.

You might be thinking at first, hey, good call on mentioning Scully’s streak as a baseball record that’s unbreakable. (I confess that I myself had never considered it before hearing the announcement this morning.) But then you might be thinking, wait, this one will certainly be broken someday, won’t it? After all, each generation lives longer than any generation before it.  People living into their nineties and even past 100 is becoming way more common, and soon might even come to be commonplace.  So we can’t really call a record of 67 seasons in the broadcast booth totally unbreakable, can we?

Technically, you’d be right to think so, and maybe you’d even be proven right some day. But there are also a few mitigating circumstances to consider.  For one, Vin Scully came into the booth as one of the youngest broadcasters ever to call a major league game, during the 1950 season at the age of 22.  By contrast, the youngest baseball broadcaster today, Aaron Goldsmith of the Seattle Mariners radio network, started his major league broadcasting career just shy of his 30th birthday. The likelihood of any major league team hiring a kid in his or her early 20s to be a regular on their broadcasts is very slim.

For another thing, in order for someone to call 67 straight seasons of baseball as a regular for a major league team, they would almost certainly have to do so into their 90s, living to which becomes increasingly less likely as you pass through your eighties.  When you as an American male turn 80, for instance, your chance of dying that same year is 1 in 16 (contrasted with 1 in 430 at age 40 and 1 in 88 at age 60).  That drops to 1 in 8 by Vin’s age of 87, and 1 in 6 by age 89. Put another way, 87% of all American males born in a given year will have died before their 90th birthday. And even though the odds that an American female will live into her nineties is much greater at about 24%, it will be a long time before females are hired as regular major league team broadcasters at a rate that makes it just as likely that a woman will call games into her nineties as it is for a man to do so.  So even with today’s extended mortality levels and tomorrow’s egalitarianism in broadcaster hiring, that is still a long, long shot.

Lastly, the chances that someone will remain with a major league team, any major league team, for 67 seasons without getting fired, or without quitting for another job or to go to a network, makes the odds longer still that this record will ever be broken.

Roll that all around in your head, and once you have, you will come to a fresh, new appreciation of the magnitude of the record that Vin Scully sets every time  he steps back into the broadcast booth to begin another season, which he will do yet again next spring.

That is beyond amazing, and we are beyond blessed for living in these times so we can witness it.

Congratulations to you for your long and successful career, Vin Scully, and thank you for returning to the booth to entertain us for another year. And special thanks to your lovely wife, Sandi, for allowing you to do so.

(This article has been edited, with a revised headline, from the original to include reference to 2016 as Scully’s final season.)

Tribute and Outrage: Two Sides of the Coin after Red Sox Can Don Orsillo

Shortly after it was announced that the Red Sox are going to dump Don Orsillo, their long-time play-by-play voice, from their telecasts on NESN, the tributes started coming in, and the outrage within Red Sox nation started boiling over.

Boston.com, the Internet arm of the venerable Globe newspaper, provided a nice historical overview of top Bosox broadcasters that fans throughout New England have bonded with, resurrecting such names as Jim Britt, Tom Hussey, Curt Gowdy, Ned Martin and some of the younger whippersnappers, which you can read here:

Play-by-play announcers enjoy special place in Red Sox Nation

Jerry Thornton, a sometimes stand-up comedian who appears regularly on the The Dale & Holley Show on WEEI-FM, posted a nice retrospective of Orsillo’s funniest moments on his blog on the station’s website, featuring his five favorites.  This one is my personal favorite, since it makes good fun of Jerry Remy’s Masshole accent:

You can read his post and see the other clips here:

TRIBUTE TO DON ORSILLO’S FUNNIEST NESN MOMENTS

The other side of the coin from tribute is outrage, and there is no shortage of that here, either.  The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy casts this incident as just another of a series of botched moves in a lost season that have culminated in the firing of Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington as well:

With Don Orsillo news, Red Sox drop the ball again

Alex Reimer over at Boston Magazine believes that this firing was not just a dumb move by a clueless organization.  He maintains that this change is a calculated move that “could signal a dark, propaganda-filled turn for Red Sox telecasts.”

Don Orsillo’s NESN Departure Is the Biggest Loss of the Red Sox Season

Yikes!

Meanwhile, one of the eggheads over the Bston’s NPR affiliate, WBUR (OK, E. M. Swift was a writer at SI for for three decades, but still …  😀 ) makes very clear that even while he is largely unimpressed with practically every other announcer he’s ever heard—including Vin Scully, for cry eye!—Don Orsillo is the very best he has ever heard. Ever.

Another Loss For The Sox: An Appreciation Of Ousted Play-By-Play Announcer Don Orsillo

Most of all, though, it is the fan base that have been making themselves heard in the only way they can: through social media. Head on over to Twitter:

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23DonOrsillo&src=tyah

Or to Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/search/str/%23donorsillo/keywords_top

And get a taste of what The People have to say about this incident.

All we can add to this at this point is, we wish all the best of luck to you, Don.  Here’s hoping everything comes up roses for you.

George Frazier, Long-Time Rockies TV Announcer, is Bidding Adios After the Season

It’s fairly common for ex-major leaguers to show up in the broadcast booth playing second banana as analyst to the team’s play-by-play announcer, but it’s somewhat less common for ex-players to sit in the first chair and describe the action itself. George Frazier was one of the latter.

A ten-year middle reliever with five clubs, mostly in the 80s, Frazier spent nearly two decades on various TV channels describing the activities of the Colorado Rockies baseball club to fans dotting a vast stretch of the Rocky Mountain region.

Dusty Saunders, a columnist for the Denver News, wrote a very nice piece that provides an overview of Frazier’s career in the broadcast booths at Mile High Stadium and Coors Field. With the permission of Saunders and his boss at the Post, Torin Berge (himself a ex-pro), we reproduce it in its entirety below.  Click here if you would prefer to read it on the original website.


 

Dusty Saunders: George Frazier bowing out of booth at season’s end

Frazier made his Rockies debut as a “tryout” TV analyst and color man

Former Rockies manager, Jim Tracy, left, takes a bite from a sandwich while talking with Rockies baseball television analyst, George Frazier in his office

Former Rockies manager, Jim Tracy, left, takes a bite from a sandwich while talking with Rockies baseball television analyst, George Frazier in his office hours before a game at Coors Field. (Andy Cross, Denver Post file)

George Frazier, after 19 seasons and more than 1,800 games, will say goodbye to Root Sports and Rockies fans Oct. 4, when he will be at AT&T Park in San Francisco for the Rockies’ final game of the season.

“I’ll miss all things Rockies,” said the veteran broadcaster, who lives in Tulsa, Okla. “But it’s time. After 28 years (overall) in broadcasting booths, I want a new challenge.”

Frazier, 60, made his decision a year ago, telling Root Sports management that he didn’t want to renew his contract after this season.

“I’m not going to hibernate on my front porch in Tulsa,” Frazier said. “Baseball remains a big chunk of my life. I want to stay involved, maybe by showing kids what a great game it is. I could work in the minor leagues, and Oklahoma University has new TV technology which interests me. My career door is wide open.”

Frazier made his Rockies debut as a “tryout” TV analyst and color man during the last three games of the 1997 season.

“Dave Campbell was leaving and I had a shot at replacing him,” Frazier said. “I don’t remember that first game score, only that the Rockies won at home against the Reds. I was nervous. I liked Denver and wanted to work here. There was so much fan enthusiasm for the Rockies.”

He did well enough to get offered a full-time contract for the 1998 season — joining play-by-play man Dave Armstrong, who was replaced by Drew Goodman in 2002.

Frazier’s career as a broadcaster began in 1988 after 10 years as a big-league pitcher, mostly as a middle reliever. He had a career 35-43 record with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.

Frazier’s first TV job was covering Big Eight Conference men’s and women’s basketball for Prime Sports. That led to baseball coverage at Home Sports Entertainment, the Baseball Network, ESPN, Fox Sports and with the Twins.

Last weekend, when the Rockies were playing in St. Louis, Frazier told viewers about his close relationship with Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

“Lou was my lockermate during his final years. We became good friends,” Frazier said. “I idolized the guy … still do.

“When I was talking about Lou on Root Sports, he was visiting in the Cardinals’ TV booth next door with Tim McCarver, telling viewers about our relationship.”

As Rockies fans know, Frazier loves to talk about baseball. His style has irritated some fans. He also has been accused of being too much of a “homer,” a charge made against many big-league broadcasters.

“I love to talk, particularly about baseball,” Frazier said. “I provide a lot of information about the game that often ties into my knowledge about the past. A lot of fans like that. Criticism has never bothered me. I never wanted to change my broadcasting style.”

Frazier’s favorite Rockies memories include the team’s run to the 2007 World Series and Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter vs. the Braves in Atlanta in 2010.

“But even more important to me has been watching guys like Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez play regularly,” Frazier said. “They’re in my Hall of Fame.”

Frazier, who considers himself “a country boy at heart,” will spend a lot of time hunting and fishing near his Tulsa home and cruising around in his 23-year-old Chevy truck, which has 288,000 miles on it.

His retirement from booth duties also will give him more time with his wife, Kay; their children, Matthew, Brian, Parker and Georgia; and five grand- children.

“Speaking of families,” Frazier said, “I’ll miss Drew and the Root Sports gang. It may sound like a cliché, but a broadcasting organization is family, particularly after 19 years.”

Parker is a pitcher in the Oakland Athletics’ farm system. Georgia, recently crowned Miss Oklahoma, will compete in the Miss America Pageant, which ABC will televise Sept. 13.

“I’ll be there cheering loudly for my daughter,” Frazier said. “People will probably hear me, although I won’t be in a broadcasting booth.”