Category Archives: Minors

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

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.”

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.”

Working The Game: An Interview with Jim Weber, Toledo Mud Hens Radio and TV Play-by-Play

In this installment in our “Working the Game” series of interviews, in which we seek to reveal what it is like to work as a baseball media professional on a day-to-day basis, we take our first trip to the minors leagues and have a conversation with Jim Weber, the long-time radio play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

Raised in the south end of Toledo, Ohio, Weber began his radio career in 1969, announcing high school football and basketball

Jim Weber is in his 41st season as play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.
Jim Weber is in his 41st season as play-by-play announcer for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

games. He has covered Bowling Green State University football and basketball and appeared on radio and TV talk shows throughout the International League. He has announced two Triple-A All-Star Games (1990 in Las Vegas and 2006 in Toledo), which were heard on over 100 U.S. stations and on Armed Forces radio. The longest tenured broadcaster in the IL, Weber called his 5,000th consecutive game for the Mud Hens in 2013 and the streak has continued from there. He has worked every game that Toledo broadcast since the mid-1970s.

How did you get started in broadcasting?

I actually started doing high school games back in 1969. They had a small FM station west of town. I met a kid who actually did the games and asked me if I wanted to do color. I played sports and all so I did it. I didn’t even get paid. When he quit, they asked me to take over. I did that for several seasons. In 1975, I got the Mud Hens on the air. They hadn’t been on for 10 years.

You started little and just got bigger?

We were on a small station in ’75. We went on the biggest station in the city with a partial schedule in 1978. That got it rolling. We did 80 games a year out of 140. In 1982, we finally got to put the whole schedule on (and that continues to the present).

Do you remember that first Mud Hens game?

That first game was in 1975 in Charleston, W.Va. , old Watt Powell Park. It was a dilapidated old place. The (Mud Hens) GM actually liked the job I did. He said, I thought maybe we’d get rid of you after two games but you did a good job. He left after 1977 and we’ve had Gene Cook and Joe Napoli ever since.

This is your 41st season. Did you think you’d come anywhere near 41 years?

No. When you start something like this, you think maybe it’ll last five or 10 years.

What about the streak?

I’m up to 5,231 tonight (July 2 against the Indianapolis Indians at Fifth Third Field in Toledo). I’ve been sick for a few, but I’ve made them all. I would get a cold for 48 hours and it would got into my throat and I was barely able to talk. But I was able to threw it. At home, I had help. On the road, I was by myself. I did a doubleheader in Denver at Mile High Stadium. I started talking softer and turned the mike way up.

You are also the traveling secretary for the team?

The trainers used to do it. Around 1984, we had a trainer who lost a parent when we were on the road. He had to leave right now. He called me down to his room and threw everything on the bed — the bus schedules and everything — and said you have to take over. I did it for the rest of that season. Then our GM at the time, Gene Cook, asked me if I’d be the guy who does the travel, then I can justify you being full-time. That’s how I got started.

So you know your way around the Triple-A circuit?

Now a lot of the teams in the league will call me for suggestions because I’ve done it for so long. I know how to deal with the airlines, the bus companies and the hotels. I don’t do the players’ meal money. (The Mud Hens pay for 30 people to travel. If the parent club wants to send more, they pay for it and are build by Toledo). The budget is $200,000 to $225,000 a year to cover all the travel.

What is your game-day preparation like?

It’s more than a lot of guys because we also do a pre-game show that we simulcast on radio and TV (for home games). We have a producer and a director that gives us a script. We go through our game notes for each player that’s in the lineup. You get yourself familiar with everyone who’s in the game. It doesn’t take too long once you get used to doing it. I’m usually at the park three hours before a game.

How do you find out about some of the baseball news of the day?

We get it either from our own media person or I check websites that give minor league transactions. We got on MiLB.com, which has every move as it happens. We keep up with that pretty good.

What are the basic differences in broadcasting a game on radio versus TV?

On radio, you talk more. On TV, you can rest because (the viewers) can see it. When you do a simulcast, you try to go right in the middle. You don’t want to shut up too much. We have one of the best TV operations in the league. We have more than $1 million in this operation. We have the best replay machines and graphics. I might get replays from four different angles. We’ll say, we’re going to look at this again for those of you watching and then the people listening on radio know what we’re doing. It’s a little tricky, but not that bad.

Do you have an analyst at home and then you fly solo on the road?

Almost all of us are by ourselves on the road. There are some teams who send two guys on the road.

Can you describe a Jim Weber broadcast?

It’s not a comedy show, but I like to interject comedy. Especially if it’s a boring game or we’re getting beat. I have 40 years of experience and I have all these stories. There’s always something that happens that reminds me of a story.

You were close with former Toledo pitcher Jose Lima?

It’s such a sad story. He died when he was 37 years old. We did everything together. When he was with us back in the late ’80s and early ‘90s, we had fun. He’d call me up at midnight or 1 in the morning and we’d go shoot pool somewhere. What a nice guy. When he was with Houston, he’d always call me to come out to his post-season parties and I’d make an excuse. When he died, I was so sorry. He pitched the best game I’ve ever seen from a Mud Hen. It was one out from a perfect game (in 1994). Eric Wedge (the Pawtucket catcher) walked on a 3-2 pitch that was this far outside (holding hands far apart). Wedge later told me that they should have never let him walk on that pitch. Lima was dealing and they weren’t going to touch him.

Are there “musts” in your broadcast, elements that you have to get in?

We have a sponsor for the starting pitchers and for the starting lineup. We also have a script of 20 or 30 live reads that we have to interject into the broadcast.

Do you have a signature call?

Back in the ’70s, I came up with the “Hen Pen” and some guys wrote about that. Now, everybody uses that.

As a lifelong Toledo resident and employee of the team, do you find yourself rooting for the players?

Sure, sometimes. But I have no problem with telling it how it is. I believe that you don’t sugarcoat anything.

What are some of the biggest changes in broadcasting the past 40 years?

The technology. There were no computers when I started. We did everything by hand with calculators. We’d have a ticker with scores. That game hasn’t changed, the technology has.

Do you ever think about retirement?

Retire from what? Watching baseball? Nope, I can’t retire. You just keep on going until your flop over and whatever.

Calling Minor League Games Might Mean Same Team, but Different Parent Club, the Following Season

One of the oddities of working in the minor leagues is that you might end up working for completely different parent clubs from season to season, even though you continue to work for the same employer.

That’s what happened to Doug Greenwald of the Fresno Grizzlies, Johnny Doskow of the Sacramento River Cats, and several other baseball play-by-play guys when their Pacific Coast League employers went through a daisy chain of affiliate change during the past offseason.

Greenwald, a SABR member who is also a legacy baseball broadcaster (his father is Hank Greenwald, former Giants play-by-play announcer and current SABR Baseball and the Media Committee member), finds himself shilling prospects for the Houston Astros after having called players in the San Francisco Giants system for most of the past 15 years; while Doskow now broadcasts games on behalf of a now Giants affiliate which had been the long-time top farm club of the Oakland A’s.

It’s an odd mix of continuity and landscape shift, but it’s one that is not unfamiliar to long-time minor league broadcasters, many of whom accumulate plenty of stickers on their trunks if they manage to fashion long careers, anyway.  Both Greenwald and Doskow have worked in seven and four different cities, respectively, in the two or more decades they’ve each spent in the play-by-play biz.

But as with any other long-time minor league employee, including the Memphis Redbirds’ Don Wade, whom we met in yesterday’s post, all the travel, all the grind, all the effort, all of it, point toward a single goal: making it to the major leagues. And you will see within this article that they would drop their mikes in a second—no offense, various PCL clubs—to make that final move up to the top.

The article below is reproduced in full with the permission of the author, John Shea, who penned it for his own employer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and if you prefer, you can read this same article in full there:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/sports/article/They-make-the-calls-wait-for-the-call-up-6374036.php#photo-7767068

Thanks, John!


Even in the minors, it’s a special calling

Doug Greenwald

Minor league baseball announcers Doug Greenwald, (left) and Johnny Doskow up in the press box before the start of the game at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., as seen on Sat.. April 4, 2015. (Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle)

The kid went to work with his baseball-broadcasting father and always assumed he would be in the same line of work.

“I didn’t know there were other jobs out there,” said Doug Greenwald, who spent much of his childhood in the ’80s sitting in the Giants’ Candlestick Park radio booth with his dad, former play-by-play man Hank Greenwald.

This is the 20th season that Greenwald the younger, 40, has called baseball, but 2015 is providing a new twist. After calling Giants minor-league games 14 of the past 15 years, the past 12 in Triple-A, he’s the voice of the top affiliate for the Houston Astros.

But still sitting in the same seat.

While six Pacific Coast League teams played an unusual game of musical chairs in the offseason, a chain reaction of PCL relocation, Greenwald stayed with the Fresno Grizzlies because they’re his employers.

Just as Johnny Doskow, 49, stuck with the Sacramento River Cats, now the Giants’ top affiliate after 15 years under the A’s umbrella.

“The A’s were good to me. Those relationships will last forever. They gave me 34 big-league games in 2012,” Doskow said. “It’s been a fun transition. There are more Giants fans than A’s fans in the (Sacramento) area. It’s cool to cover the Giants again.”

Doskow was the original voice of the Giants-affiliated Fresno Grizzlies in 1998, the year the Giants were forced to move their Triple-A team from Phoenix after it became the territory of the expansion Diamondbacks in their first season in the big leagues. Doskow spent three years in Fresno before taking the gig in Sacramento.

He was among six play-by-play men who stayed in place while the teams they covered repositioned themselves.

Here’s the sequence:

The Giants, who helped push the circle of dominoes, moved from Fresno to Sacramento, the A’s from Sacramento to Nashville, the Brewers from Nashville to Colorado Springs, the Rockies from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque, the Dodgers from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City and the Astros from Oklahoma City to Fresno.

Whew.

Before the season, Greenwald and Doskow kept getting asked the same line of questions. “Doug, how do you feel about moving to Sacramento?” “So, Johnny, do you have your place in Nashville yet?” Over and over, they had to explain. The city’s the same, the affiliate is different.

“Now I walk in the clubhouse and see a brighter shade of orange and a lone star on the logo,” Greenwald said.

‘I’m a Giant guy’

Not that he’s complaining:

“Everybody knows I’m a Giant guy” — a Greenwald has been associated with Giants-affiliated broadcasts for 30 of the past 35 years — “and I look at it like this: I have a very good relationship with the Giants, and if I go work for another major-league team, there’s no penalty in that.

“Our goal, and I’m speaking for all minor-league broadcasters here, is like the players’ goals in the minor leagues. We play for all 30 teams essentially. If any major-league team swoops into a minor-league broadcast booth and taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘Do you want to broadcast for us?’ … you’d be out of there.

“We all want to be in the major leagues, but when the Baseball America directory comes out, and it shows all the teams and you see how many people are behind you, it’s like, ‘OK, I’d rather be here than other places in the minor leagues.’”

Ditto for Doskow.

“We keep it in perspective,” he said. “Obviously, we think about the big leagues all the time. I also think there are a lot of guys who would kill for a Triple-A job. The concept of getting paid to call baseball is pretty wild. I try not to take that for granted. We’re fortunate to have the jobs we have.”

If Greenwald, who has called five Giants regular-season games in his career, including one last month, or Doskow got a full-time major-league radio gig tomorrow, they wouldn’t miss a beat. They’re considered that good. Meanwhile, they’ve kept the passion and dream alive despite accommodations, working conditions and salary far inferior to their major-league brethren.

They’re the play-by-play guy, producer and roadie all in one. They never go “on assignment” — they usually work every inning of 144 games over 154 days. They stay at second-tier hotels and get to games in hotel courtesy vans, not luxury buses or limos.

When they fly, it’s commercial, not a charter with first-class seats throughout. Greenwald has done his team’s game notes — in the majors, PR staffs spew gobs of information. Doskow spends his offseason in the River Cats’ sales department. In the bigs, the offseason is off.

“I enjoy it,” Doskow said. “My office is the broadcast booth, so I have the best view in Sacramento.”

The biggest change for Doskow is the National League style of play. He’s describing pitchers hitting for the first time since 2000, his last season with the Grizzlies. In the minors, there’s no designated hitter when two NL-affiliated teams meet. AL-affiliated teams always use a DH even when playing NL-affiliated teams.

“I’m loving that,” Doskow said. “The double-switches, the strategy. It’s a crisp game.”

While Doskow got a kick out of chronicling the rehab assignments of Hunter Pence, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain and hard-throwing relievers Hunter Strickland and Mike Broadway before their promotions to San Francisco, Greenwald is associated with an organization rising in power and deep in prospects.

The Astros called up Fresno outfielder Preston Tucker, who was leading all minor-leaguers in homers and RBIs when promoted, and shortstop Carlos Correa, the top overall draft pick in 2012 who had seven homers and 19 RBIs in his first 25 big-league games. Pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford in 2013, is in Triple-A waiting his turn after a recent promotion from Double-A.

Posey on the rise

Greenwald called Buster Posey’s games at Fresno in 2009 and 2010, drawing parallels between Posey and Correa: “Both highly touted, very smooth, not flamboyant, similar personalities, very humble, a lot of buzz. (Derek) Jeter is Correa’s idol, and he can go deep in the hole, leap and get the ball to first like Jeter.”

A minor-league broadcaster can have a resume that reads like the old country hit “I’ve Been Everywhere.” While Doskow, in his 23rd year, has had stops in Cedar Rapids, High Desert, Fresno and Sacramento, Greenwald’s laundry list includes Bend, Lafayette, Burlington, Shreveport, Stockton, Modesto and Fresno.

Giants webcasts

Greenwald continued his Giants webcast games in spring training. In the past, it was a productive learning tool because he studied players who opened the season at Fresno. This year was odd, considering he jumped from the Giants’ training camp to a team of Astros prospects, who had trained in Florida.

Greenwald graduated from San Francisco’s Wallenberg High School and got a broadcast journalism degree at Boston University. He learned the trade from his dad and Bill King — “my American League father” — among others.

“I got to know and pester probably every National League broadcaster in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Greenwald said.

Doskow grew up in Los Angeles listening to Chick Hearn (“my guy”) and Vin Scully and was inspired by his father, Chuck, a law professor and baseball junkie who had a library of baseball books in the house. Doskow got a communications degree (radio/TV emphasis) from the University of La Verne (Los Angeles County).

“When I was 7 years old, I used to turn down the TV set and broadcast the game,” Doskow said.

They’re both still doing it, embracing it and flourishing at it, and the proof is on 1320 ESPN Radio in Sacramento and 1430 KYNO in Fresno.

A Minor League Broadcaster Still Loves the Game After 30 Years on the Job

Usually, when we contemplate long-time baseball broadcasters, we think of the major league greats: Allen, Barber, Scully, Harwell, Uecker, Kalas, Buck (Jack). The guys we all know and, mostly, love.

There is another class of baseball broadcast “lifer”, though: the long-time minor league play by play announcers.  These are the guys who, for love of the game (and need of the less-than-major-league paycheck), toil in the tiny booths of low-capacity ballparks that dot the small and mid-size cities of this great country of ours. There are probably not too many of those minor-league broadcasters that any of us can name, at least off the tops of our heads.

Steve Selby is probably one of those guys we should know.

Having done minor league games all over the south for 30 seasons now, Selby still dreams of making the big leagues someday. Everyone who’s a lifer in the minors does. But even while he continues to harbor the dream, he still hunkers down and does the job day after day for 144 games a year, currently for the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League (the latter point a laughable notion given that AutoZone Park is some 1,300 miles from the closest point in the Pacific Ocean).

Don Wade of the Memphis Daily News, which serves as the source for daily news and information on business and commerce for the Memphis metro area, penned a nice biographical piece of this long-time broadcaster, which is shared with you, below. The original piece can also be read online at:

http://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2015/jul/9/after-all-these-years-redbirds-broadcaster-steve-selby-still-loves-the-game-and-the-job/

Big thanks for Don for permission to reproduce the piece here.


 

A Baseball Guy

After all these years, Redbirds broadcaster Steve Selby still loves the game and the job

By Don Wade

Bottom of the first inning at AutoZone Park, and Redbirds first baseman Dan Johnson is in the batter’s box. Oklahoma City’s pitcher winds and delivers and Johnson, a left-handed hitter, swings and makes contact. Loud contact.

steve selby
Steve Selby, the radio voice of the Memphis Redbirds, broadcasts during a recent home game at AutoZone Park. Selby has been a minor league baseball play-by-play announcer for more than 30 years. (Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Up in the Redbirds’ broadcast booth behind home plate, Steve Selby’s ears know what that sound means. He’s heard it so many times before, at little Class A ballparks in the Carolina League to not-quite big-league venues in Memphis and Nashville. The baseball’s trajectory off the bat confirms what he just heard, but he almost didn’t even need to see it.

“Say goodbye to that one!” Selby tells his radio audience. “High and deep and onto the concourse in right field, headed to the barbecue shack. Dan Johnson, one day out of the lineup, says, `put me in, coach!’”

In more than three decades of doing minor league baseball radio play-by-play, Selby, 59, has called more than 3,500 games and probably more than 1,000 home runs. He has seen a good 32,000 innings and, oh, maybe 1 million pitches. So you’ll understand if he cannot summon a Greatest Hits list of his favorite calls.

Besides, the rhythms of the game don’t work like that. He’s describing every pitch, every play – from the tape-measure home runs to the routine groundballs to the second baseman – through 144 minor league games each season.

His career is a tip of the cap to Americana and can be followed with an atlas: Kinston (N.C.) Eagles (1986), Durham (N.C.) Bulls (1987-90), Sumter (S.C.) Flyers (1991), Huntsville (Ala.) Stars (1992-95), Nashville Sounds (1996-1999), and since 2000 the Memphis Redbirds.

He has carried the big-league dream around to all those places. In the last few years he has even had a couple of interviews for major-league jobs, one “pretty serious” and another, in retrospect, probably more of a courtesy.

Reaching the majors now is a long shot. But Selby isn’t just content; he still gets genuinely excited when a player who has been in the minors for a long time finally gets the call. During a recent home stand, the St. Louis Cardinals brought up 27-year-old pitcher Marcus Hatley, who had been in the minors since 2007 – or roughly one-third of his life.

“Congratulations to Marcus Hatley,” Selby says during that night’s pre-game show. “That is just great stuff for a good guy.”

Off air, Selby says, “I don’t feel pressure every night like I’m trying to create the perfect demo,” but he adds of getting to the majors, “It’s still a goal.”

As it is for everyone in the minors. But here’s what is forgotten: doing this for three decades isn’t automatic.

“You don’t get to hang around this long unless you have real ability and passion,” said Memphis manager Mike Shildt. “As a staff, we all respect and appreciate him.

“Beyond that, he’s a baseball guy.”

Do your job

The game does not suffer idle dreamers.

Selby still gets to the ballpark at 1 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game, hours before he has to be in his open-air office overlooking Memphis’ most beautiful greensward. He still looks forward to the first pitch and all the rituals that precede it, from batting practice to preparing his scorecard. He lines up the different colored pens he’ll use to track balls (black) and strikes (red), and hits (green) and errors (red). The umpires’ names, of course, he writes down in blue.

“Never any complaints sitting up here,” Selby said as he leans into the microphone to begin another broadcast.

He has always wanted to be here, even before he realized it. Selby grew up in a time when boys collected baseball cards, but he and his two older brothers were more creative than most. The cards became their players in make-believe games played in makeshift stadiums constructed out of shoeboxes.

Add sponge dice and their homemade scoring system – double-sixes for a home run, a two, three or four for a strikeout – and you had a ballgame anytime you wanted.

When Selby finally got his first play-by-play job, it came with – as all low minor-league jobs do – extra duties. In this case, driving the team bus.

“We did our own play-by-play for every roll of the dice,” Selby said. “That’s where it started, really, when I was five years old in Monterey, California.”

The family would move to the Washington D.C. area and they’d all become frustrated Senators fans – a rite of baseball passage in some ways. By his early 20s, Selby was in commercial broadcast school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He rented a cheap apartment, without air-conditioning, and because South Florida was overrun with transplanted New Yorkers one of the Miami stations carried the Yankees games.

Many an evening he’d turn off the lights, lay down with the breeze from a box fan almost keeping him cool, listen to the Yankees’ broadcast and dream.

Well, unless the Yankees’ Class A team in Fort Lauderdale was at home, and then Selby would take his $19 Radio Shack tape recorder to the ballpark, find an empty radio booth and call the game. He was making his first demo tape, describing a young Willie McGee’s slashing hits and running catches in center field and a young Steve Balboni’s majestic homeruns and helpless swings at curveballs.

When he finally got his first play-by-play job in Kinston, N.C., it came with – as all low minor-league jobs do – extra duties. In this case, driving the team bus.

“At the time, Rush Limbaugh billed himself as the most dangerous man in America,” Selby said. “He was second to me.”

Finding his voice

But he survived – survival is the name of the game in minor-league baseball – and as the years have rolled by a Steve Selby broadcast has become more like that well-broken-in glove that fits and feels just right.

In years past, Selby often had a partner in the booth. He prefers having a partner, believes he’s better with a partner and this was never truer than in the years that the late Charlie Lea, a former big-league pitcher from Memphis, shared the broadcast for home games.

These days, Selby works alone at home and on the road. It’s a tricky thing, having nine innings and more than three hours of air time by yourself. It’s, well, a lot of rope.

Selby, however, has a clock in his head the same as a good shortstop knows just how much time he has to throw a ball over to first base. A well-timed release is more important than showing off how much power you have – be it in the arm or the voice.

A foul ball hit into the stands is just that, most of the time. But when a boy who brought his glove makes a catch behind the Redbirds’ dugout, that’s worth a little more. In this instance the boy, who is wearing a red cap, doesn’t milk the moment, but returns to his seat.

“Don’t sit down,” Selby says after describing the catch for listeners. “Curtain call.”

You hear the joy and the passion in what could be a throw-away moment. It’s not overdone, but done just right. Natural, sincere, the voice of a man who called his first home run after rolling double-sixes when he was younger than the boy who caught that foul ball.

But as much as Selby loves describing the plays – even his favorites, a triple or the rare inside-the-park home run – it is no longer what gives him the most satisfaction.

“I told our coaching staff this home stand, now the best part of what I do is around the batting cage, talking hitting, or sitting in the coaches’ office talking pitching or just reflecting on last night’s game, with all these guys that are lifers,” he said.

And Selby is a lifer. He and his wife Rhonda have three grown children and six grandchildren. He’s at the stage where retirement could be only a few innings away but, then again, Baseball Hall-of-Famer Vin Scully is still going strong with the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 87 and doesn’t even need the money. He keeps on because he’s a lifer, too.

So who knows? Selby might yet call a game with players who haven’t even been born yet.

“I’ve been in minor-league baseball 30 years,” Selby said, taking in the tireless view he could once only imagine. “I have to keep working.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBS Sports Net to Air Minor League Baseball Again for 2015

CBS Sports Network, the cable sports arm of the Tiffany net, aired fifteen minor league games during 2014, their first season doing so. They must have gotten something positive out of it, although maybe not a whole lot.  They’re returning to the minor league well again for 2015, but this time for only ten games.  Not a ringing endorsement, but it will give them an opportunity to fill vast spaces of air time with something live.

Minor league baseball is a hard sell on its own terms, since it is by definition “minor”.  It’s certainly not the best baseball you can see—the best can be easily seen practically every night between early April and late October, as many as 15 games in a single day.  But minor league ball is interesting to those people who are very interested in top prospects.  It’s an opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow performing in their embryonic stages today.

CBSSN’s schedule acknowledges that fact, as the schedule is heavy on teams with top prospects such as the Chicago Cubs’ AAA (Iowa) and AA (Tennessee) squads, the LA Dodgers’ AA (Tulsa) team, and the Pirates’ AA (Altoona) affiliate, teams that are all stocked with top 20 prospects, according to MLB.  Of course, these prospects may or may not still be with these clubs by the time the broadcasts roll around, but the presence of such prospects as of today probably factored into CBSSN’s decision to select these games for broadcast.

Here is the full schedule for the season, subject to change I would assume:

• May 28: El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) at Round Rock Express (Rangers), 8 p.m. EST
• June 4: Salt Lake Bees (Angels) at Nashville Sounds (Athletics), 8 p.m. EST
• June 11: Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals) at Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers), 8 p.m. EST
• June 18: Mississippi Braves (Braves) at Tennessee Smokies (Cubs), 7 p.m. EST
• June 25: Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) at Durham Bulls (Rays), 7 p.m. EST
• July 9: Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals), 8 p.m. EST
• July 16: Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals) at Iowa Cubs (Cubs), 8 p.m. EST
• July 23: Altoona Curve (Pirates) at Akron RubberDucks (Indians), 7 p.m. EST
• July 30: Lexington Legends (Royals) at Greenville Drive (Red Sox), 7 p.m. EST
• August 6: El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) at Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies), 9 p.m. EST