Category Archives: SABR

Flagship/Announcer, Radio Station Affiliates Databases Updated for 2017

Just in time for the start of the season!  Courtesy of SABR’s Baseball and the Media Committee, the databases listing major league teams’ flagship TV and radio stations and announcers, as well as their radio station affiliates, have been updated and loaded into Google Drive for your perusing and research convenience.

The MLB Local Flagship_Announcer Database is a continuation of the work started by Maury Brown of Forbes.com over a decade ago, and is for all practical purposes the complete listing of every franchise’s radio and television broadcasters, both play-by-play and analyst, throughout big league ball’s broadcast history, beginning with 1921. Major changes for 2017 include the retirement of Vin Scully of the Dodgers, to be replaced by current Dodger broadcasters Joe Davis and Charley Steiner; the retirement of Dick Enberg of the Padres, to be replaced by Todd Kalas, formerly broadcaster of the Houston Astros; and the replacement of Matt Stairs as Phillies television analyst by semi-doppelgänger John Kruk. The file can be accessed by clicking on this link.

The Radio Station Affiliates Database was started by the Baseball and the Media Committee in 2013 and has been the historical record of teams’ radio affiliates since that season.  Every year, dozens of affiliates come aboard, drop off, change call letters, or even change team alliances. This database covers recent seasons, although there are plans to expand the database to include historical seasons as well to the degree possible. Be sure to consult this database before you go on your next summer road trip so you never miss a pitch as you drive from city to city. This file can be accessed by clicking on this link.  (Please note: four of the 30 MLB teams [Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Mets] did not have updated affiliates for the 2017 season as of 3/31/17. These teams are called out in red on the sheet, and the database will be updated once affiliates for these teams come available.)

If you notice any errors or omissions in either of these databases, please be sure to contact the Committee  or this website with corrections.

Enjoy!

Grantland Rice’s Legacy in the Deadball Era

The Deadball Committee of SABR has done terrific yeoman’s work in expanding the knowledge base of the baseball that was played during the era 1900-1919. There are nearly four hundred super-dedicated and knowledgeable members in the Committee; they have a solid library of historical newsletters available; they even have a very active Yahoo Discussions group.  The Committee is chaired by John McMurray, who also happens to be the vice-chair of the Baseball and the Media Committee as well.

While there is an impressive body of work detailing the players of the era, they also contemplate the era’s non-players, in this case, the sportswriters.  McMurray has recently published an overview of Grantland Rice, considered one ofthe most famous writers from the era, and he has graciously consented to allow us to reprint it here in full for your enjoyment.


 

McMurray: Grantland Rice’s legacy in the Deadball Era

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the SABR Deadball Era Committee’s February 2016 newsletter. To learn more about the Deadball Era Committee, click here.

By John McMurray

Even with the large number of new books on the Deadball Era published annually, it is worthwhile on occasion to recall prior works which illuminate figures who may have fallen a bit outside of the Deadball Era Committee’s view. One such person is writer Grantland Rice. Known best for his writing for the weekly magazine Collier’s, Rice himself was never a major league beat reporter, recognized instead for his prolific columns that touched on many sports and which often included a poem and clever twists of phrase. While Rice’s connection with baseball may seem attenuated relative to, say, the more regular interactions with players that Ring Lardner or Heywood Broun enjoyed, Rice nevertheless was influential in several important episodes of the Deadball Era.

Rice’s impact is given a comprehensive and thoughtful treatment in Sportswriter: The Life and Times of Grantland Rice by Charles Fountain, published in 1993. That Rice — a colossal figure in American sportswriting — has been the subject of only a few biographies (though two other volumes on him were published in the 1990s, including one by William Harper of more than 600 pages) may suggest that Deadball Era researchers would be better served to spend more time examining the role of reporters of the time, as these writers served as an essential liaison between the game and its burgeoning fan base.

Consider that when Ty Cobb famously sent postcards under various fictitious names to try and promote himself as a young player, he sent them to Rice, recognizing the impact of the then-local reporter’s writing. “He is a terrific hitter and faster than a deer,” said one, while another asked: “Have you seen Ty Cobb play ball yet? He is the fastest mover I’ve seen in baseball.” Rice subsequently wrote a column about the budding star which was overflowing with praise. That Cobb was in the major leagues within a year is often credited in large part to his surreptitious interactions with Rice.

In 1916, as Babe Ruth was firmly establishing himself as a star pitcher, it was Rice who suggested that praise for Ruth’s pitching prowess was overblown. Fountain noted that, in contrast to the praise that Rice often bestowed on young stars, he chided Ruth for being out of shape and exclaimed that “Ruth is still too young at this business to be classed with Rube Waddell or Eddie Plank or Nap Rucker.” Rice went on to say “quite a stretch of time lies between Ruth and lasting greatness.” It is reasonable to infer that the biting comments from Rice’s widely-read column made Ruth’s eventual switch to being a full-time hitter somewhat more palatable to his readers.

In 1917, Rice also used his platform to insist that John McGraw should be suspended for an incident with National League President John Tener. Rice’s columns, along with those of several of his contemporaries, drew attention to to the matter, applying pressure which resulted in McGraw’s eventual suspension.  Still, Rice is recognized more so today for helping to shape opinion of the Black Sox as the 1919 World Series scandal grew. He pointed out inconsistency in Eddie Cicotte’s play, for instance, saying, “Eddie, instead of jumping swiftly for the ball, took his time with all the leisure of a steel striker.” Playing up what Fountain called “the out-of-character aspect of (the team’s play),” Rice also used the word “fix” in print early on and also was outspoken on the deleterious effects that the performance of the Black Sox had on the game itself. Again, Rice moved and shaped popular opinion, having an effect on events that followed.

Of course, all contemporary baseball writers enjoyed outsized influence, essentially serving as the voices for particular teams to an audience which had few other outlets. But Rice himself had a disproportionate impact on the sporting scene of the early 20th century. In an interview with The Inside Game, Fountain said: “Rice was a combination of baseball-reference.com, the whole ESPN empire, and whoever passes as sports journalism celebrity today.” His column had an extraordinary influence.

There were other moments when Rice was ahead of his contemporaries. Rice himself noted “Every one (sic) knows the reserve clause in baseball will not stand the test of American law,” a sentiment uttered by few in the press at the time. There was also an element of craftsmanship to his writing, as Rice was strategic in his pronouncements while retaining an air of positivity. As Fountain points out in the book, although Rice disapproved of Connie Mack selling his Philadelphia Athletics players, thereby plunging the team into mediocrity, Rice did not take Mack to task for it in print; rather, he praised Charles Comiskey for being aggressive in purchasing players, as Rice knew that his own opinions about Mack would be inferred by readers.

Rice in part set the tone for sportswriting of the time, writing with what Fountain calls “respect for the intelligence and the involvement of the reader.” The same approach applied when Rice was writing about minor league baseball for the Nashville Tennessean from 1907 through 1910, his only time as a baseball beat reporter. Rice’s approach was literary and classically-based, deriving in part from his appreciation for Latin and the subtleties of language more generally. A phrase such as “the tumult dies” (in Rice’s famous “Game Called” poem from 1910) or a reference in a column to “crack slabsmen” imbue his work with creativity.

With time, Rice’s reputation has suffered as the core principles of journalism have changed. No longer do reporters ignore or brush aside the off-field behavior of athletes, as Rice did, nor do they serve as universally-happy mythmakers, intent on shaping a positive view of sports from top to bottom. “The role of the sportswriter at that time was to sell newspapers and tickets, and not necessarily in that order,” Fountain said.

Fountain suggests in the book that Rice’s rhapsodic, and usually uncritical, approach to covering star players would likely see him today banished to a local paper reporting on the exploits of high school athletes rather than taking on the hard-hitting issues of the day in professional sports. But the opposite side of that coin, according to Fountain, is that even if Rice had wanted to expose the character flaws of players he covered, he likely would not have had a receptive publisher:

“Had Rice written a piece about Ty Cobb that showed Cobb in all his complexity and nuance, Rice would have had a hard time finding a place to publish that,” Fountain said. “I doubt very much whether his syndicate of newspapers would have wanted that in a sports column, and I doubt very much whether Collier’s or any of the magazines that he wrote for would have wanted that in a profile. Readers wanted heroes in those days, wherever they were. He delivered what newspaper publishers and readers and magazine publishers and readers wanted at the time. Had he delivered anything else, they wouldn’t have bought it.

Rice now is often impugned for his lofty prose, with critics typically referencing his effusive 1924 column about Notre Dame’s football team. (“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again,” Rice wrote. “In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”) Still, whether he was analogizing major sporting events to Civil War battles or linking star athletes to figures from Greek mythology, Rice’s soaring prose helped to define sportswriting in his era.

Independent of whether one appreciates Rice’s writing style and approach, he is an important figure in the history of sports journalism and one who impacted the Deadball Era. Fountain’s work makes one appreciate how intertwined Rice was with the Deadball Era, even if Rice himself, because of the wide scope of his writing, is not viewed as a baseball reporter first and foremost. Rice’s baseball columns are one illustration of the impact that Deadball Era writers and reporters could have on the game, and his extensive body of work underscores how important a role a writer could play at a time when newspapers were indeed king.

JOHN McMURRAY is chair of SABR’s Deadball Era Research Committee. Contact him atdeadball@sabr.org.

Working The Game: An Interview with Chuck Freeby, Notre Dame Radio 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 college campus and have a conversation with Chuck Freeby, the radio play-by-play announcer for Notre Dame baseball.

Born in South Bend, Ind., and a graduate of Elkhart (Ind.) CentCHUCKFREEBYral High School and the University of Notre Dame, Freeby has been in sports media in the South Bend area for more than three decades. Since 2004, he has served as sports director at WHME, a part of LeSea Broadcasting, and is a contributor at WNIT. He was a sportscaster for WNDU for 17 years.

Freeby, who is married with six children, has been the play-by-play voice of Notre Dame baseball since 2009.

What’s the most important thing that you have to include in every broadcast?

You can’t say the score and the inning enough, especially considering you’re on radio. You don’t have any graphics to show the score and the inning.

Did you ever use the egg timer during your career?

Absolutely. (iconic Detroit Tigers broadcaster) Ernie Harwell is the first one I remember reading about who used the egg timer. He’d flip it over and if that egg timer ran out, it was time to give the score again. I try to make sure I give it at least once within every batter. Mentally, that’s my goal.

You’d like to think everyone hears every single second of your broadcast, but they don’t?

They don’t. Let’s face it. When we grow up listening to baseball, a lot of times it’s in the car. You’re getting in and out of the car. You’re running an errand. You’re getting back in the car and the first thing you want to know is the score. You don’t want to have to wait 15 minutes, 45 minutes to hear that.

Baseball play-by-play lends itself to a different cadence than, say, other sports you called like football, basketball or hockey, right?

With hockey, (giving the score) kind of naturally falls in to the action. You’re re-setting things every couple of minutes. It’s a much different pace and a different flow.

What else is important?

You’ve got to tell (the audience) who the batter is, who the pitcher is, the count, outs, that kind of thing. While you’re weaving all that in, the next important thing is to paint the picture. Where are the fielders? What’s the situation? Why are the fielders where they are? Is the third baseman playing in on the grass? Why? It’s usually because he is expecting a bunt. What about this situation dictates a bunt?

What else?

You tell stories about the players. You tell stories about the game. Especially with college baseball because the players aren’t as well-known as Major League Baseball. What is it that’s intriguing about this guy at the plate right now or this guy on the mound?

You know these stories because you travel with the team and you are around them talking to them all the time?

For Notre Dame, yes. For the opposing team, I spend a lot of time researching on the web. Early in the year when you don’t know exactly who’s going to play, you’re researching maybe 30 players. Once you get into the season a little bit more and have a better idea, it’s more like 20. You don’t have to waste too much time on subs. You stay with the starting lineup, starting pitchers and key relievers. You find out what they throw, what their upbringing was, all kinds of things.

Can you tell us about an unusual call?

We had a home game once where the top reliever for Rutgers did not bring his regular uniform with him and was wearing a different uniform number. When the head coach filled out the lineup card, he used the regular uniform number. So when he went to bring him into the game, Notre Dame’s head coach said, ‘wait a minute, No. 25 is not on the roster.’ The umpires got together and wound up calling the league office. Of course, at no time are they indicating to any of us in the press box what’s going on. All I know is that there is a discussion on the field going on that continues for about 20 minutes. I’m trying to fill time as much as possible, never knowing when we’re going to get back to live action. I can throw to a break occasionally, but it’s not like a rain delay. I wound up doing a full sportscast with scores from around the big leagues and anything I could get my hands on. Finally, we found out that the player was ruled ineligible to play that night and Notre Dame ended up winning that night against a player who was not prepared to come in and close.

So an announcer has to have to ability to filibuster?

Absolutely.

Do you also hope that in college, minor league or high school ball, the umpire lets the folks upstairs know about changes or rulings in some way?

When they change outfielders or make multiple position changes, very rarely is it communicated up to the press box. Who’s batting in what position? In high school ball, you’ve got the courtesy runner.

That’s when it helps to be able to recognize mannerisms, right?

By the time we got into the (Atlantic Coast Conference) tournament this year, I could look into the bullpen and see well enough where I could make out if it was a righty or lefty, [and] who was tall and angular, or short and stocky. You get to learn your guys really well and you hope you’ve done enough research on the other team to speak knowingly about them.

Do you hear much from the opposing fans, saying you gave us credit or you were a homer?

You always hear both. It doesn’t matter all that much too me, but you’re always going to hear criticism and it’s nice to get praise from the other team’s fans. We were doing a series at Maryland, where they didn’t broadcast the games, and a parent came up to me and said, I’m going to listen to Notre Dame games a lot in the future because I really enjoyed the way you called the game. Those are nice things to hear.

What about other instances?

I remember my first or second year and we were playing Connecticut and they had a player named Pierre LaPage who later played in the Cubs system. He liked to compare himself to (Boston Red Sox standout) Dustin Pedroia. They both were built similar and played second base. I said on-air, ‘Pierre LaPage is a good player but he’s no Dustin Pedroia.’ The next day, his dad came up outside the window and said, ‘I heard what you said about my son last night.’ The only thing I said that he was not Dustin Pedroia who the last time I checked was a major league all-star. You’re son is not a major league all-star. Someday, maybe he will be. But he ain’t right now.

Can you tell me about working baseball games with or without a partner?

I work most of the games by myself. I’ve had a color man a couple of times. There are ways that makes it easer and there are ways that makes it tougher. From an ease standpoint, I have to come up with less to say.  You have something else to play off. On the other hand, a lot of times the color person does not have a lot of experience broadcasting. Most of the time, I have to set them up to their strength, or what I perceive as their strength, and lead them into things. In doing so it may distract me from doing as much storytelling as I would normally do during a game.

What do you do to keep the listener’s attention when the game gets out of hand?

Before I always look up what happened on this date in Notre Dame baseball history or I might talk about the opponent in terms of its significance to Notre Dame history. If it’s Michigan, there are all kinds of tales you can tell about the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry. Or it might be, when was the last time Notre Dame came down to Georgia? Has Notre Dame done anything with this school in anything else? You start to weave those things into the fabric of the broadcast.

What is the difference between broadcasting baseball on radio and on TV?

I’ve done a little bit of baseball on TV (other than Notre Dame) and it’s completely different. On radio, I’ll have to say it was a two-hopper, a line drive, a high-arching fly ball or little looper. I have to describe all of that. On TV, I don’t have to say any of that. It’s more about putting captions on pictures. TV is more the color analyst’s game. They have the (graphic and replay) tools to show what’s going on. They can analyze and talk about strategy. Radio is more of a play-by-play man’s medium because you’re painting the picture the whole time.

What expectations does Notre Dame have for you on your broadcasts?

They want me to promote upcoming home games, season ticket sales and things like that. But they’ve never come to me and said don’t say this or that. I will praise a Note Dame player when he does something well. I will also criticize him when he does something poorly. I tend not to second guess (head coaches), but I will do something that (Chicago White Sox radio analyst) Steve Stone talks about, which is first-guessing. Let’s say there’s a runner on first with one out and a 3-2 count on the batter. Am I sending that runner from first on a 3-2 pitch or not? Some of that depends on the guy you have up at the plate. How good a contact hitter is he? How fast is that runner at first? I try to present those situations. Sometimes I’ll flat out say, I would do this but I’m not the manager or head coach. If you suggest things ahead of time, it’s not so much second guessing [as it is] first guessing.

Baseball fans do this kind of thing all the time, right?

The beauty of baseball is that it’s so easy to strategize along with the manager. I’m blessed that our coaches trust me enough to look at the scouting reports of the opposing teams before a game. I can say that this is what they expect to do in a certain situation. They’re going to try to work him away with a breaking ball here.

You also call a lot of different sports, especially high school football and basketball. What rings true with all your broadcasts?

No matter what kind of game I’m going to do, preparation is the key. It’s not just about showing up and having a couple of rosters in front of you. It’s really about spending the time learning the players, learning the coaches, learning the game.

It’s important to develop a relationship and a trust with the coaches and some will be more trusting and giving than others?

It’s a personality thing. College (baseball) coaches want as much publicity as they can get for their game. It’s a tough sell these days. It gets so little attention nationally that coaches are usually forthright in sharing.

2015 SABR Analytics: Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth

This is a reprint of an article that ran on the SABR website on the use (and lack of use) of advanced performance analytics by broadcasters before and during the games.

SABR is so well known for having pioneered the use of such analytics that the name of the organization is a key component of the colloquial term used to describe them.  Yet the adoption of such analytics by broadcasters has been relatively slow in the past couple of decades.  Three broadcasters gave their point of view on this during the SABR Analytics conference in Phoenix during the month.


 

At the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference on Thursday, March 12, in Phoenix, our Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth Panel offered perspective from baseball play-by-play announcers on how they use analytics in the broadcast booth. Panelists included, from left, Josh Suchon of the Albuquerque Isotopes; Doug Glanville of ESPN; Steve Berthiaume of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and moderator Joe Block of the Milwaukee Brewers.
At the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference on Thursday, March 12, in Phoenix, our Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth Panel offered perspective from baseball play-by-play announcers on how they use analytics in the broadcast booth. Panelists included, from left, Josh Suchon of the Albuquerque Isotopes; Doug Glanville of ESPN; Steve Berthiaume of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and moderator Joe Block of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here are some highlights from the Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth Panel at the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference:

ON THE IDEAL USE OF SABERMETRICS IN BROADCASTS

  • Suchon: “I think the best place for (analytics) is pregame television. You can work on it in advance, you can build graphics, you don’t have to worry about the next guy hitting into a double play and ending the inning. … Or maybe it’s the weekly show, where … you can introduce some of these stats. Eventually, it’s going to catch on but it’s going to take time.”
  • Berthiaume: “The more that context evolves and the more it becomes second nature (to fans), the more that analytics will become second nature. I think we’ve seen it with OPS, we’ve seen it with WHIP, they’re in the graphics now, which I think is a big step. And I think we’ll see more of that down the road.”

ON BEING AROUND THE GAME EVERY DAY

  • Berthiaume: “I think it is a tremendous luxury to be at every game. And when you’re on the clubhouse and in the buses and on the planes and in the hotels, you become less analytical about it. … I do believe the ninth inning is different from the eighth inning, I do believe in clutch … I think you do factor in the human element, team chemistry, good clubhouse guys. And as we take a closer look and a more useful look and a more frequent look at analytics, some of the analytics community has to take a step back and say, “Well, maybe this isn’t a negative thing.’ Because when you’re on the road for 162, that stuff matters. You learn that quickly.”

ON WHETHER ALL FANS SHOULD LEARN ANALYTICS

  • Berthiaume: “I don’t think not knowing (analytics) detracts from your enjoyment of the game. I think the goal of analytics is to enhance it. You obviously don’t get to benefit from that, but … you don’t know what you don’t know, right?”
  • Glanville: “I think in the big picture, it’s valuable. Everyone can watch a game and take different types of enjoyment from things they’re focusing on. … How you digest it, whether you’re hanging out at the bar or whatever, can dictate a lot about what becomes important (to you). But I think if you play fantasy, and how you’re looking at the value of players, why they make certain moves, why they trade a guy — and if you want to understand those things, it’s available.”
  • Suchon: “It all depends on what you want to get out of it. … Do you have to watch every episode of (the hit TV program) Breaking Bad to understand (Breaking Bad spinoff) Better Call Saul? Well, it’s gonna help. And if you’re going to smile and laugh at references that you know. … But you can still enjoy Better Call Saul because it’s a great television show. Maybe you’re a high school baseball coach and you’re watching ESPN and you can learn something from Doug Glanville. If you’re just tuning in because you just want to be entertained, you just want to hear Vin Scully’s voice. You don’t care if he’s telling a story about Campy (Roy Campanella), you just what to hear his voice because he’s soothing.”

ON LINGERING OPPOSITION TO SABERMETRICS

  • Berthiaume: “I find that we’re not big fans of ‘different’ in this country. … And (analytics) is new, it’s different. But thanks to groups like SABR, it’s becoming not different anymore. And we’re growing generations of (fans) for whom it isn’t different, they’re used to this. That’s going to keep getting better and better. But when you start jamming stuff in there, a lot of people take it as different and they don’t like it. And that’s quickly changing.”

For more coverage of the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.

SABR members, get 20% discount for 2014 MLB.TV subscription

If you’re a SABR member–and if you’re on this web page right now, there’s a pretty good chance you are–you are eligible for a 20% discount toward an MLB.TV premium monthly subscription.

Premium monthly subscribers can watch every 2014 Regular Season out-of-market game LIVE or on-demand in HD Quality, and can choose from home or away broadcasts, on many of the most popular devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation, regular old laptop and desktop computers, and more. With a premium subscription, you can watch up to four games at once with Mosaic, and take advantage of DVR functionality that lets you pause or rewind live games.

Interested?  Click the link or image below for more details:

SABR members, get 20% discount for 2014 MLB.TV subscription

(Please note that this is a discount off the monthly subscription and not the yearly subscription.)