Tag Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Story Behind Vin Scully’s Stories, Including the One About the Beatles

It’s pretty well accepted that Vin Scully is, at this moment, baseball’s master storyteller. His 67 years in the booth have bequeathed upon him a wealth of experiences from which to draw anecdotes. It would be totally understandable if you were to believe that Vin has a steel-trap memory that loses nothing over time.

Well, that might be true, but that also doesn’t mean that Vin comes up with his stories all on his little lonesome. There is a team of two helping him with every broadcast, stage manager Boyd Robertson and camera operator Rob Menschel, who have been working with him since 1989 and who not only do their nominal jobs, but also do some of the research that helps Vin develop the stories he will share on a given night’s broadcast.

Take the time the Beatles played Dodger Stadium on the 1966 farewell tour. There is a really great story about how they had trouble eluding fans while trying to leave after having given a concert. What are the chances Vin Scully is knowledgeable enough about Beatles lore to have any idea about the Dodger Stadium incident? Given that Vin was already 38 years old at the time, you would have to conclude the chances are darn slim, at best.

That’s where Rob Menschel, on this case anyway, comes in. He’s an actual music fan, so when Vin drops any kind of reference to rock n’ roll, it usually comes from him. Between himself, Rob and Boyd, Vin can develop a full plate of stories from a wide buffet of topics any one of them may not be expert enough to develop all on his own. The trick for Boyd and Rob, of course, is to find stories that will work in Vin’s voice, including stories about such hip, edgy, current topics as the Beatles.

I won’t relay the Beatles story here. Instead, I encourage you to read the VICE Sports article written by Eric Nusbaum about the process of bringing together all the stories that Vin Scully tells during the course of a typical broadcast.

With A Little Help From His Friends: The Story Behind Baseball Announcer Vin Scully’s Stories

Recently Discovered: Excerpt of Cubs at Dodgers, April 22, 1958, WGN Radio

Today we are reposting a post from the blog Inches per Second, maintained by Bob Purse, a self-described “father of two amazing young women” who’s “married to the most wonderful woman in the world”. (Lucky man!)

His website is  dedicated to playing historical audio as captured on reel-to-reel tapes. Not all of it is baseball-related—in fact, as far as I can see, almost none of it is—but his latest posts features a terrific find by Committee member Stu Shea, generously mentioned within, featuring an interview and game coverage of the Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers on April 22, 1958, a game that was, in fact, the fourth-ever regular season major league baseball game ever played in Los Angeles. (Spoiler alert: Dodgers beat the Cubs, 4-2.)

Here’s the story, with audio, below. Enjoy!


 

With the Chicago Cubs currently leading all of baseball, posting the best record seen by any team in 32 years, and the best Cubs start in 109 years, what better time for a bit of radio and baseball history, involving the Cubs.

Today’s tape was generously donated to this site by my best pal Stu Shea, who has written several books, including several on baseball and music, among other things, and who also often offers up comments on this site and my other blog. THANK YOU, STU!!!

Here’s what Stu has to say about this tape:

This is a recording of the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers on WGN radio, Chicago, from April 22, 1958. This is the first season that the Dodgers were in LA after having moved from Brooklyn.

Included is a pregame interview between Cubs broadcaster Lou Boudreau and Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese–then 39 and in his last year as an active player–and some of the game’s action.

There are not many tapes in existence of Jack Quinlan, the Cubs’ play-by-play radio announcer, from his time in Chicago. He was a very highly regarded baseball voice who died in a car accident during 1965 spring training. He was just 38.

A couple of things to add. This was the very first time the Cubs or their announcers were seeing the L.A. Coliseum as it was in those days reconfigured for baseball. It was, as I’ve read, perhaps the least appropriate venue for major league baseball in history, and much of the discussion in these segments concerns the various aspects of the park.

I’ve divided the tape into the pregame interview and lead-up to the game, followed by the play-by-play of the first inning (which is all that’s on the tape of the actual game). Also worth noting is the lack of a commercial break at either the half-inning point or after the first inning, and, in a bit of sad irony, Quinlan makes note of a noted basketball coach who had died that day in a car crash, just as Quinlan himself would, seven years later.

Download: Lou Boudreau and Jack Quinlan – Pregame Show with Pee Wee Reese and Comments Before the Game

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Download: Jack Quinlan and Lou Boudreau – Cubs Vs. Dodgers, First Inning

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As the tape spooled down to its last few minutes, whoever recorded the Cubs broadcast switched over to a faintly received St. Louis station, and captured just a few minutes of a Cardinals broadcast, featuring two already well-known men, both of whom would become even more famous broadcasters in the coming years, Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola. And even here, the oddities about baseball at the L.A. Coliseum end up being discussed! Here is that brief segment:

Download: Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola – Cardinals Broadcast:

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And in case you’ve never seen one, here is a picture of the L.A. Coliseum, as it was configured for baseball:

LA Coliseum 1958

Is Social Media Killing the Post-Game Radio Show?

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

Wow.

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

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

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

So, whom to believe?

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

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

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

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

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


How social media is killing the post game radio show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite thing to do on the road?

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

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

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

How do you spend your time during the offseason?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you were the King of Baseball Announcing …

I’d abdicate!

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

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

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

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

[Laughs] I love that!

Well, thank you…I think!

In Case You Missed It …

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything in the way of news here.  Bad on us, and we’re working to be better in 2015.  We have to, because it’s our New Year’s resolution.

So we’re jumping back in by providing links to some of the top baseball media stories that have broken just since the end of the season.

World Series TV Ratings: Giants/Royals Game 7 Nears Ten-Year High: Game Sevens really do matter. The only game with a higher rating in the past ten years was also a Game 7 (2011 Rangers/Cardinals).

MLB’s Low National Ratings vs. Record-High Local Ratings: I love dichotomies, and not just because it’s a fun word to say.  Although as the Sporting News says in that first linked article, it might be more of a Fox problem than a general national problem. If you want to know what I think, ask me offline.

DIRECTV and Disney sign long-term agreement; adds WatchESPN and Longhorn Network: Oh my god, THANK you. Finally. This means you (and I) as a D*TV subscriber will soon be able to watch baseball on your smartphone or tablet without begging a friend for their Dish or WOW login credentials.

Early overdose: Even without Jeter, ESPN still loves Yankees for Sunday night: You probably already saw this in Chad Osborne’s post from last week.  Eye rolls, yeah, I know, but let’s face it: almost 9% of the entire US lives in the New York and Boston TV markets, but also, according to Facebook, the Yankees and Red Sox are among the top teams in basically every county in the United States. Just goes to show you: you don’t always have to rob banks to know where the money is.

Chicago news: Harrelson pumped up about White Sox moves; won’t cut back schedule: Vin Scully isn’t the only multiple decade-tenured broadcasters working well into his golden years.  And just think, Hawk Harrelson is 13 years younger than Vin, so maybe he’s got a long way to go?

ESPN goes all in on Cubs to open 2015 baseball season: And really, who doesn’t want to spend a chilly Sunday night in April gazing at a Jumbotron rising from the surrounding wreckage whence people once watched baseball games?

Networks will be active in quickening the pace in baseball; New commish expected to be ‘open to new ideas’: This is one of those rare instances in which the interests of fans and of broadcasters are well-aligned.

Long-time Detroit baseball writer retiring after 29 years on the beat: Did you know that John Lowe invented the quality start?  He may be ink-stained, but he’s not a wretch.

The Sportswriter of the Year is Si’s Tom Verducci: Tom is both a baseball journalist and a baseball broadcaster, so he’s double trouble, and thus a favorite.

SportsNet LA standoff was top story: Because of TWC’s strong-arm methods, 70% of the LA market did not have Dodger games available to them, and there doesn’t appear to be any thawing for 2015 as of yet.

Scully may travel less in 2015: And really, who can blame him? After all, the guy is 86 freaking years old.  Most people born the same year as he was aren’t traveling anywhere anymore.  (Yes, it’s because they’re dead.)

Fox’s Chatty Booth Makes Few Good Points to Speak of During World Series: Two’s company, three’s a crowd?  Four is definitely a British Invasion band, though.

Postseason Vanishing From Broadcast Networks: But with the combination of cable and “alternate delivery systems” penetrating about 90% of TV households, will anyone really miss it?

Enberg, Gage Named Ford C. Frick Award Winners: Big shout out to two Detroiters made good in baseball media.  Hat tip to you both.  Congratulations.

 

Vin Scully is Coming Back for a 66th Season!

Vin Scully
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully will return to broadcast for a 66th season in 2015, the team announced on Tuesday night. (h/t SBNation.com)

Good lord, how did we become so blessed?

At least this will give TWC and the various LA cable operators—and Congress?!—another year to hammer out an arbitrated deal so that everyone in the Los Angeles market can actually enjoy the dulcet tones and exquisite stories of Vin Sully.

Read all about it here:

Vin Scully to return to broadcast Dodgers games in 2015 (SBNation.com)

Here’s a Nice Feature Piece on Vin Scully

Here’s a link to a lovely long-form feature by Cee Angi about he who is arguably, although increasingly inarguably, the greatest broadcaster in the history of baseball:

We’ve Been Friends Long Enough You’ll Understand’: Vin Scully, Baseball’s Longest-Tenured and Most Eloquent Broadcaster, is Still Looking To Make a Connection

What struck us most while reading this piece is that, even after sixty-five years of calling games, Mr. Scully is still as dedicated to the prep work of each broadcast as he ever has been.

Here’s our favorite inexplicable photo from the piece:

 

We don’t know why, either.

Here is a bonus video of Mr. Scully at work, from April 1984: