Category Archives: Feature

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.”

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

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

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

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

Tigers Indians Box 19150910

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

2015-09-11_11-07-06

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

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

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

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

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

The slow death of baseball box scores in newspapers

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRIBUTE TO DON ORSILLO’S FUNNIEST NESN MOMENTS

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

With Don Orsillo news, Red Sox drop the ball again

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

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

Yikes!

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

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

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

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

Or to Facebook:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Frazier made his Rockies debut as a “tryout” TV analyst and color man
By Dusty Saunders
Special to The Denver Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Excellent Case for Jack Graney to be Enshrined in the Hall of Fame

Barbara Gregorich is a long-time SABR member who has written a boatload of books on a number of subjects ranging from women in baseball to children’s books to mystery novels. I don’t know whether she types her output on an old Remington Rand, which would be really cool, but either way, she’s a prodigious author of repute.

Barbara is also a big champion of Jack Graney, the Canadian-born slick-fielding outfielder for the Cleveland Indians during the heart of, and then the waning days of, the dead ball era.  Upon his retirement he remained in The Forest City to sell Fords during the roaring 20s, before moving into investments and eventually back to auto sales. Once the Depression hit, car sales started to evaporate, but fortuitously, the business of broadcasting baseball games was just starting to take hold.  The Tribe hired Graney on as the first-ever ex-ballplayer play-by-play announcer for a major league team.

Graney held onto the mike as the first great Cleveland Indians radio broadcaster until 1953, and he is currently memorialized in the press box at Progressive Field, as well as having been enshrined in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

And this is where Barbara comes in. She believes that Graney deserves the top honor any baseball broadcaster can achieve: enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown as winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasting excellence.  She made the excellent case for this on her blog last week, and with her permission, we are reproducing the piece in its entirety below.

If you would prefer to read it on her original blog, click here.


 

Jack Graney and the Broadcasting Dawn Era

BARBARA GREGORICH

In September of this year a research team of the National Baseball Hall of Fame will release a list of candidates for the 2016 Ford C. Frick Award, to be given to a broadcaster who worked during the Broadcasting Dawn Era (roughly 1930-55). The award is given for “major contributions to baseball.” During the month of September fans will get to vote for their favorite candidate on the Hall of Fame’s Facebook Page; in October a final list of ten will be given to the Ford Frick Award Committee, who will make a decision in November. The committee members who cast ballots are asked to base their selection on the following criteria:

• longevity
• continuity with a club
• honors, including national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star games
• popularity with fans

When it comes to the 2016 Ford Frick Award, I don’t know who the Broadcasting Dawn candidates will be or who the committee will select. I do know who I think is most worthy of the Award, and that man is Jack Graney.

Jack Graney was born in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada on June 10, 1886. He grew up playing hockey and baseball. During Jack’s youth, Canada native Bob Emslie [Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, 1986], a former major leaguer turned major-league umpire, noticed Jack’s athletic abilities and later recommended to the Chicago Cubs that they sign him. [See Adam Ulrey’s SABR biography, Jack Graney.]

328px-Jack_Graney_baseball_cardIn 1907 the Cubs did just that, signing Graney as a pitcher. Despite pitching well in the minors, Jack was sold to the Cleveland Naps at the end of the season. Although he played a few games for the 1908 Cleveland team, he was sent to the minor league Portland Beavers. While there, he once pitched an 18-inning game that ended in a 1-1 tie due to darkness.

At the end of that season Graney was selected as a member of the Reach All-Americans, a team composed of minor and major leaguers [SeeVintageball article.] The team played in Japan (winning all 17 of its games) and in other Asian countries. The Reach All-Americans constituted the first-ever team of professional ballplayers to tour Japan. Thus one of Jack Graney’s many firsts was that he played on the first professional baseball team to tour Japan.

That word “first” is important because Jack Graney, by both disposition and happenstance, was a man of many, many firsts. He was called up to the majors in 1910 and assigned to play League Park’s left field, which at one spot extended 505 feet. He was assigned to the first position in the batting order. Graney had a keen eye for balls and strikes and, because of his discerning eye, often drew walks. [He led the league in walks in 1917 (94) and 1919 (105).] As leadoff batter Jack often posted the first hit of the season, or the first run of the season, for his team.

In 1914 Jack Graney was the first player to face a new Red Sox pitcher, George Herman Ruth. Graney was also the first player to collect a hit off Ruth. Because he was a productive player and a team builder, other teams expressed interest in Jack Graney. The Tigers were interested, as were the White Sox. But Graney did not want to be traded: he was loyal to Cleveland all his life.

hp_scanDS_882910575444_2When Cleveland trainer Doc White brought a young bull terrier to spring training in 1912 and gave it to the team as a mascot, Napoleon LaJoie ended up giving the dog to Graney. Thus Jack became the first (and only) player to own a dog which was also the team’s official mascot. Larry performed tricks before the game not only in Cleveland, but also in other American League cities. He was the first dog ever formally introduced to a President of the US [Woodrow Wilson]. Graney, of course, performed the introduction.

In 1916 Jack Graney and teammate Tris Speaker tied for the American League doubles record. And in 1920 they played on Cleveland’s first pennant-winning team, which became Cleveland’s first World Series-winning team.

These facts about Jack Graney are interesting but only partially relevant to why I believe he is worthy of the Ford Frick Award. I say “partially relevant” because all these things show what kind of person Jack Graney was — one totally unafraid of the new or unknown (Japan, bull terriers, Babe Ruth, Woodrow Wilson). One willing to step in and be the first, even when the results weren’t guaranteed.

It is due to Jack Graney’s courage, love of baseball, and character that he stepped into the future in 1932, when he became the first former major leaguer to become a baseball broadcaster. And that was for the team he had dedicated his playing life to: the Cleveland Indians.

jack-graney-jcu-collectionTeams did not send their broadcasters on the road in those days, so for away games Jack worked with tickertape. When the team was away, tickertape would tell the stay-at-home broadcaster what happened on each pitch. The broadcaster would then re-create the game as if it were live. Jack Graney, who had played in all the American League stadiums for more than a dozen years, re-created the games vividly. He was able to describe the stadiums, the fences, the grass, the dugouts, even the scoreboards that a long ball bounced off of. Through his player’s knowledge as well as his broadcaster’s knowledge, Graney was able to bring the game to life for radio listeners. In doing these things, Jack Graney set the standard for future play-by-play broadcasters. Ted Patterson, author of The Golden Voices of Baseball, wrote that Jack Graney’s “ability to re-create a game from just a telegraphic report has never been paralleled.” [See also Ted Patterson’sJack Graney, The First Player-Broadcaster.]

Graney, who had a family to support, also worked as a car salesman in Cleveland, and some of his WHK broadcasts were from a glass-enclosed room within the dealership. People could stop by and watch Jack broadcasting games. He, in turn, could keep an eye on customers.

A caring, gregarious person, Graney shared his knowledge of the broadcasting booth with others. Jimmy Dudley [Ford C. Frick Award, 1997] was relatively new to broadcasting when, in 1947, Bill Veeck teamed him with Jack Graney. Dudley recalled his association with Jack as “one of the greatest I have ever known.”

As a broadcaster Jack Graney brought the same professionalism and dedication to his new baseball career as he had to his previous one. In 1934 CBS asked him to do the national broadcast for the World Series. But Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who ruled with an iron hand, forbid it on the grounds that a former baseball player could not broadcast impartially.

Baseball, Graney sketch.jpegJack Graney wrote a letter to Landis, protesting the decision and stating that he was now a broadcaster, not a player: that he was a professional and knew how to behave as an impartial broadcaster. The result was that Landis relented. (I don’t know, but perhaps Jack Graney getting Landis to relent was also a “first.”) In 1935 Graney broadcast the All-Star Game for CBS and then, along with Bob Elson [Ford C. Frick Award, 1979] and Red Barber [Ford C. Frick Award, 1978], he broadcast the 1935 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers.

Thus Jack Graney was the first former baseball player to nationally broadcast a World Series. Through his letter to Landis and his professional behavior in the broadcasting booth, he opened the door for other players-turned-broadcasters, such as Joe Garagiolo [Ford C. Frick Award, 1991] and Bob Uecker [Ford C. Frick Award, 2003]. These player-broadcasters stand on the innovative and helpful shoulders of Jack Graney.

Print Courtesy of AndersonsClevelandDesign.com

Throughout Cleveland, and also throughout southern Ontario, Jack Graney was a much-loved broadcaster. His voice came over the radio all summer long. His daughter, Margot Graney Mudd, remembers that on summer days you could walk down every block in Cleveland, and from every porch came the voice of Jack Graney on the radio. Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Bob Dolgan wrote: “When he [Graney] talked you could smell the resin in the dugouts, feel the clean smack of ball against bat and see the hawkers in the stands. He was a careful reporter and observer. He was short on ego and long on talent. His voice dripped with sincerity and crackled with vitality.”

On April 16, 1940, Jack Graney was behind the mike when Bob Feller threw his first no-hitter. That was on Opening Day, Comiskey Park. Feller’s feat remains the only Opening Day no-hitter. And Jack Graney was behind the mike during the 1948 World Series, when the Indians won their second World Series, this one against the Boston Braves.

Bob Feller and Jack Graney, on Jack Graney Day

After 23 years of play-by-play broadcasting, Jack Graney retired in September, 1953. In his honor, the Cleveland Indians celebrated Jack Graney Day, and fans paid their respects. Today the Indians honor Jack Graney with a large mural of him broadcasting a game. The mural is in the press room at Progressive Field, and its presence ties the Cleveland team of today to the Cleveland teams of the past, including the team that won the 1948 World Series and the 1920 World Series-winning team that Graney played on.

Jack Graney's Plaque, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Jack Graney was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as a player in 1984, the second year of the Hall’s existence. And in 1987 the CBHOF instituted the Jack Graney Award, to be given to a member of the media for their contributions to baseball in Canada. This is a double-sided award: it honors not only the recipient, but each time it’s given it honors Jack Graney — his character and his baseball contributions. American broadcaster Ernie Harwell [Ford C. Frick Award, 1981] received the Jack Graney Award in 2002. In 2011 the Jack Graney Award was given to W.P. Kinsella, author of Shoeless Joe, on which the movie Field of Dreams was based.

In 2012 Jack Graney was elected to the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame as a broadcaster. In bestowing the award, the Cleveland Indians used their electronic scoreboard to show photos of Jack Graney as both a baseball player and as a broadcaster.

Looking at the criteria for the Ford C. Frick Award once again, it is clear that Jack Graney qualifies on all counts:

• longevity — Yes, 23 years as a broadcaster
• continuity with a club — Yes, 23 years with the Cleveland Indians
• honors — Yes, broadcasting the 1935 All-Star Game, the 1935 World Series, induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, namesake of the Jack Graney Award
• popularity with fans — Yes, he was very popular during his Broadcasting Dawn days, with fans throughout northeastern and even southern Ohio and also northwestern Pennsylvania and southern Ontario. Many of these fans still remember Jack Graney’s broadcasting today

Jack Graney's 1920 World Series ring, 1948 World Series ring, and 1984 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame ring, Photo Courtesy of Margot Graney Mudd and Perry Mudd Smith

If Jack Graney should be awarded the 2016 Ford Frick Award, which he so highly deserves, his name would take its rightful place alongside the other awardees. By his presence he would expand the breadth of the Ford Frick Award. Jack Graney would be the first Canadian-born broadcaster given the award. Someday there may be others: but Jack would be the first.

And Jack Graney, if given the award, would become the first Ford Frick recipient born in the 19th century. Not only the first, but most likely theonly. Ever. Think about the significance of that for a moment. Each and every one of the 39 Ford Frick Award honorees was born in the 20th century. Although baseball broadcasting did not come into being until the 20th century, baseball as we know it was born in the 19th century.

When Jack Graney was an infant, a batter needed five balls to take his base. When Jack was a toddler, the rule was changed to four balls. When Jack was just learning how to judge a pitch and swing a bat, major league pitching distance was increased from 50 feet to 60’6”. If young Jack happened to favor a bat with one flat side, he had to give it up at the age of seven: that’s when bats were required to be rounded.

During Jack’s major league days a cork center was added to the baseball. And the spitball was outlawed. Toward the end of his playing days, the first broadcast of a baseball game took place [August 5, 1921, on KDKA]. When asked to step into this new world of baseball broadcasting, Jack Graney met it with the same courage, attentiveness, and dedication he had met other challenges. He stepped into the broadcasting booth and brought the game to millions of fans. Not only that, he shared his hard-earned knowledge of how to do things on radio with newer and younger broadcasters.

Jack Graney is highly worthy of the Ford C. Frick Award.-dbe0d841fdddfcef

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.

Frank Gifford’s One Degree of Separation from Baseball Broadcasters

Frank Gifford died at his home yesterday morning in Connecticut at the age of 84.  A bona fide Pro Football Hall of Famer, he was also a Hall of Fame-level football broadcaster as well, receiving the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his broadcast service in 1995.

Frank Gifford never worked any baseball broadcasts, but he worked with a bunch of guys who did. View image | gettyimages.com

 

Gifford never broadcast any baseball games (even though he did work some non-football sporting events such as the Olympics, including the infamous 1972 Gold Medal game, which you can hear him call here), but The Giffer did work with several broadcast partners who did, from long-time baseball play-by-play guys to those who merely dipped their toe in the ballpark booth waters, including:

  • Chris Schenkel: We think of Schenkel as the TV bowling broadcaster today—heck, he’s an actual PBA Hall of Famer because of his work on that— but he anchored a whole bunch of sports for the American Broadcasting Company, including a 24-game slate of baseball games in 1965. That same year, Schekel began a three-year run with Gifford to call New York (football) Giants game for CBS, closing out the days when The Eye  deployed dedicated announcers for each NFL team.
  • Jack Whitaker: This guy is also known for his coverage of non-team sports, chiefly golf and horse racing, but he too was a jack of the trade of pro football broadcasting for CBS, as he paired with Gifford for several games during the 1969 and 1970 football seasons.  Whitaker also did a single baseball broadcast, doing play-by-play for CBS on May 7, 1960 from Yankee Stadium during which the Bombers took on their perennial trading partners, the Kansas City A’s.
  • Chuck Thompson: Thompson was one of the all-time great baseball play-by-play men, serving over 40 seasons in the mid-Atlantic region with the two Philadelphia teams, the old Senators (the iteration that became the Twins), and most famously the Orioles, all from the late 40s into the current millennium.  But like almost all baseball announcers of the time, he filled his off-seasons with football, and worked with Gifford for a single Colts-Packers game on Dec. 7, 1968.
  • Howard Cosell: Howard, of course, worked with Gifford for most of his tenure at ABC’s Monday Night Football, during the first 13 years to be exact (1971 to 1983), and we tend think of Howard today as a football announcer and boxing commentator first and second, the order between the two dependent on the person doing the reminiscing about Humble Howard. After a few seconds, hardcore sports fans of the era will also clearly remember that Cosell was a prolific baseball announcer as well, shoring up 144 airings between 1976 and 1985 (with a stray NBC GotW in 1973 as well), good enough for a tie with Bob Uecker for 21st on the all-time color guy list.
  • Don Meredith: Meredith served mostly as comic relief within the various troikas that manned the MNF booth between 1970 and 1984, excepting a three-year hole in the middle of that run to work football with Curt Gowdy at NBC. During that period, The Peacock hoped to capture some of Don’s third man magic for an NBC Game of the Week broadcast with Gowdy and Tony Kubek during a Pirates-Reds tilt on Aug. 12, 1974.  How did Dandy Don do in the baseball booth? Well, he never did work another baseball broadcast after that, so …

In addition to the five listed above, Gifford had a connection to other long time baseball broadcasters without actually working in the booth with them (a second degree of separation, if you will). In 1969, Gifford filled in as an play-by-play announcer on CBS Football for Jack Buck (96 network baseball broadcasts; St Louis Cardinals radio and TV from 1954 to 2001), the regular broadcaster, who was wrapping up his baseball commitments for the season. (Gifford also filled in for Chuck Thompson, same season/same reason, in addition to teaming up with him for one game.)  As for ABC’s MNF, which Gifford headed up from 1971 through 1985, he replaced Keith Jackson (153 network baseball broadcasts from 1965 to 1986, with an appearance on a 2003 broadcast) who had wrapped up that gig after the 1970 NFL season, and was replaced by Al Michaels (263 network baseball games from 1972 to 1995, plus a game in 2011, as well as six seasons with the Reds and Giants from 1971 to 1976), who succeeded Gifford starting with the 1986 NFL season.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family members and friends of Frank Gifford.

50 Years Ago Today, Waite Hoyt Quit His Radio Play by Play Job On The Air

We all probably have different opinions about the best way to quit a job. Some of us have the kind of job where we would like to go storming in to the boss, spit “I quit!” in his or her face, and stomp out the front door with fist pumps in the air (otherwise known as the “Lotto Winner’s Fantasy”). Most of us simply let the boss know that we’re moving on, give her or him a couple weeks notice, and try to clean things up for the next person on the way out.

Waite Hoyt, the radio play by play guy knew how to make an exit. Fifty years ago today, he told his loyal listeners during the Giants-Reds tilt that night that the 1965 season would be his last in the Reds broadcast booth.

Well, Hoyt didn’t exactly quit on the spot while on the air. He had let his bosses at the Reds know earlier that afternoon that 1965 would be his final year.  Also, he continued to broadcast through the final game of the season. So it wasn’t even close to a petulant rant and exit. It was all very clean and civil. And he even returned to the Reds TV booth for one more year during the Reds pennant winning romp of 1972.

But unlike some of the greatest all-time broadcasters at certain times in history, Hoyt got to go out on his own terms, announcing it to his listeners in the way he wanted to.  We should all get that.

The story about Hoyt’s unique departure, written by Mike Dyer, ran on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website last month. You can read the story in its entirety below, or if you prefer, you can read the original story here:

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/2015/07/07/waite-hoyt-announced-his-retirement-from-the-reds-radio-booth-50-years-ago-this-summer/29812513/


Waite Hoyt retired from Reds’ radio booth 50 years ago

 Mike Dyer, mdyer@enquirer.com

The ace of the 1927 Yankees sure knew about timing.

Waite Hoyt’s announcement that he was retiring from the Reds radio booth arrived in the middle of a mid-week tied game 50 years ago this summer. And the news just happened to be in the middle of a pennant race.

The popular Reds radio announcer with a knack for the flair in front of an audience managed to bury the lede on Wednesday night, Aug. 4, 1965 at Crosley Field.

“The big adventure is over,” Hoyt told his audience after the fifth inning of the Giants-Reds game.

Moments earlier, San Francisco pitcher Juan Marichal got Deron Johnson to ground out with Pete Rose stranded on third base.

Reds left-handed pitcher Jim O’Toole took the mound to prepare for the bottom of the Giants lineup in the sixth.

“Late this afternoon…I decided to surrender my position as baseball broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds following the final game of the 1965 season,” Hoyt said.

The Giants defeated the Reds 4-3 in 10 innings in front of 16,376 that August night. The Reds were two games back of the first-place Dodgers while the Giants were three behind Los Angeles.

Nearly 4,000 letters poured in for Hoyt to reconsider his retirement.

Waite Hoyt at Crosley Field in August 1965. (Photo: Provided/Betty Hoyt)
Waite Hoyt at Crosley Field in August 1965. (Photo: Betty Hoyt; h/t to Concinnati.com)

“When Hoyt announced his retirement in August, the news hit his faithful listeners as if the Carew Tower had fallen on them,” a United Press International story said in November 1965.

Other fans said the Reds ought to make Hoyt the club manager.

“It’s nice to know people have that much faith in my baseball knowledge,” Hoyt said. “But, I’m afraid I would be too impulsive in my decisions to make a good manager.”

Hoyt’s final Reds game in the radio booth occurred nearly two months later at Candlestick Park.

Today, Hoyt’s voice can be heard inside the Cincinnati Museum Center as part of the Queen City Baseball: Diamonds and Stars exhibit.

An original part of his final Reds radio broadcast – Oct. 3, 1965 – is a sheer delight as visitors enter the exhibit room on the bottom floor of the Museum Center.

Surrounded by Reds memorabilia, visitors hear Hoyt give the lineup on the speaker above. The audience also hears the National Anthem being played at the stadium.

But, there is also an eerie sense of irony listening to the crowd murmur on the broadcast. Just last week, the final upper-deck section at Candlestick Park was torn down as the stadium demolition makes room for housing, a hotel and a shopping center on its site.

Just the memories remain of that afternoon.

There is plenty of biographical information about Hoyt as a player and a broadcaster at the exhibit. One particular photo shows Hoyt in a WKRC radio studio broadcasting an “away” game in the 1940s.

“Waite never ran out of words – he had cut his teeth on the old ‘Grandstand and Bandstand’ program, a mishmash of music, variety and sports that required the performers to scribble their own material between short sessions on the air,” Robert Smith wrote in the Des Moines Register on Oct. 3, 1965.

The exhibit has an RCA microphone, a bat, autographed baseballs, and an original typed script complete with edits from Hoyt discussing Babe Ruth’s driving. There is also an album of Hoyt’s rain-delay stories from the Baseball Hall of Famer who died in 1984.

Hoyt’s widow, Betty, lives in Westwood. Betty, who is Waite’s third wife, will turn 90 in September.

Reds fans like Betty in the 1940s, 50s and 60s understood Hoyt’s broadcast style quite well.

His rain delay stories were legendary. Cincinnati fans learned a great deal about Ruth, Hoyt’s Murderers’ Row teammate.

The Brooklyn native called Reds games on Cincinnati radio airwaves starting on April 14, 1942. He was a Burger Beer guy. He always called games in the past tense.

Items related to Waite Hoyt's broadcasting career are on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center. (Photo: h/t to Cincinnati.com)
Items related to Waite Hoyt’s broadcasting career are on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center. (Photo: h/t to Cincinnati.com)

“His laugh and his storytelling ability was what made him special,” Hoyt’s television broadcast partner Tom Hedrick told The Enquirer last week.

Hedrick, 81, is a sportscaster and Mass Media and Communication Instructor at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. He worked with Hoyt on Reds games in the television booth in 1972.

“He was kind of my father figure,” Hedrick said. “He always made sure things were ok. He was a fine gentleman. He and I had a rapport.”

Years after he stepped away from the radio booth at the end of the ’65 season, the Reds announced Jan. 30, 1972 that Hoyt would join Hedrick in the TV booth (WLWT) for what turned out to be a National League pennant that October.

Even during that ’72 season, Hoyt always had a story to share and social graces that put those around him at ease.

Hoyt jokingly used a spitball during first pitches at Riverfront Stadium. Rose enjoyed his company. The Big Red Machine was clicking that year and won 95 games.

Al Michaels and Joe Nuxhall were in their second year together on the radio calling Reds games on WLW. The stadium was sparkling.

Hedrick has never forgotten what Hoyt taught him about the intricacies of the game. The Hall of Famer gave Hedrick a great deal of confidence too.

“‘I’ve had my place in the sun,’ Hoyt told Hedrick. ‘It’s your ballgame.'”

Fifty years ago this summer, Hoyt was on his radio farewell tour but he collected plenty of highlights and accolades.

Just four days after he announced his retirement from the radio booth, the Reds defeated the 1965 World Series champion Dodgers 18-0 at Crosley Field – still the modern club record for largest margin of victory in a shutout for the Reds.

The Reds also played at old Busch Stadium (formerly Sportsman’s Park) for the final time on Aug. 15.

On Aug. 19, Reds right-handed pitcher Jim Maloney threw a no-hitter at Wrigley Field in a 1-0 win over the Cubs in 10 innings. Maloney struck out 12 for the 10th no-hitter in club history.

Then, just a few days before his 66th birthday, the longtime announcer was lauded with “Waite Hoyt Day” at Crosley Field on Sunday, Sept. 5.

This tribute was made in response to several requests from fans and the event was sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Hoyt was awarded a five-week European tour after the season from more than 1,800 appreciative fans.

Hoyt was recognized plenty in news articles for his time with the Reds and was described as one of the most popular men in Ohio.

“I wouldn’t trade the years I have spent in baseball for anything,” Hoyt said.

 

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.