Saturday, March 10, 2012

A (radio) week into spring training

Working at home as I do, and sitting at a computer all day as I’m forced to do, I often have MLB’s Gameday on during the ball season. If the Jays aren’t playing, I just browse the list of games and flip on whichever match-up interests me.

During spring training, the broadcast schedule is more hit and miss. My guys don’t broadcast every game, and since I’m working, I can’t sit there and watch a silent game on MLB’s little animation thing, which also doesn’t work all that well during spring since the stadia used (that’s correct plural Latin for you!) aren’t set up for such electronic niceties, it seems.

Yesterday, I did listen to the Jays game, but had to suffer through it with the Astros’ radio broadcasters. Milo Hamilton was certainly on, but I don’t remember who else was with him.

The important thing was, they didn’t let the game get in their way discussing traffic in the Orlando area (the team trains in Kissimmee, a name I’ve always loved), restaurants that Milo recommends, what shows he watches on TV (rather than go see his team play in Tampa when they meet the Yankees shortly), and a whole bunch of other non-baseball topics that just had me on the edge of my seat. It was sort of “reverse Vin Scully”.

Now, spring training is supposed to be a laid back affair, but this was seriously pushing the envelope. I enjoy hearing what other broadcasters have to say, but I certainly like it to be about somewhat about baseball.

These guys didn’t know that it was Perez pitching innings 3 & 4, calling him Crawford the whole time, even though Luiz certainly doesn’t look anything like someone who would have such a British surname. I wasn’t listening in the seventh when Crawford actually did come in to pitch, so I have no idea what they called him.

All in all, the broadcast team for the Astros seems about as adept as the players on the field at the moment. It was a pretty lacklustre effort.
Years ago I was listening as the Yanks were in a tight game at season’s end, and their legendary shortstop and broadcaster, Phil (Scooter) Rizzuto, went on and on about a chocolate cake someone had sent to the broadcast booth. We learned a lot more about his dessert preferences over the next two innings than we did about what was going on at field level.

Maybe spring training should also include getting the broadcast teams ready for the regular season. Over the off-season, perhaps their broadcasting skills have gotten a little flabby and overweight, and they need sharpening as much as the players down on the field.

I have some suggestions of possibly useful drills for them:
• Staying on Topic (no one cares what you had for dinner last night)
• There Are Two Teams in Every Game (learn something about the opposing side – like their names?)
• Describing the Game: Audiences Don't See Well On the Radio
• Pushing the Right Buttons (or why commercials don’t usually start in the middle of an at bat)

It will be interesting to compare today’s matchup of the two teams listening to the Jays radio broadcast team of Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby (who used to broadcast and play for the Astros). I bet I learn a lot more about the Houston squad than I did yesterday from their own broadcasters!

(And here’s something you might try. Log in to the broadcast via MLB gameday. You’ll be able to switch back and forth between each broadcast team, and will probably quickly see what I’m talking about.)


John Z said...

I totally agree - the announcers need to polish up their game for the upcoming season...but as a Yankee fan this concept is a bit scary as i do not want John Sterling using all winter and spring thinking up more ridiculous sayings after a big hit - like "the Grandy Man can" or "Tex sends a Tex Message" or That one was "Swish-a-licious" -too bad radio doesn't have a mute button for these "Calls" that could be activated by the station within its 7 second delay. Stay on the game action please!

Rick Blechta said...

Sterling gives me heartburn. Give me someone who makes all about the game and not about them. Waldman’s not bad, but she also isn’t a former ball player, and she talks too much. The Scooter used to drive me crazy with his asides, but at least he could help decode what was going on down on the field.

Why do the Yankees have such trouble finding good broadcasters?

Will Braund said...

I am a fan of the Yankees, but not a fan of their broadcasters, though I liked Bobby Murcer on TV. Great point Rick about radio crews boring us with what they had for dinner.
No one can compare to the Padres' Jerry Coleman, the Mets' Ralph Kiner or the Yankees' Phil Rizzuto. Here is some of their best work.

Coleman: "There's a fly to deep center. Winfield is going back, back! He hits his head against the wall! It's rolling toward second base!"

Kiner: "There's a base hit into center field. Santana can't get to it. But he goes over there and makes the catch."

Rizzuto: "Jammed him. That went pretty far for a jam job. Holy cow! A home run. The old eyes are gone. I'm going home to get my eyes examined."

Coleman: "He slides into second base with a stand-up double."

Rizzuto: "Reggie's home run has gone clear out of the ballpark."
Bill White: "Actually, Scooter, that ball landed in the seats."
Rizzuto: "It doesn't matter. They can't see it at home anyway."

Kiner, after a Japanese player had broken Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played: "That's because the fences are a lot shorter over there."

Rizzuto: "A high fly, and while it's in the air, happy birthday to Daphne Lapizana. She turns 18 today."csaing

Coleman: "I've made a couple of mistakes I'd like to do over."

Kiner: "He's getting up there in age. He's 35. That should give you a pretty good idea of how old he is."

Kiner: "On this Father's Day, we again wish you all a happy birthday."

Rick Blechta said...

Classics, Will, all of 'em classics. I laughed out loud.

My favorite Rizzuto memory is a game the Yankees won and right at the end of it (it may even have been just over at that point), the news broke that Pope John Paul I had died unexpectedly. Rizzuto was silent for a moment and than said, “Well, that will take the shine off even a Yankees victory.”

Jared said...

Kiner is still legendary in my little circle for a Mets game he was calling on WOR. The Marlins were carrying journeyman infielder Jerry Browne at the time, and Ralph made the call: "Next up is Jerry Browne, who they call The Governor. They call him The Governor because he's from the Virgin Islands..."

Rick- Was there a follow-up on the Jays' broadcast?

Rick Blechta said...

Jared, I don’t think so.