Monday, October 01, 2018

61

A Roger Maris 1959 Topps baseball card. Yes, it's mine.
It's October 1.

There are numerous ways that I can think of today. Some aren't pretty.

I'll always think of Roger Eugene Maris. The pride of Fargo, North Dakota (long before Frances McDormand), Roger was a baseball and football star who made good. He met his wife Pat there, and wanted to be the best ballplayer he could be.

Raj would make the Cleveland Indians in 1957 before being traded to the Kansas City A's in 1958.

In December 1959, Maris was traded to the New York Yankees, and his life would never be the same.

Maris bloomed into a full-blown star in 1960, hitting 39 home runs, winning the American League MVP and leading the star-laden Bronx Bombers to the World Series, where they would lose in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs won the title on a ninth inning home run in Game 7 by Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski.

With manager Casey Stengel jettisoned at the age of 70 following 1960, Maris, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Blanchard, Elston Howard, Bill "Moose" Skowron, and Yogi Berra led a barrage of home runs as the Bombers launched 240 in 1961. New manager Ralph Houk used ace Whitey Ford to perfection, and "The Chairman of the Board" responded with a 25-4 Cy Young-winning year.

The Yankees would win 109 games and steamroll the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Honestly, that was an afterthought.

This year was all about 61 in '61.

Mantle, the golden boy in his tenth year in New York, hit 54 home runs in that magical year, and was seen as the popular choice to break the mythical record of 60, established by one Mr. George Herman Ruth in 1927.

Maris, the quiet guy from Fargo -- the man whose hair would fall out as the pressure increased -- the man so unlikely to break the record of Babe Ruth, did just that.
"I don't want to be Babe Ruth. He was a great ballplayer. I'm not trying to replace him. The record is there and damn right I want to break it, but that isn't replacing Babe Ruth."
Maris answered every question that year (and after) but he wasn't glib. He was a largely simple midwestern man. Mantle, Ford, and other Yankees were more fit for that life.

Roger, somehow, made it work.

Even the commissioner, Ford Frick, was anti-Maris. Frick (yes, the very same man who the Hall of Fame broadcasting excellence award is named after) was a ghostwriter for -- wait for it -- Ruth. Thus, the commissioner set the rule that if Maris (or anyone else) didn't reach 61 home runs within 154 games (the number that Ruth set the record in), then it would exist in a separate category.

That's where the mythical asterisk came in (which never truly existed). To that extent, Billy Crystal made a movie about it.


(Damn good movie by the way. Historical inaccuracies aside, the film is gorgeous.)

Mantle would fade due to an injury in September, leaving Roger to carry the torch. Rumors existed that the two feuded through '61, though that was false.

Maris missed the magic 61 in 154 games, but tied the record with his 60th on September 26th against Jack Fisher of the Orioles. The great Mel Allen, once and forever "The Voice of the Yankees" was on the call.


That brings us to October 1. It was the last day of the season.

A mere 23,154 fans were at cavernous Yankee Stadium on that Sunday afternoon. It was 71 degrees, and most fans filed into the right field seats, hoping to catch the magic 61st home run. Sam Gordon, a restauranteur from Sacramento, CA offered $5,000 to the fan who secured the magic ball.

Sal Durante, a truck driver from Staten Island, was the lucky man. Mr. Durante, who attended the game with his fiancee, paid $2.50 for his ticket.

The Yankees broadcast was carried, as always, on WPIX TV (channel 11) with Red Barber (mentor of one Vincent Edward Scully) on the call. Yankees legend Phil Rizzuto -- the 1950 MVP and former shortstop -- was on the radio side on WCBS (880).

The opponent? The Boston Red Sox, on their way to finishing 76-86 and drawing under 900,000 fans to Fenway Park. Tracy Stallard, a 23-year-old who would lost 20 games with the Mets in 1964, was the pitcher.

The final score was 1-0. Obviously the Yankees won, and won on the 61st home run hit by Roger Eugene Maris.

YouTube user "YankeesAtShea" paired the WPIX video with the famous radio call by Rizzuto.



The full radio broadcast is here. Barber, who seems to not be as regarded as he should be in this era, has his call here, where Allen joins him (color analysts weren't as prominent). To be sure, Red was a stern taskmaster, and his call, while exciting, lacks the elation of Rizzuto. Still, it's the basic difference between a TV and radio call.

On a personal level, it's one of my favorite Yankees/baseball history moments. Maris was horribly underrated, known primarily for the 61 home runs. Obviously that was a lofty number that he would never come close to approaching again. Roger would "only" hit 33 in 1962, leading the Yankees to a second-straight Series title (part of a run of five-straight appearances in the Fall Classic).

Maris was a brilliant defender, extraordinary baserunner, and fine hitter. Things came together for him in 1961, as he took advantage of hitting in front of Mantle, as well as substandard pitching.

Still, fans were horrible to Maris, as he could never live up to 61 in '61.

Maris would head to St. Louis following 1965, where he was a part of two appearances for the Cardinals in the World Series, winning it all in 1967.

It was there where Maris rediscovered his love of baseball, before retiring after 1968. He would run a beer distributorship in Gainesville, Fl (a byproduct of him playing for the Cardinals, owned by the Busch family).

Thanks to George Steinbrenner, Maris would return to the Yankees family in the late 1970s, appearing at Old Timers Day and other ceremonial moments. Steinbrenner retired his number nine in 1984.

Just over a year later, Maris died of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma on December 14, 1985.

He was only 51.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Keep Grinding


I have to be quick here.

There are days when this business -- and certainly any business -- will eat you alive.

I've dealt with myriad politics in media.

I've been pushed aside thanks to people with money, power-hungry people, old boys clubs, and more.

Don't think I've just hung on at WGCH for 21 years. There are times I've had to fight to be seen and heard.

Sometimes, I still do.

The politics of this business stinks -- even now, as a veteran of nearly three decades.

Everyone wants your job.

Many hate you or blacklist you.

There are stories. Oh yes.

Then there's the low pay, when being nearly 50 means finding work can be brutal (heck, I'll take an office job and broadcast on the side), but the child support bill must be paid.

How do I pay the bills?

How do I survive?

How do get my (insert term here) off my back?

How?

You don't know the full story, and you probably never will.

Power struggles stink.

I've been through and seen it all.

So when I get this, it means a whole lot.

That came out of nowhere. It wasn't a ringer, and she wasn't a friend. 

Honestly, that's all I have to add. The kind words are a good reminder.

Don't quit. 

Don't.

Keep moving forward.

See you at 3:30 for Brunswick and Hotchkiss.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Alone Again (Naturally)

Greenwich jerseys on display Saturday to honor Steven Sudell, a 14-year-old battling brain cancer (My photo)
For more on Steven Sudell, please go here.

On Saturday, I hit another one of those "now I've seen everything" moments.

I've called baseball solo many times. Same with basketball. Hockey. Lacrosse.

I've called football alone. However, prior to Saturday, I had never broadcast Greenwich football alone.

By my count, my previous 188 broadcasts had a partner, or even the makings of a clown car as a big crew would ride along.

Things fell through on Saturday. Paul Silverfarb didn't feel well. Chris Kaelin had to tend to a family matter. Chris Erway was scheduled to be away.

By the time I could reach out to anyone else, it was too late.

For my 189th broadcast of Greenwich football (five of which were on the HAN Network in 2014 and 2015), I was on my own.

It was weird.

Don't get me wrong, I'm OK with "Scullying" games (named after the master, of course). There are drawbacks to working solo, but there are a lot of positives as well.

I did the Brunswick/Loomis Chaffee game on Friday night alone, and it was fairly blissful.

In the case of Greenwich and Trinity Catholic on Saturday, I think it was just something I wasn't used to. No Erway to laugh with and do lists of top five songs (or whatever) in the second half with the score 49-0. No Paul to joke with about the Buccaneers and Steelers. No Kato to complain about the Mets.

The booth at Greenwich was as usual, even if the faces change. We're still getting used to the new things this year. But that didn't deter the broadcast.

Anyway, I'm not trying to make a big deal of this. It was just something I noted. Jake Zimmer has already volunteered to ride shotgun for the next game, at Norwalk on September 28.

Incidentally, if it all lines up, my 200th Greenwich football game might be a state championship contest.

Just saying.

Oh, one other thing. the post I ran in honor of September 11 was called "At Seventeen," in honor of the seventeenth anniversary. I used that title because it matched up with a 1976 song by Janis Ian. This post -- titled "Alone Again (Naturally)" -- also takes its lead from a 1970's hit song. In this case, it's the monster 1971 depressing hit by Gilbert O'Sullivan. Just trying to inform those who don't know.

Highlights from Saturday, as Greenwich beat Trinity Catholic 56-0.
   
Highlights from Friday, as Brunswick beat Loomis Chaffee 35-13.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

At Seventeen

(The original World Trade Center, collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, gift of Jonathan Lockwood Smith, JLS Photo)

I don't have profound words today.

The memories are there still. They'll always be there.

How did we spend September 10? The Yankees were rained out.

That's what I remember.

September 11, 2001? I remember it all. I remember how I felt. I remember the looks on others faces. How I was supposed to go to a meeting in White Plains and spent a large chunk of the day in the WGCH newsroom and offices.

How I was beginning to prep for Greenwich at Norwalk. They were to play that Saturday. Were.

I remember how I watched and listened.

How I wondered if this was World War III.

That look at the sky when I heard on WCBS (880 am) that the second plane had hit, and I knew.

We all knew.

There were no tears that day.

Just shock.

What the ****? No, really. What the **** was going on?

Driving home on a basically empty Interstate 684. I'll always remember that.

The TV constantly on. Or the radio. Or -- because I'm me -- both.

That Greenwich/Norwalk game never happened. They played Trinity Catholic 10 days later.

The Cardinals football family suffered a loss in the attacks. I always look for his name.

The memories are still there. We push them aside most of the time. Then yank them back out when it's brought up, or on this very day.

For many, the horror began around 8am on airplanes departing from Boston, Washington Dulles, and Newark.

For the rest of us, that time will always be 8:46.

It carried on until 10:29, when the North Tower collapsed.

It seemed to never end, with part of the Pentagon collapsing, and WTC Tower 7 also falling.

September 12 was a strange day. It was my first time on the air.

We insisted on doing a show, and didn't need anyone to tell us how to do it.

It was a golf show, but it wasn't a golf show that night.

It was cathartic (and it's embedded at the bottom of this post).

It all still hurts.

It was an event that happened in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, PA.

But it wasn't just a New York event. This was our country.

And our world.

So much to say. I've written plenty.

Year after year I write on the blog and hurt for friends and loved ones and strangers who lost. I understand we all lost something, even if it was the end of our innocence.

Seventeen years.

And I still feel like I've said nothing.

*****

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Game One: Greenwich 42, Trumbull 7

The new scoreboard is really sweet.
Week one for the Greenwich Cardinals football team went in a similar way to how last year started. 

Initially, Trumbull was able to hang with "Big Red" before Greenwich ran away. It was 70-16 last year.

This year ended in a 42-7 win for the Cardinals as old foe Marce Petroccio began his run as head coach of the Trumbull Eagles. AJ Barber and Gavin Muir connected for three scores, while Tysen Comizio and Jack Warren added touchdowns on the ground. Ryan Raybuck's second quarter pick six was my choice for both "turning point" and "play of the day." The Cardinals followed that with a on-side kick, and they were off. Highlights here:
 
A few other thoughts:

- The scoreboard is beautiful. The lone casualty? Us! After many years, WGCH lost our corner space in the press box (at least for now).

- The crowd was really good. I didn't expect that, considering the rain. Well done, Greenwich (and Trumbull).

- The tailgate was...well, yeah. It was great. Marc Ducret is a master.

- I showed up to picture day in a blue polo shirt (representing the Hudson Valley Renegades, whose game I was calling that night). I, rightfully, got teased (and my headshot in the team program has me in that shirt). Don't want me in blue (as in Darien Blue Wave, or someone else)? Easily resolved! But I'm going to show up in a Brunswick cap one of these days!


- The program was beyond anything I could have imagined. I've always wanted a media page in the program, like the ones I used to see in the old Yankees yearbooks. Those pages listed the broadcasters and writers who covered the Yankees. So to have Chris Erway and I both featured in the GHS football program? Cool. Very cool.

- We did a live video stream of the game, produced by DJ Furano. It looked great on YouTube, with our play-by-play included. It's very much a work in progress. I'm aware there was criticism of the static camera, for instance. Hang in there with us. (Note: as of this writing, the video seems to have been taken down. Again, a work in progress.)

Next Cardinals broadcast is next Saturday at 4pm against Trinity Catholic. As of now, I'm without a broadcast partner as Chris Erway will miss the next two games. My next game is Friday night, when Brunswick opens their 2018 season at home against Loomis Chaffee School at 7:30.

** I make no promises that I will do these posts and highlights for every game.

Full game broadcast (in this case, sans commercials) here:

Friday, September 07, 2018

It's Time For Cardinals Football

Greenwich has a new scoreboard that might be turned on for Saturday's game (My photo)

I wanted to call a high school football game tonight.

I didn't call a game tonight.

So I stayed home, saw Sean (my 16-year-old son, for those who don't know*), and watched some guy named Paul McCartney perform from Grand Central Terminal.**

* I don't assume everyone knows Sean, especially since he doesn't join me on the road as much as he used to.

** Macca called it "Grand Central Station." He's Paul McCartney. I'll give him a pass.

As late as yesterday, I thought I'd be on the call of Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame of West Haven tonight, but for reasons out of my control, it didn't come to be. I might still get a Prep call later in the season. We'll see.

Tomorrow, at 3:50, barring any last-minute issues (again, I'm making no assumptions), we'll flip the switch on the 2018 season, as Greenwich hosts Trumbull at Cardinal Stadium.

Wanting to make an entrance (not really), we'll be the last game to start in the FCIAC, and the second-to-last game to start in Connecticut.

For me, it's another year in a wild ride that actually began in 1997, for that was when I first walked into the hallowed halls of WGCH Radio. After initially being used as a board-operator for Sunday church services and other fill-in things, I moved over to sports in late 1998.

But it wasn't on WGCH.

It was actually on our former "sister station," WVIP, the Mount Kisco-based AM outlet that we ran out of the Greenwich studios. I was the board-op and studio host for a few Westchester County high school football games.

By late '98, I was board-op'ing Greenwich basketball and hockey, and would soon venture out to a game site or two before getting my first game call in April '99 for a Greenwich/Port Chester baseball game. I'd stay busy with lots more, including calling Westchester County high school football on WVIP in 1999.

By late spring, 2000, former 'GCH sports director John Connelly was heading out the door. John was the lead for Greenwich football. Now that door was open.

I ran through it, pulled it shut, and have never really looked back.

So that means I'm starting year number 17 tomorrow as lead broadcaster ("Voice of" always makes me uncomfortable. Mel Allen was the "Voice of the Yankees." Who can compare to that?)

Add in games that I called during two years with the HAN Network, plus being a sideline reporter in late 1999, and I'm starting my 20th year around Cardinals football, and 21 overall covering Greenwich sports.

Local Live will get the FCIAC package going tomorrow, and my understanding is Tom Prizeman -- a one-time intern for me -- will handle St. Joe's and New Canaan. I would loved to have been on that call, but my commitment to Greenwich will keep me from it.

So Chris Erway and I will buckle into Cardinal Stadium again. I'll be on the call of every play (I've missed one Greenwich game, in 2005, not including the HAN years). Have I mentioned every down will air on WGCH (1490 am) and wgch.com?

Next Friday, I'll be back with Brunswick, calling their football (and more!). That will be on Local Live and Robcasting Radio.

Local Live will get me going with plenty of FCIAC stuff (and...again...more!).

My (hopeful) point is that I will be busy. So long as I have the voice, I'll make it happen.

There's equipment that needs to be reviewed, and even then, I won't know what works until I'm at Cardinal Stadium.

There are notes to finalize and, to be honest, how many notes do I need? I'm fairly familiar with GHS. I know Trumbull pretty well.  It's football. Chris and I can call a game. There's actually a point where there can be too many notes (especially in a small booth like Cardinal Stadium).

The ability to adjust, not lean on stats, and ad-lib is immensely important to a play-by-play duo.

I'll talk to John Marinelli (Greenwich coach) and Marce Petroccio (Trumbull coach -- man that's weird) tomorrow at the field. I know them both well.

As always, I'll be nervous. Families actually rely on me to be a conduit through the radio/internet to their athletes.

But I'll take a deep breath around 3:49.

The music will build around 3:50.

By 3:51, I'll probably begin talking. Like I always have. Since 1998.

The National Anthem will play around 3:58. That's a sacred moment for me. Patriotism aside (I'm not dismissing it), it's my last moment to think. To pause and remember the father who never heard his son as a broadcaster. To hope I make my son, my friends, and the listeners (many of whom are also friends) proud.

Then...it's football. The nerves will subside.

Another year will begin.

Let's go.

*****
Greenwich has a hype video, created by DJ Furano. Have a look.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Kind Word

Calling hockey off a monitor in the Local Live Stamford studio (Photo courtesy Local Live Instagram)
The preparation is fully underway for the 2018-19 high school sports season.

In truth, my broadcasting year essentially begins right around Labor Day. Primarily, it stretches to sometimes around Memorial Day to late June, and then anything after this is a nice bonus.

Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, and Little League Baseball (and the Hudson Valley Renegades) are among those that extend into this bonus time.

I'm burying the lede here.

In the midst of prepping, here's what I know: I'll (hopefully) have a busy year with Greenwich High (especially football and quite likely hockey, and maybe even -- gasp! -- water polo!). I'll also do a lot again with Brunswick (baseball, football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey...etc...).

There are several other schools in play, with a heavy dose of Local Live (I'm chomping at the bit to tell you more).

Anyway, over the past few years, while dodging arrows, I found myself having occasional "crisis of confidence," in which I thought I was, basically, a hack.

Certainly there are negative critics of me, and sometimes deservedly so. Opinions are certainly justified, and I absorb all of it.

I've also developed a cynical eye towards email, text, social media, the mailbox, and so on.

But I'm always hopeful for good things. Some I can't tell you.

Some I can.

I texted Nelson Santos, the founder and CEO of Local Live whom I've been working somewhat closely with for over a year now, mostly on Brunswick athletics. Along the way, Nelson asked me to do a few other things, such as host a play-by-play web conference, and serve as the lead announcer for the Legacy Global Sports 2018 World Selects Invitational Semifinals and Championship.

Truth by known, I was (as usual) hard on myself, especially as I missed a goal scoring at one point. I thought for sure I'd never do this event again.

In fact, I was basically the fill-in for those who were supposed to call the games originally. Plus I was calling the games off a monitor from the Local Live studios in Stamford (which I had already done prior to that). In fact, that's me doing so in the picture at the top of this post.

In the end, Anthony Agostinelli became a hero with a goal in overtime.


Check this out on Chirbit

The goal (without my call) hit SportsCenter as their number one Play of the Day. No question, it was really cool.

When I had lunch with Nelson a few weeks ago, he said he had heard nothing negative and said we'd revisit it for 2019.

I'd say I'm safe. He texted me earlier today: "They want you for next year. (They) said your call was the best they ever had."

So I've got that going for me...which is nice.