Sunday, May 14, 2017

One More Number 2 Note

Never saw this picture. (Credit: JOE GIZA/AP)
Interesting piece in the New York Daily News by Peter Botte about those who wore number 2 before Derek Jeter.

I own a pinstriped number 2 Yankees jersey. I know it was for Jeter when I bought it, but true Yankees uniforms don't have names on them, so I feel in my heart it's a Bobby Murcer jersey.

Granted, it's not any of his other unis, including the holy grail: the 1973 number one with the 50th anniversary Yankee Stadium patch on the sleeve, but I digress.

With number 2 being retired today, both of Bobby Ray's main numbers will be gone. I've never -- nor will I ever -- believe the Yankees should honor Murcer with a number, but for the love of Thurman Munson, how about something?

A plaque in Monument Park?

A bobble head doll or some kind of giveaway?

Maybe a nod in the press box?

Major League Baseball's B.A.T. honors teams with the Bobby Murcer Award, "whose players contribute the most amount of money to B.A.T. through the Major League Baseball Payroll Deduction Program."

There are various nods to our guy around his beloved Oklahoma City.

But nothing from the Yankees.

Here's the thing: Bobby Murcer was every bit the player, representative, and man that Billy Martin -- who also wore number 1 - was.

No, I don't want a number retired for him, but for a guy who gave everything to the Yankees from the 1964 until 2008 (missing them when he was in exile in San Francisco and Chicago from 1975-1979), the team should do something.

I'm sure the team doesn't think honoring Murcer, and a whole group of other legends who deserve to be recognized, will draw in a big crowd, and that's the bottom line. It's a business.

But they could do something about it at Old Timer's Day, which was a favorite of Bobby's, and how he made a lasting impression to a latter generation of fans.

Plus Kay Murcer -- Bobby's wonderful widow, and someone I'm proud to have spoken to -- is always at Old Timer's Day.

The Yankees are all about history. There's a museum in the Stadium. So let's get cracking. Tony Lazzeri, Bill "Moose" Skworon, Ralph Houk, Hank Bauer, and a lot of others deserve some attention.

Let's go, Yankees. Make it happen.

OK. Rant over.

Carry on, and Happy Mother's Day.

Jeetopia on National Derek Jeter Day

To my knowledge, this photo is credited to Sports Illustrated. Happy to change if wrong.
If you have an inkling of a clue about sports, then you know that Derek Jeter's number 2 is officially off the market tonight in The Bronx.

Sadly, we've reached an epidemic of attention about Jeter in the same way we've heard it about Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Muhammed Ali, and so on.

Yes -- I know someone like Ali is so highly regarded for his social value. Still my point stands.

The point is that there is a constant barrage of "greatest ever," and it's easy to be sick of being told that. Thus one gets tired of The Beatles, U2, etc.

I'll tell you without a doubt that Rolling Stone made me fully sick of U2 from roughly 1986 until 2001. Give or take.

There has been great writing all "Jeter Week" about Derek Sanderson. There has also been tons of idiocy.

Tons.

It's easy to forget the greatness of an entity when we see or hear so much. Step away from Elton John (I use this example occasionally). Forget about the Lion King stuff. Forget Princess Diana. Forget all of it and whittle it down to, say, 1970 to 1984 (1976 to 1984 weren't exactly his best years, but mine for a few nuggets and they're there).

Strip it all away and get back to the music, and you're stunned at how good it is.

Well, that can be applied to Jeter. Take away the girlfriends (oh dear God, Mariah Carey? Really?), the money, the "brand," and get back to the basics.

Don't base it on the numbers, although there's some meat on those bones. I mean, for those who think he's overrated, he's SIXTH all-time in hits. SIXTH!

Look at this:
RankPlayerHits
1Pete Rose4,256
2Ty Cobb †[b]4,191
3Hank Aaron †3,771
4Stan Musial †3,630
5Tris Speaker †3,514
6Derek Jeter3,465
7Honus Wagner †3,430
Those "crosses" indicate Hall of Famers. Someone -- in a Facebook thread -- actually said Jeter won't be a "first ballot" Hall of Famer.

Please check yourself out of being a sports fan immediately. Or return to Citi Field at once for whatever it is you do there.

"Oh but Jeets has no MVP's." This, frankly, is on the cusp of the dumber arguments. MVP's are voted on. Yes, players have earned them, but it's honestly not a smart metric for defaming a player. It's great to say Mickey Mantle was a three-time MVP, but it should hardly be held against Gary Carter that he didn't win one.

Funny, over at Citi Field, Carter is held in high regard.

Plus -- not for nothing -- the Yankees don't quite win the MVPs (voted on by writers) the way they used to. ARod won two -- 2005 and 2007 -- but before that? It was Don Mattingly in 1985 and Thurman Munson in 1976. Elston Howard in 1963 was the previous answer.

However, I can mic drop the MVP talk here: 2000 World Series MVP. I'm thinking that one matters.

Oh and the notion that he'd be "a good player had he spent his career in Milwaukee" (heard that doozy on the Dan Patrick Show this week) also doesn't fly. Again -- sixth most hits.

I get it. A lot of Jeetopia was and is carefully cultivated and marketed by savvy people, including Jeter himself.

But strip it all away again and have a look, and you'll realize it's pretty damn incredible. He's in the conversation of the best five shortstops ever.

Ever.

Honus Wagner. Cal Ripken, Jr. Alex Rodriguez, Ernie Banks (before his move to first base)...Derek Jeter.

To me, it's between Wagner and Jeter. That's just me, and I saw no reason that Jeter needed to move when ARod came to New York.

I've got tons of Jeter for you, and I know there were flaws. But more often than not, all I heard was jealousy. Mostly because he rarely made a wrong move, both on and off the field.

MLB did a March Madness-style bracket looking to come up with his most iconic moment. Certainly, "The Flip Play" was incredible. I loved his speech to close the old Stadium. The final hit in 2014 at Yankee Stadium. "Mr. November." The 3000 hit/HR and the one to set the Yankees' hit record are both special to me because I watched them with Sean, and we celebrated like he actually cared about baseball for a moment.

Yet. I found myself thinking about this one: Game 4, 2000 World Series.

I was at Game 1 that year in The Bronx. It was nerve-wracking, and the Yankees won in extra innings. My heart was in my throat that whole week. The Yankees won Game 2, fairly easily (though Mo had a few issues in the ninth). The Mets won Game 3 and seemed to have momentum before Game 4 began.

Joe Torre inserted Jeter at the top of the lineup, ready to face Bobby Jones. You probably know what happened.

The Mets -- in one of the more embarrassing pregame moments ever -- had the Baja Men sing "Who Let The Dogs Out. Gary Thorne and Tommy Hutton had the call on MLB International.


Case closed.

Enjoy the ceremony tonight.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nick Buoniconti

Nick Buoniconti (Photo: AP)
It's quite likely that, if you read this thing here -- this bloggy -- then you're a sports fan.

Or you like to bad writing.

Whatever. You're here for some reason.

Regardless of what or why, I ask you to read this fascinating piece by S.L. Price about Nick Buoniconti, the Miami Dolphins legend who played for the undefeated 1972 team.

Yes they were undefeated. Just ask them.

Buoniconti, as the headline says, is in decline. It's sad and frustrating and angering.

Exactly what do we do about football? Great sport. We know that.

I'm complicit in that I broadcast it upwards of 20 times a year, and I'm certainly not here to hate on the sport.

We've seen too many cases of CTE now. So how do we protect these athletes?

That's what I feel like: we need answers.

Now let's find them.

Here's Super Bowl VII. Curt Gowdy calls the play-by-play on NBC.

 

Up Early

My trusty South of the Border mug.
I couldn't sleep. There's work to be done.

And I'm thinking.

As Crash Davis once said in Bull Durham: "Don't think; it can only hurt the ball club."

As my friend Harold once said after watching me hit balls in a batting cage: "You're thinking too much when you go to the plate."

So yeah. Thinking.

If only it were that easy. Just "don't think about it."

Don't think about any of it.

This is where I type several different sentences and stop.

Then delete.

Too vague. Too direct. Too dark.

Too open. Too private.

Too honest (yes, that appears to be a crime).

Too...

Say one thing. Don't say another. Wait. Don't say the first thing!

Did I say what I wanted (or need) to say? Probably not. But I can't.

Heck, maybe I've already confused or concerned the reader.

So I stop writing.

Up since 4:30. The Sentinel needs stories.

There are guests to book. A full day ahead.

I'm babbling.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jacob's Ladder and The South

Somewhere along NC Route 210 this morning.
Greetings from lovely Stedman, NC.

Charming town, this is. The people are pleasant in this (as of this writing) small suburb of Fayetteville.

It's growing, of course, as so many areas do, and given the way North Carolina is increasing in population, it's no surprise.

According to the 2010 census, Stedman had a population of 1,028 and that has gone up quite a bit since then.

I'm here to take care of family for the week, including driving two great nieces to and from school every day. Exhausting, but fun also.

So this morning, we listened to some tunes (overall kids just aren't interested in the stuff I listen to) as we drove. They headed off to embrace learning, and I returned to the road. As always, morning radio leaned towards blabber, so I passed*.

*There's a classic rock station, and it's not bad, but they need to be convinced that it's OK to play something other than Aerosmith. No, really. It will be OK. I'll spare you the usual "Mellencamp rant."

So I motored along, making my way to Interstate 95**.

** If my niece Kristy reads this, I have yet to take the same route to drive your daughters to school. I know you don't take 95 but, well, you know me. Your girls think I'm nuts (and I am), but there's something really cool about jumping on 95 to take them to school.

I decided I was in the mood for...wait for it...Huey Lewis and the News. The greatest hits would do.

That's when it came on: Jacob's Ladder. The song, penned by Bruce and John Hornsby, speaks of the daily struggles of life and the rejection of a lot of the hard-charging organized religion.

I don't think the Hornsby's wrote it about me (not that I'm aware of), but my God (see what I did there?) did it strike me in 1986 as I played side one, track one of Fore.

I had reasons it did so then, and I still do.

Anyway, it probably isn't a surprise that there are plenty of God-fearing types around Fayetteville. We'll not pass judgement but I couldn't help to chuckle at the juxtaposition of yours truly -- heathen am I -- in the south, in a town with a "24-Hour Prayer Marathon" sign (scheduled for next week!), blasting Jacob's Ladder.

If I could have gotten the stereo on the nifty Nissan Altima I'm driving to go to the proverbial (again, see what I did?) eleven (This is Spinal Tap reference), I would have.

It's been a mantra for a long time:
"All I want from tomorrow is to get it better than today."
It still rings true.

Incidentally, if you're going to to go all-in on such, then give me a fiery Baptist preacher, like the one I was listening to the other morning on the radio. The brimstone and organ was a nice touch.
"Sing along, send some money. Join the chosen few."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ludlowe/Greenwich Baseball



So here's what we discovered yesterday at the GHS baseball field (aka, "Cardinal Yard"): the wifi and cell service are both unreliable.

As a result, we had a frustrating broadcast with a lot of drops, but fear not! The game has been uploaded to Archive.org (you can download it there) and will be played back in an edited form (think Cardinals in 60...well, more like 49:20) today at 3pm on WGCH (and wgch.com...anywhere).

My great friend Mick McGowan and I had the call yesterday, with the always-legendary Shawn Sailer nearby.

Oh, and here's the game in an embedded form.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Baseball Today: GHS/Ludlowe

Last Monday at GHS.
We're back at it today for baseball, as Greenwich High hosts Fairfield Ludlowe at 4pm.

Mick McGowan and I will have the call, with the broadcast starting in the 3:55 range (if all goes well).

The Cardinals won their first game last week, while the Falcons are coming off their first loss of 2017.

To listen to the game, visit wgch.com and select the sports button. If that doesn't work, visit this link: http://64.78.234.165:8000/index.html?sid=38 (or this one: http://64.78.234.165:8000/WGCH_SPORTS)

The game will air (in an edited form) tomorrow at 3pm on Greenwich Sentinel Doubleheader.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Roxy



It's been a few weeks, and it's still something that's hard to process.

"Dog" is gone. Roxy. Lady.

Dog.

I have to clear something up: Just like my beloved pal Scrappy, Roxy was never my dog. One difference with Roxy was that she did live with me for roughly a year. I walked her (though one didn't really "walk" her), fed her, and did lots of dog-related things with her.

From across the house, I could yell, "DOG!" and the doggy toenails could be heard on the hardwood floor.

But the truth was she wasn't my dog. She initially belonged to my niece Laura, and when Laura moved from Pennsylvania to live with me in New York, I got to hang with Roxy. Eventually, Laura would move, and soon Roxy stayed with Laura's sister Kristy in Fayetteville, NC.

To be fair, Sean and I were just as excited to see Roxy when we would visit as we were to see Kristy, husband Hector, and daughters Evelyn, Eleanor, and Izzy. Yes, even seeing cats Ghost and Crow were exciting.

Plus we'd get to see Laura, her boyfriend Kelly, and my goddaughter Emma, along with Kendall as well. Plus various other cats, dogs, and a bigass lizard.

But it was Dog who greeted us in Fayetteville.


We knew the drill. Sean and I would both talk about it in the car. It would play out like this:

Scene: House, Fayetteville, NC. A car pulls into the driveway and three people get out of it. Rob, the father, followed by Sean, devoted son, and Nancy, Rob's mother. Rob knocks on the door. It opens with Kristy (or Hector or a child) visible.

"How was the trip?"

A dog soon appears. Barking commences.

Dog: "BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK"

Rob: "Oh calm down!"

Dog: "Oh, it's you."

Every. Time. Without. Fail.


We lost Roxy in March, and we had a feeling it was coming. Kristy gave me the heads-up that the next appointment was March 17.

Yes. St. Patrick's Day. MothereffingSteffingPatricksday.

My first reaction, and I have witnesses to it, was utter dismay. Why the everloving bleep did it have to be St. Patrick's Day?

Then I thought about it a bit and realized that this is how it should be. It actually comforted me, but my initial reaction was visceral.

I wanted no part of St. Patrick's Day, 2017. While I used to do anything to celebrate it, recent years have had me wanting to find the nearest rock to hide under. I had no interest in being a part of anything that day (for those who are new here, my dad passed while watching The Quiet Man on St. Patrick's Day, 1989).

My efforts to take the day off fell apart, and so it was when my phone buzzed with the text that Roxy -- our Roxy -- the lady who I named "America's Dog," had gone to sleep.


My next move was to tell Sean, and I actually left the radio show to make sure that I told him personally. His sadness was profound.

Sean hasn't been back to North Carolina since she passed. I was there last weekend, to share in the joy of moving Kristy and Hector to a wonderful new house.

I found myself wanting to hug Kristy to thank her for taking care of our dog. I saw the kind trinkets that the vet provided, including a box that her ashes are in. I did hug Evelyn, the oldest of the children, who wrote a note, in Roxy's "voice," that was meant to provide comfort to her sisters.

Being out of the house was actually comforting in the end.


We're supposed to outlive our pets, but that doesn't make it any easier. Gone is that first reaction of the barking and the realization that it was just us, ready to pet her, hug her, run with her, and play ball with her. Gone are the moments of just looking at her. She truly was a beautiful dog. Gone is...everything.

Except for the memories, and the stories.

One to go out on: According to Laura, by definition, Roxy was a partial Red Heeler breed (to my knowledge, not a true breed). Sean and I -- ever the conspiring wise guys -- decided that a new breed be created. Thus Roxy became a "Red Heeler Hipadooda." It stuck and never left.

As Kristy would say, "Go be a dog."

As we would say, "Run free Dog."

This dog, this lady, was truly America's Dog. Tough, but tender. Sweet-natured but protective.

The sadness is strong but the memories will always bring a smile.



Thursday, April 06, 2017

Twenty Years at WGCH

Sean Kilkelly, me, and Bob Small. Cardinal Stadium, Greenwich, 2000.

Twenty years ago today, I woke up on the floor of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. I was there for a boy scout sleepover with my nephew, Michael, and I had to leave him there.

I had a new job. It was only a part-time job (basically a freelance gig), and I didn't want to be late.

Michael would be safe with friends from his scout troop, and another family would get him home.

I had to fly to Greenwich, and fly I did.

The radio gods smiled at me as I whizzed across the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway (these are words that never get uttered). Radio station WGCH awaited, and I got there in time for my first shift.

It would not be a day of commentary, but of running the controls for church services and religious programming and so on. But it was a gig. A paycheck.

Most of all, I was right back in radio.

It was only a few months prior, in the fall of 1996, that I had come to work at WREF in Ridgefield, and despite having been laid off from Kraft Foods at the end of '96, I felt like things were looking up at REF.

Then they were sold, and I was (essentially) turning out the lights, as the last live on-air host at 850 am in Ridgefield.

Fortunately, I had made two friends there -- Steve Goodwin and Luke Michaels -- who both spoke highly of WGCH, and recommended me for some board work. I did my training on March 30 and my first shift a week later: April 6, 1997.

Steve would move on, and Luke? Well, rest his soul. He was a good man who I had many good times with on the air. I'm thinking of him a lot this week. I recall when he called me, still suffering from cancer, but hopeful to return to the airwaves, and with me as a side kick. That was our last conversation.

Cancer sucks.

*****
WGCH has been my main broadcasting home ever since that fateful day in '97. I would become a larger presence on the station (and our-then sister station, WVIP*) in 1998 as the board-op du jour for whatever they needed.

* WVIP-AM was the first station I ever heard my name said on. I won a trivia contest in 1984 because nobody (except me) knew who the first teams were to play on Monday Night Football. They asked the question while I was in the car with my mom, and the question went unanswered, for probably a good half-hour. That is...until I got home. (It was Jets/Browns, by the way).

The sports director at the time, John Connelly, liked me enough to create a model in which I was the studio host for sports, and not just a board-op. So I did all of the pregame and postgame segments, along with intermission/halftime reports and more. Plus I introduced them coming out of each commercial break.

By 2000, John had stepped away, and I became sports director. I still hold that title.

We've done it all since then. You know about the football games, plus baseball, basketball, hockey, softball, lacrosse, and so on. There have been the talk shows: The Press Box, Coach's Corner, Spotlight on Sports, Doubleheader, Tee Time, The Clubhouse, The Rob Adams Show, and more. There have been 2am wakeup calls for the morning shift, and 3am departures because I had finished up whatever I was doing.

There were nights -- lots of them -- when I simply didn't want to leave. Sure, they old Dayton Ave building could be creepy (believe me, I slept there one night) but I was still in heaven.

There were conversations. Lots of them. Simply talking about the joy of the business, or debating sports. They weren't, despite assumptions, gripe sessions. It was something I would do after a lot of games just because my adrenaline had run out and I didn't want to drive home.

Those chat sessions evolved from Sean Kilkelly and Mark Rosen to Dave Rothenberg to Chris Erway, Chris Kaelin, and Ryan DeMaria to Shawn Sailer and AJ Szymanowski, and a whole lot of others.

I carry 20 years of stories with me. Of election nights, early morning newscasts, technical issues, equipment failures, and laughter.

Oh my, the laughter.

I carry with me the memory of finishing a Bluefish game, driving back to GCH, and the crew spontaneously going on the air to do a sports talk show -- at midnight.

Would we have been in trouble? Perhaps, though I don't think many people missed whatever show we pre-empted.

But we had listeners!

And we still do.

I know. Two politicians both recently said they're "WGCH junkies" who know my voice and listen to Doubleheader.

Two of many.

I can't name everyone who has passed through the doors with me, but I'm so grateful for the efforts of every single one.

I'm so grateful for the athletes, coaches, newsmakers, celebrities, and everyday people who have joined me on the air.

I'm beyond grateful for the listeners. I'm pleased with the comments (even the negative ones). I still remember the email that bluntly told me to "STEP DOWN."

No dice. For even when I wasn't "Voice of the Cardinals," I was still around WGCH. I still did my Friday morning visit (6:50 am) with Tony Savino.

I'm thrilled that WGCH didn't send me packing. I've always felt a loyalty to the little radio station at the corner of Lewis and Mason Streets.

We'll keep laughing and doing it "my way." I'll keep driving management crazy with my ideas and passion for doing right for the listeners (and always wanting more games on the air).

I thank all of my colleagues, the ownership, and my Greenwich Sentinel family. I realize I'm just a small cog in this machine, but I'm proud to still be doing this.

I'm still around.

I owe you a very heartfelt "Goodnight from Greenwich."

And thank you.