Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sort of Like Going Home

I was always happy there: Dutchess Stadium, September, 2009.
I wouldn't go in. I'd drive by it, but I couldn't bring myself to go through the gates.

You can see it from Interstate 84. The entrance is on New York Route 9D.

I haven't been there in roughly eight years, but I'm returning soon.

I'm going back to Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, NY. I've been asked to call two Hudson Valley Renegades baseball games, on September 1-2.

The Gades, are the short-season Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and play in the New York-Penn League. I called games for them stretched out over 10 seasons, from 2001-2010.

A few days ago, out of the blue, my friend Jay Verzi sent me a message. Jay -- like me -- is a radio guy. A broadcasting guy. We've shared stories of the various things that go on the biz.

Jay asked if I was still doing play-by-play, and would I be interested in a possible fill-in gig with the Gades.

It took me literally zero time to answer.

He said he'd let the team know, and that was that. Then silence took over, and I began to assume that it just wasn't going to happen. I told almost nobody, and held it in.

But I kept thinking about it. Then again, I'm always thinking about gigs.

On Saturday, I was making dinner and pondering various and sundry (money, life, money, repeat).

Long story.

My cellphone rang. Jeez, another telemarketer? We've been getting a rash of them lately.

This one left a voicemail. I recognized the area code, but that was it.

I hit play. Then I hit the ceiling.

It was Josh Caray (yes - let's get it out of the way - that Caray, as in Harry and Skip), the current lead voice of the Gades, asking if I wanted to fill-in. He said they couldn't give me housing, but then again, he didn't know that I only live about 25 minutes from the ballpark.

The last Hudson Valley Renegades game I did was in Brooklyn. The day before, I called one (in? on?) Staten Island. It was 2010.

Watching people come through the gates at Dutchess Stadium, 2009. I enjoyed that time.
I reached out a few times to ask if any help was needed (the teams and subsequent broadcasters were always receptive), but eventually, I just stopped. I figured my time had passed, and with the proliferation of younger play-by-play guys, I felt old.

I didn't want to be a nag, so I let it go. But the truth is, the Gades were never out of my system. I thought of a lot of fun days and nights.

Just search this blog for mentions of the Gades and you can see some of the stories for yourself.

My mantra, "Have headset. Will travel," began while I was with the Gades, because I loved the trips.

I went to Aberdeen (Maryland) twice and Oneonta (New York -- there isn't even a team there anymore). There were games against Pittsfield, Jamestown, and New Jersey (also all no longer in the NY-Penn League).
In Brooklyn, 2009. That's Geoff Brault beyond me. (Tim Parry photo)
There were the trips to Troy (NY), Brooklyn and Staten Island. Tim Parry, Jason Intrieri and I still laugh about that night in Brooklyn. Short version: I got a text that said, "Look to your left," and sure enough, there they were. They crashed a party suite.

Then there was the weekend of Boston (Blog posts 1 and 2) and Lowell. The best of times (and let's focus on that, or enact "Rule 55").

Among the great people I worked with were Nick Gagalis and Geoff Brault -- each graciously allowing me to visit their booth.

And there was Sean Ford. The one and only. The guy who -- after having met me in person only minutes earlier -- told me, "If you're going to be on the broadcast, you're going to need to put that headset on." The guy who, three innings later, allowed me to call a minor league baseball game for the first time.

The guy who invited me to call baseball at Fenway Park.

Patient and kind. Always. It was tough to see him go, and I know it hurt him. He's in North Dakota now, but I'll be thinking of him on September 1 and 2. The truth is, we didn't work nearly enough games together in our time (2001-2008).
Sean Ford and I call the action at Dutchess Stadium in 2008.
The team arrived in Fishkill, NY in 1994 as part of the Texas Rangers organization, before switching their affiliation to Tampa Bay in 1996. I always thought it would be great to be a broadcaster there, for the team in my own area.

I made a number of friends and acquaintances there.

Josh Hamilton, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Evan Longoria are among the names that passed through Dutchess Stadium on their way to the big leagues (though I missed each of them). I personally called Carlos Beltran on a rehab assignment against the Gades when he played for Brooklyn.
I joined Sean Ford at Fenway Park for the Gades-Spinners game in 2008. 
Freddie Coleman -- he of ESPN Radio (and a great guy) -- and I used to talk all the time at the ballpark.

It's a turf field now. I've never seen it.

The uniforms have changed. The maroon and green are long gone. The blue and red are also a thing of the past.

I have much to catch up on.

Oh and Bill Murray is a part-owner.

One last thing. In each previous game I called for the Gades, there was always a lead voice. For Sean, Geoff, Nick (and everyone else) it was their booth. I always took that seriously.

It's Josh Caray's booth now. But for two nights, Josh won't be there. So it's up to me.

The games will air on TuneIn Radio (download the app to listen on your smart device). The Saturday game will air on the radio also. Lots more can be found at the Gades website.

I know. It's two games. Big deal.

To me, it's a very big deal.

Maybe this kid will come back with me. Sean, of course, at Dutchess Stadium, 2008.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Still Gaga Over Radio

Today is National Radio Day.

Or is it #NationalRadioDay?

It's confusing.

Anyway, while the "everything gets a day" concept can be a little much, and mind-numbing for sure, I still can't help but note today in honor of my old friend, the wireless.

Don't get me wrong. I love TV and enjoyed working on it very much. But I'm always in a panic about my appearance -- too fat, not stylish enough, hair looks dumb, face looks dumb, and my God how many times have I been told that I "have a face for radio"?

So I suppose I'm a radio man at heart. From Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, and the 77 WABC guys to (duh) John Donald Imus to Scott Shannon on Z-100 to Joe O'Brien and "Music From The Terrace" on WHUD, I had the foundation of my inner DJ, which would grow as I got older with Scott Muni and many others.

Naturally, there were other facets of my radio upbringing, with news and so on. But let's not bury the lede (or lead) here. It was sports, for sure. Frank Messer, Bill White, and Phil Rizzuto began that education, spinning into the work of myriad others (Vin Scully -- again, duh).

But as age made me -- whatever it made me -- I dug deeper into the vast archives that can be found to discover the greats of all genres. The proliferation of "old time radio" allowed me the ability to hear the shows and events that made the medium so fascinating.
Graham McNamee
Radio was king once. From it's humble beginnings to assist ships at sea (and thus the number of wireless stations built on the Atlantic coast), to becoming commercial radio with KDKA, radio would help bring news and more to the world.

It's still a great way to hear whatever you want in the car -- now, more than ever with satellite radio.

Of course, there is still the terrestrial station (WGCH, folks!) and it's the best way to enjoy sports.

So please, on this National Radio Day, take a moment and listen to what it is today, and find an old broadcast to hear what it once was. Just Google "old time radio" and you should be all set.

From Majic 105 through WREF to WGCH to WLNA, WBNR, HAN Radio, Greenwich Sentinel Radio, Robcasting Radio, and the many other places my voice has appeared, it is still a thrill. It is still exciting to find important historical audio. It's still a hope that many more great days can be found.

Radio, someone still loves you.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eleven Years of Something

Not too many better 11's than this guy. The Messiah.
I'll be honest: this post is purely to recognize 11 years of this blog. I'm not sure I have too much more to add without venturing into dangerous territory.

If there's anything that's changed in 11 years, it's that. I don't write the same anymore. Too much scrutiny, I suppose. Not that I mind it. It's just, well.

It has been both a personal and professional issue. So I'm more careful. I try to be less vague.

Or I just don't write at all.

And that's sad.

Still, this is post number 2299. Where has the time gone over 11 years?

But enough about that. We're one effed up place, no?

Charlottesville sickened me. Hatred and racism sickens me.  Simple to say, isn't it? There's no talking about "sides." Just make the statement: hate sucks. Racism blows. Three people dead. One hit by a -- what's the word? -- person? nice...whatever. A car ran a young woman over.

Because she has a different ideology than the driver of the car, who wants...ugh. It's too much.

What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?

Just condemn it all and that's that. Be presidential.

To quote the 1995 movie The American President (spoken by Michael J. Fox):
People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
And nobody is willing to hear what anyone else has to say. We're all correct. If you disagree, you're a (insert hurtful term here).

Anyway, it's way too serious of a topic for the anniversary post. Sadly, that's all I've got.

Year 12 begins. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and those who have inspired me.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

But no, really. What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Thank you, Mr. Arlin

Harold Arlin
On this day -- August 5, 1921 -- a 25-year-old electrical engineer and foreman from Westinghouse named Harold Arlin went to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

He wasn't just there to take in a ballgame, as the Pirates hosted the Philadelphia Phillies. We can tell you, courtesy of Baseball Reference, that the Buccos won the game, 8-5. Cy Williams, who Baseball Reference says compares most favorably to Bobby Murcer (of all people) homered that day in the loss.

Possum Whitted (yes, you read that correctly) had two hits to pace the Pirates, and Max Carey and Rabbit Maranville were hall of famers on the Pittsburgh roster that day.

We know the game took 1:57, but don't know the weather conditions.

But back to Harold Arlin, who sat down behind home plate that day. Working for KDKA, considered by many to be the first radio station in history (or at least the first commercial radio station), he took a bold step for the nascent outlet.

Arlin had previously read news headlines, and was said to be at the mic when KDKA went on the air in Nov, 1920, as he read the returns of the Harding-Cox Presidential Election.

On this day, Arlin gave birth to baseball play-by-play.

According to ExplorePAHistory:
"We were looking for programming," Arlin recalled years later, "and baseball seemed a natural. I went to Forbes Field and set up shop." The operation, a hand-held telephone connected to a transmitter in a box behind home plate, had a few glitches, though. "Nobody told me I had to talk between pitches," he conceded, and when he did, his distinctive deep voice did not always come through. "Sometimes the transmitter didn't work. Often the crowd noise would drown us out. We didn't know whether we'd talk into a total vacuum or whether somebody would hear us."
Other sports broadcasts were attempted in one form or another prior to 1921 (including a boxing match on KDKA earlier that year), but this was the first time baseball had been attempted. More than any sport, the country became hooked.


Arlin would also call a Davis Cup tennis match (another first) a day later, but thought the baseball game was a one-time thing. Further baseball broadcast efforts were made with the 1921 World Series in New York (over KDKA, WJZ - Newark, and WBZ - Springfield). He'd also add college football to the list of firsts with the broadcast of the Backyard Brawl -- Pitt hosting West Virginia. Pitt won the game, 21-13.

The attempts to broadcast baseball continued through the 1920's, with Graham McNamee eventually assuming the position of "voice" of the World Series in 1923. By 1927, the World Series was coast-to-coast via the nearly one-year-old NBC.

Individual teams began to make deals to either broadcast games live or via recreation, complete with sound effects. The last holdouts were the three New York teams, who had a gentlemen's agreement to not broadcast games due to the fear of losing ticket sales. That ended in 1939.

Oh it's a long-winded story that we can tell at great length, but the main point remains that, on this very day -- August 5, 1921 -- Harold Arlin called the first baseball game.

Certainly, I feel a large amount of debt to him, McNamee, and the many other pioneers who got us to where we are today.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


Taken at Trumbull High School during the Babe Ruth 14U New England Regional
I just posted the above picture over on the evil that is Facebook.

I was messing around (I think with my iPad) and that was the result.

I know that there's comfort in that picture.

Truthfully, I'm an uncomfortable person. I have my hangups, issues, fears, etc. Some rational. Some not.


But best to not get too personal. The last time I did so, the sound from the crickets was...well...there was no sound. If a post hits and no one hears it, is it really a post?

Anyway, that's my happy place. There's a reason I volunteered to call 16* baseball games over four days in the Babe Ruth New England Regional Tournament: I love it. I'm happy there. I'm comfortable.

* In the end, thanks to Mother Nature, I did 12 games. So it goes.

But it's also the chance to work with friends, who also volunteered their time. You might know them: Jake Zimmer, Dan Gardella, Shawn Sailer. Josh Somma also volunteered for a game, but the rain canceled that.

It was a joy. Thanks to Dan, Jake, and Shawn, my throat survived. Dan and Jake both took some of the PBP innings off my hands, and that was a good thing. I was fired up to call the four games on Monday, but it didn't happen.

Beyond that, it was a lot of the great interaction. People from all across New England and beyond found our little nascent "Robcasting Radio/Greenwich Sentinel Radio" Mixlr site and listened to us, or watched what we could give them via Facebook live.

This happened with zero promotion, except for what we cranked out via social media.

It wasn't perfect. It never is. But I strive for a quality play-by-play broadcast. One that is long on reporting and solid sports journalism. One that tells stories that I hope will interest the listener.

One that makes the game the story, and us the storytellers.

For my money, we accomplished that. I didn't have to say a whole lot to the crew. We put the headsets on, and away we went.

I'm hoping August won't be as quiet as I fear it will be, but we'll be fired up for another year of Greenwich and Brunswick football. The Bruins want me around to do more, and I'm happy about that.

We'll see what's next. That's all I can do.