Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Best Yankees Play-by-Play Voices Ranked

Phil Rizzuto, Mel Allen, Red Barber (Getty Images)
Several months ago, I told you I'd list (in my opinion) the best play-by-play announcers in the history of the New York Yankees.

Some things to know: the Yankees didn't allow day-to-day broadcasts until 1939 over a bizarre concern that radio hurt the gate. The three New York teams of the day (Yankees, Dodgers, Giants) had an agreement on this. The Yankees could be heard on out of town games (there's a 1934 Yankees-Tigers tilt at Navin Field in Detroit that's easy to find online for instance) and, of course, All-Star Games and the Bombers' near-annual appearance in the World Series.

Really, full-time broadcasting kicked in after World War II ended. While Arch McDonald was the initial Yankees broadcaster in 1939, it was his sidekick, Mel Allen, that earned the moniker of "Voice of the Yankees" (and, for my money, still the only broadcaster who should be known as "Voice of.").

Mel. "THE Voice of the Yankees" (Getty Images)
I decided to not rank them all, for a variety of reasons. I'll tell you the bottom for me is Bob Gamere, who spent an uneven 1970 season in The Bronx before being replaced by Bill White; Hawk Harrelson, whose style did not work in his two years in the Bronx but became a legend in Chicago; and, yes, Ryan Ruocco, whose voice grates and, well, just everything doesn't fly with me. I hear he's a great guy. That's nice.

And, to be fair Suzyn Waldman would rank low as a play-by-play announcer because it was never her strong suit. But I stand by her as an analyst and reporter.

But there are also too many who would be difficult to rank. How do you address Curt Gowdy, who spends 1949 and 1950 working next to Allen but doesn't become Curt Gowdy until he moves to Boston? The same can be said about Russ Hodges and Joe Garagiola. From there, we find announcers whose work is unavailable. Find me broadcasts of Connie Desmond, Al Helfer or Art Gleeson, for instance.

So, holy cow and how about that? Let's have a Ballantine blast because This Bud's for you at Miller time! It's our list, driven by Jeep!
1954: Front: Vin Scully, Connie Desmond, Al Helfer Back: Tom Villante, Red Barber, Mel Allen, and Joe Ripley.
Honorable Mention: Vin Scully. Wait. What? The GOAT of GOATs was asked to consider becoming the lead voice in the Bronx in 1965, replacing Mel Allen and reuniting him with his mentor Red Barber. But Vin was firmly settled in Los Angeles by that point so he declined. He almost certainly would have been number one on this list had he said yes.

12) Jim Kaat. I love Kitty, but admittedly a lot of his work is remembered as a top-flight analyst. Still, if you listen to the last out of David Wells' perfect game in 1998, it's Jim Kaat who calls the it on MSG. Old school yet new school, Kitty didn't fear giving opinions and had a perfectly no-nonsense approach. Along with Tony Kubek, Kaat would be high on the list of analysts if I did that one.

11) Jerry Coleman. The Marine pilot finished a steady career as a player and worked his way into the booth in 1963. He had the honor of the exciting call of Mickey Mantle's 500th home run in 1967 before eventually departing and landing in San Diego, where he became an even bigger legend. Steady and passionate, Coleman worked many network radio assignments also. His big phrase was "You can hang a star on that one, baby!" A star hangs below his former booth in San Diego.

10) Ken Singleton. As cool as they come. Kenny established himself as a star broadcaster in Montreal before coming to New York. A New York native, Kenny never uses hyperbole and is a comfortable listen in any role. "Lookout!" he exclaims on a hot shot hit, and "This one is GONE" on home runs, but they never overpower or feel like a cliché. When he first announced he might step down (before being talked out of it), fans began to realize what we'd losing (and what we'd be stuck with).

9) DeWayne Staats. A total pro in a crazy time, Staats worked with the Astros and Cubs before landing in New York in 1990. Stuck there for some of the worst times, he provided class and grace in the booth. I actually saw him at the very first Yankees Fan Fest in 1991 and didn't have the nerve to introduce myself. He stayed through 1994, just as things were getting good, but left us a few good memories, including Jim Abbott's no-hitter in 1993. After a stint with ESPN, he was the voice of the Rays on their first day in 1998 (the the Devil Rays) and has been there ever since.

8) Michael Kay. Look, Kay and I will likely never see eye-to-eye. He likes to talk over big moments versus laying out for crowd noise. He's certainly bombastic to an extent. He never toiled in the minors. But he's also been present for myriad iconic moments. He often comes off a little too much like he's the smartest voice in the room, which doesn't sit well when Gary Cohen is across town. His star could be higher if he were less about Michael Kay (and the Yankees, for that matter). But, at the same time, he'll probably never truly get his due either. Put it this way: I've never turned a game off or muted it because Michael Kay is on the call. I can't say that about others.

1983: Bill White, Bobby Murcer, Phil Rizzuto
7) Bobby Murcer. Go ahead. Call me a fraud. Say I'm biased. But in Bobby Ray, you have the lineage in the booth, from Phil Rizzuto to Murcer to Paul O'Neill (not a play-by-play guy). Everyone likes him. Everyone always found him to be an easy listen. Non-Yankees fans couldn't hate him. He even got a few whiffs on some national stuff (and deserved more). The guy lived baseball, but his Oklahoma drawl was still present. He has more classic calls than you'll ever know (or even I know, for that matter). He's also still as responsible as Scully, Imus, Bradshaw and others for my wanted to be in broadcasting). Lastly, find the moment when Bobby, fighting the cancer that would kill him, returned to Yankee Stadium on Opening Day. See the respect that the team -- the players -- paid him with a standing ovation. I'm crying typing those words.

6) John Sterling. For nearly a decade, I didn't like him. I almost loathed him. With Kay, he formed the most bombastic booth around. The mistakes and the home run calls and the nicknames and, as a Scully guy, it was so anti-broadcasting to me. But I can still hear a former colleague (non-broadcaster). "You don't hear games the way I do," he said. "The way a fan does." I made my peace right there. And, for all of his bluster, check out his calls in big moments when the Yankees lose. Other broadcasters sound like you've killed their dog. John still makes it sound exciting, because he loves it.

5) Frank Messer. The first play-by-play announcer for me. The first one who wasn't a player who I really studied in my youth. The anchor of the classic booth of Bill White, Phil Rizzuto, and Messer. I can still hear him describing the Yankees as "New York" and it taught me that the mascot wasn't always necessary. He taught me early descriptions and how to maintain composure. "Dent is the key man," he said, following that with "Stretch by Torrez. The set, the kick, and the pitch. Hit deep to left field! This one may be off the wall, may be in the screen...Home run!" Messer guided us through pine tar and lots more, as well as being the MC for Old Timer's Day. I still regard him highly.

4) Red Barber. Red's Yankees years are tough for me. In nearly any other list, he'd be two or three at worst. He's fourth here because he's still Red-freaking-Barber. He hand-picked Vin Scully to join him in Brooklyn in 1950. He mentored the greatest sports broadcaster ever. He was brilliant from 1935 to 1953 in Cincinnati, Brooklyn, and nationally. He was, seriously, "Red Bawbah," of "The Catbird Seat." He taught the class of professional calls lacking opinion and rooting and he still brought that to Yankee Stadium in 1954 but it was a huge contrast from Allen. What seemed to be everything in Brooklyn wasn't the same in the Bronx. And, eventually, his own stubborness cost him, when he said: "I don't know what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium, and this crowd is the story, not the game." His pushing for WPIX cameras to show the stadium with only 413 people in it led his contract to be cut after 1966. He never called another game.

3) Bill White. It's not that White was that much better than his colleagues of the Day, Messer and Rizzuto. It's that White was so popular. This former star player became a start broadcaster. Everyone knows his call of Dent's 1978 blast against the Red Sox. "Deep to LEFT. Yastrzemski...will not get there it's a HOME RUN!" In blessed time of broadcasting in New York, the Mets had Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner and Lindsay Nelson. The Yankees had White, Rizzuto, and Messer. Damn, those were good times.

2) Phil Rizzuto. The Scooter. Anyone alive pre-1996 knows him. While Harry Caray made it clear that it was HE who invented "Holy cow" and was never very nice to Rizzuto about it, we sided with the sweet kid from Brooklyn who was too small to play for Casey Stengel in his home borough. Eventually, Scooter carved out a great career with the Yankees before Stengel cut him in 1956. Saddened, the Yankees plopped him in the booth beginning in 1957. His was a career that, as a player, took him from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle. As a broadcaster, he went from Mantle to Derek Jeter. Holy cow, indeed. Before the malaprops and the birthday mentions (and leaving the booth to beat traffic), Rizzuto made himself into a solid announcer under the tough tutelage of Red Barber and Mel Allen. Most famously, Rizzuto sat at the mic for Roger Maris' 61st home run in 1961. He became more of a "clown" later on, but the early years were truly professional, calling the 1964 World Series and also appearing as a local voice on the 1976 Fall Classic.

Mel at Yankee Stadium
1) Mel Allen. You have to not know broadcasting to not know number one was obvious. There's one true "Voice of the Yankees" and it is Melvin Allen Israel. In terms of all-time, Vin Scully is number one. Period. Numbers two and three are a jump ball between Allen and Red Barber, so much so, that both were named the first recipient of the Ford Frick Award. Allen lived and died with baseball and the Yankees. He never married for that reason. He loved sports and being a sports broadcaster. Later generations know him for "Hello there everybody. This is Mel Allen" on This Week in Baseball. But historians know him for being a groundbreaking announcer who called the Yankees, All-Star  and World Series games from 1939-1964. Mel was run out of The Bronx after '64 (the given answer is that he was a casualty of cost-cutting by the broadcast sponsor). Mel felt lost after that, calling some games before being brought back to New York, first to appear at Mickey Mantle Day in 1969, and to be annual part of Old Timer's Day before returning to the booth on SportsChannel. There are too many iconic calls from Mel -- some that don't exist anymore, sadly. But he was there for a lot of history, including DiMaggio's streak, the 1949 pennant-winner, the five straight titles, Larsen's perfect game, and Maris' '61 season. He also called Dave Righetti's no-hitter on July 4, 1983. By then, the fastball was fading but he was still Mel.

And, remember when I couldn't convince myself to say hello to DeWayne Staats? That same day, I got to talk to Mel Allen, who told me it was a pleasure to meet me. Oh, no way. That pleasure was all mine.

I didn't forget about guys like John Flaherty. Flash is probably in the teens in my opinion, for instance, but I just didn't want to try to rate everyone.

With that, I'm going, going, gone.

Friday, February 28, 2020

A Buffalo Chicken Pizza Helps

Don't judge
While I would have preferred to work tonight and tomorrow, the key to life is taking lemons and making lemonade.

I wasn't aware of it but I was getting sick as yesterday rolled along. Then I left my soul at Trumbull High School for the FCIAC girls basketball championship.

By this morning, I discovered my voice was also still in Trumbull. So, on the advice of (not a) doctor, I decided to pass on doing Doubleheader.

So, I picked Sean up, brought him home, and chilled. But, we needed dinner.

Look, I'm a pizza guy and I don't mess around. I'll happily debate Staten Island, New Haven, Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx, and drop in Sal's in Mamaroneck that has ruled my heart for about 30 years.

But, sometimes, in lieu of that, a (gasp) frozen pizza can do the job. Call it being not high-maintenance.

So we opted for a cheap buffalo chicken pizza from Stop and Shop.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, pizza snobs, I get it. In reality, it's a pizza in a way that Chicago pizza is (OK, that was probably gratuitous) or Pizza Hut (that's more correct).

But, it was also comfort food on a night where peace and quiet with a simple dinner is the best way for the Adams boys to go.

Then I can go back to reading passive/aggressive tweets aimed my way. Might as well be a burner account.

Ah, comedy. Can't go wrong with the classics.

Oh, about last night. I'm astounded at the amount of reads that post got, as well as the reviews that the broadcast received. The things that made me happiest were to hear about how professional it sounded and how I knew the two teams so well.

Not bad for a guy who hadn't called a single FCIAC basketball game all season.

Unfortunately, we have to protect and promote ourselves sometimes, even if we don't want to.

M*A*S*H aired its big farewell on this day in 1983. This is how it ended.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Magnificent

Part of the scene at the FCIAC championship tonight
I took the headset off and the first thing that came to my mind was "wow."

Just wow.

Ridgefield had just beaten Staples to win the FCIAC girls basketball championship in double overtime 50-46.

I had all but lost my voice (I think I have a small cold that's in my throat unfortunately).

But I was still bowled over by the four lead changes and five ties between the fourth quarter and overtime.

I was just stunned at each clutch shot that the Tigers and Wreckers hit.

I fight off the "instant classic" culture all the time but, really, how can this one not be considered a classic?

Two coaches working hard. Two teams busting up and down the floor. Two student cheering sections making Trumbull High School sound like it's overflowing.

It was just wonderful to be a part of it, calling it on Local Live (and Robcasting).

That's why there are nerves. Even in the game, you reset to make sure everything is clear in your mind. Grandma is watching in Florida. An uncle is tuning in from California. Coaches parents are in New Jersey. Fans are huddled around in Westport and Ridgefield.

It's not about me. Never is. But in that spot, where fans and loved ones will save the video (or audio), the words and pictures matter.

So regroup. Find a voice. Check your notes. And call it.

And borrow from Mike Breen (all due respect to the Hall of Famer).

Katie Flynn. Left side. A three.

Bang.


Check this out on Chirbit


Then, after two extra sessions, the Tigers are able to celebrate. Kate Wagner was named the Most Valuable Player.


Check this out on Chirbit

Just great stuff. Incidentally, Ridgefield coach Rob Colony's reaction is wonderful. I love how he backs off and watches his team enjoy the moment.

You did well tonight, FCIAC. Give a listen to the whole game if you want.



A last note: thanks to the wonderful reviews that came my way. When you basically live game to game, those comments mean the world. And, while I wish I didn't feel like I should say this, feel free to spread the word! More games!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Climbing Out of the Rut

(Picture found at freshbooks.com)
Those bad days happen.

You grumble, growl, pout, try to write about it on social media, delete it, rewrite it, walk it back.

Your emotions go everywhere. The depression hits. Hard.

You sit and stew over it.

You sound like a mess on your own talk show.

And it just feels like you're getting repeatedly kicked in the face.

Someone violates your trust, you lose work, you run through walls for things, you slip and nearly fall, and on and on and on. It's one big disappointment sandwich right down to the spicy brown mustard.

I saw my mom tonight and she took one look at me and said, "What happened to the games you were supposed to call?"

But, she knew.

It's like a comedy. It could be a movie.

Sleep? Nah. Why?

Next day? Some improvement but you just feel ... hmmm ... done.

Just done with everything.

And, yet?

It could really always be worse.

So, as the best do, you dust yourself off, and look for something better.

You'll do something to make yourself feel good. Maybe nicer clothes than the jeans that are falling apart? Who knows, but try anything to get out of the hole.

Survivors are the best. The ones who get knocked down and come back.

I found myself wondering why I still do what I do. I'm still arguing with myself tonight.

But there's tomorrow. There's always tomorrow.

Get busy living or get busy dying. It worked for Red in The Shawshank Redemption.

Well, I'll try to sleep and get right back at it.

There's an FCIAC girls basketball championship to call and those teams (Ridgefield and Staples) deserve my best.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Explaining the Nerves

2015 -- Lots of nerves that day (HAN Network screen shot. Wish these games were available online)
Nerves can be a good thing. I guess I didn't make that clear.

Before the start of each school athletic year (which is normally the first Greenwich football game for me), I get this run of emotions.

I miss lost loved ones. I hope the audience is excited. I hope I make them all proud on the broadcast. I hope we have technical issues, and so on.

I felt it on the Darien/Greenwich football game last year that I thought Chris Erway and I, along with the remarkable DAF Media crew, slayed.

A similar thing happens before a championship game. I've called World Championships in hockey, plus titles in the Atlantic League, the FCIAC, FAA, NEPSAC, Section 1, New York State, Ner Jersey, Connecticut, the GYFL, Little League Baseball and Babe Ruth Baseball (regionally), the Philip Morris/Kraft Softball League and, honestly, I can't remember them all. Probably well over 100, I would guess.

In this case, I was talking about the upcoming run that will hopefully take me to four more FCIAC Championship calls.

It's not that I need lessons or advice on how to call them. I actually love the nerves that kick in. It means I still have a solid level of humility.

I can tell you about how I stepped into the bathroom at Harbor Yard to give myself a small pep talk before the FCIAC baseball championship -- probably 2015 or 2016. Likely both.

"You're here because you have earned this," I said, hoping I would listen. "It's your baby and you drive this bus. This crew and the viewers are counting on you for a great call."

It's not that I need it. It's a loving dose of adrenaline kicking in.

The 2015 FCIAC Championship/Turkey Bowl was a explosion of nerves due to one piece of missing equipment. Because of that, I turned into the calming force.

"It's going to happen," I kept saying. "We're going to be fine."

We were. Then I allowed my nerves to kick in and, in that case, I realized I was a little too amped up early on.

It's the exact reason that every time I do something with AJ Szymanowski, he'll look at me before we go on the air, hold his fist out and say, "Take us there, Skitch." It's a reference to That Thing You Do, a movie AJ and I have quoted several times to each other.

(Another quote being, "I led you here, sir, for I am Spartacus.")

From there, it always becomes another game. Another broadcast. It becomes ball meets bat or ball meets tackler or whatever.

Do I really need to explain this? I mean, those first Philip Morris/Kraft games were 25 years ago.

Tonight, it's basketball. Semis tonight. Championship on Thursday.

Tomorrow, it's hockey semis with the championship on Saturday. (EDIT: Not for me, so there's that)

I was wrong, by the way. A quick look this morning in my database reveals this will push my FCIAC Championship total up to 35 for my career.

I get wound up because I take the honor seriously. Because I take this craft seriously. Because there are people -- to this day -- that can quote my calls or tell me that they still have a copy (even on cassette).

So I want it to be done right.

Failure, of course, is not an option.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Greatest Country Music Songs of All-Time (?)

Hello.
I was going to bow out and either 1) write nothing or 2) post a picture.

But, thanks to Paul Silverfarb, I've got a topic!

Paul said he was flipping around SiriusXM last week when he stumbled on a countdown of the 1,000 greatest country music songs of all-time. Here's their list:

1 Garth Brooks - Friends In Low Places
2 Patsy Cline - Crazy
3 Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
4 Dolly Parton - I Will Always Love You
5 Eric Church - Springsteen
6 George Jones - He Stopped Loving Her Today
7 Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil Went Down To Georgia
8 Roger Miller - King Of The Road
9 Jason Aldean - Dirt Road Anthem
10 Marty Robbins - El Paso
11 Patsy Cline - I Fall to Pieces
12 Garth Brooks - The Dance
13 Willie Nelson - On The Road Again
14 Alabama - Mountain Music
15 Kenny Chesney - How Forever Feels
16 Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man
17 Alan Jackson - Livin' On Love
18 Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire
19 Tim McGraw - Live Like You Were Dying
20 Hank Williams - Your Cheatin' Heart

OK, now, this is not my strong suit, so any attempt by me will likely be mocked, but for love of Waylon Jennings, "Friends in Low Places" at number one?

No. Hell no. Let's try this again (and contemporary fans, just prepare to be angry).

1) Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues. "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." This is number one. Full stop. I hear the train a comin.' It's rollin' 'round the bend. And I ain't seen the sunshine since, I don't know when. Even as a rock-loving kid, I can still remember hearing this song and the utter despair in The Man in Black's voice. That original 1955 recording was a gumbo of sounds. The 1968 live version at Folsom Prison, mind you, gives the finger to that despair as it becomes an anthem for the disenfranchised.

2) Patsy Cline - Crazy. If you prefer this at number one, you can certainly do your own list. It's a standard by which so many ballads -- pop, rock, and country -- is based. Willie Nelson is an utter genius.

3) Hank Williams - Your Cheatin' Hearts. Back when people knew of two types of music -- country AND Western -- there was Hank Williams, who recorded this is his last session before he died in the back seat of a car in Oak Hill, WV in Jan 1953. It's got the whine of a guitar and the longing in his voice. It's magnificent.

4) Dolly Parton - Joelene. We've seen the brilliance of Dolly in recent years. Gone are the comments just about her -- never mind -- but about the fact that this woman is not only one of the greatest entertainers ever, but an American treasure and a truly decent person. And here is her masterpiece. You can warble to "I Will Always Love You" until your heart is content, and maybe having Whitney Houston shove it down our throats did more bad than good. But give me this every time over every beautiful thing Dolly has written. For the love of what's good, leave her man alone Jolene!

5) George Jones - He Stopped Loving Her Today. There are some artists I think of when I think of country and George Jones is right up there. Want to simply sob uncontrollably? This line works: He said "I'll love you till I die", she told him "You'll forget in time." That's only the beginning. Yup. We're done here.

6) Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man. Misunderstood as a non-feminist song over the years, this tune has stood the test of time, even if Wynette herself didn't like it at first. It was thought that D-I-V-O-R-C-E would be her signature song. That thought, obviously, was wrong.

7) Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire. Dammit. I wasn't going to put Mr. JR Cash in the top 10 twice. But it's my list, so here we are. Johnny's own beloved June Carter Cash co-wrote the song and gave it to her sister, Anita. But Cash had a vision of adding what he called "Mexican horns" and gave Anita a few months to see if her version would be a hit. When it wasn't, Cash recorded it his way and it became like nothing anyone had ever heard. (One other note, I wanted to work in a Carter Family song to honor Mother Maybell Carter, whose guitar work is legendary. I can't justify one so I'm giving them a mention here, along with June)

8) Waylon Jennings and Willie Neslon - Mammas, Don't Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys. Ah, the 70s. Good ol' days of outlaw country, and here were two buddies who were working on perfecting the craft. Extra points for a song that became easy to sing as Mammas, Don't Your Babies Grow Up to Be DALLAS Cowboys.

9) Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil Went Down to Georgia. This is the one thing I thought the SiriusXM list did well: It took something different and slotted it. Again, it's my list, so I'm comfortable with this song that still cranks for me today just as it did in 1979. I argued with myself because of its crossover success, but that was the 70s! Plus it's bluegrass-based, and that always wins points (there's a reason I love the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? and was considering adding "Man of Constant Sorrow" to this list).

10) Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman. I struggled here. I really love this song. Like, adore it. But is it a pop song? An adult contemporary song? A country song? Er...yes? The song topped each chart in 1968 and 1969. Jimmy Webb's story about a lineman working on a poll in Oklahoma was unfinished when Campbell added a bass guitar in the middle eight section.

OK, there are my ten. I could add more...

- Bill Monrow and the Blue Grass Boys - Blue Moon of Kentucky
- Johnny Cash - I Walk the Line (and too many other Cash songs to count)
- Buck Owens - Act Naturally (special citation for being covered by The Beatles)
- Loretta Lynn - Coal Miner's Daughter
- Kenny Rogers - The Gambler
- Stanley Brothers - Man of Constant Sorrow
- Hank Williams - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
- Roger Miller - King of the Road
- Marty Robbins - El Paso
- Roger Miller - King Of The Road
- The Carter Family - Can the Circle Be Unbroken
- Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sixteen Tons
- Patsy Cline - I Fall to Pieces
- Alabama - Mountain Music
- Hank Williams - Jambalaya
- Conway Twitty - Hello Darlin'

I'm not saying this list won't change. That's the beauty of projects like this. It can change as soon as I publish it. It's supposed to create a conversation.

Now, I realize I haven't touched Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Reba, and The Judds  In fact, I left a lot of artists out.

Other than perhaps a Sturgill Simpson or a Chris Stapelton, there's not a lot on the modern scene that impresses me. It all goes to the formula of pickup truck, denim, guitar, alcohol (normally Budweiser), a dog, and a girl.

Nowhere does daddy play bass.

It's the older stuff -- the much older stuff -- that can melt my cold, cold heart.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

He's a Man


It was in the wee hours of Feb 23, 2002 when I was awakened to drive to the hospital.

The same hospital I was born in. The same one my father died in.

And now, a few hours later, the same hospital that my son was born in.

Sean is 18 today.

I suppose it's safe to say that he's not just a man but that he's the man. Yet, it's always been that way with him.

I've written so much about him that the stories are likely tiring.

Sean is full of surprises. The explosive smile of his baby years has turned into a weapon that he keeps hidden behind the angst of a teenager.

He's weary beyond his years yet still has that naivete that, as a father, I like seeing.

He is his own man. Sean, as I always say, is Sean.

The affection and the hugs have gone behind a wall. It's OK, but of course, it's not OK.

As parents, we wrestle with everything. We want them to not be us but, at the same time, we want them to be happy. I don't want him to make the same mistakes as me.

I worry so much about exactly how I've screwed this great young man up. I worry about -- well -- everything.

But I'm also so proud. Like I said, he's full of surprises.

Need to tell someone a secret? Tell Sean. He'll listen (at least I think he's listening) but it won't go anywhere.

Glance at a report card and stare in wonder at all of the 90s on it because school seems like a place he just goes to because he has to. Yet there's more behind those eyes than you'll ever know.

And his humor? That's his biggest surprise -- his best weapon -- of all. He can rip off a pun or one-liner that can cut the toughest person at their knees.

Sadly, I can't cite examples only because they're, er, private.

We've seen a lot in 18 years. New Orleans, Virginia, Vermont, Canada, Cooperstown, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.

People scoff at the adventures to Waffle House or Wawa or Golden Corral. Well, laugh away. It's part of the adventure. Sean has that marvelous way about him.

Another drive to South of the Border? Sean wouldn't have it any other way.

Every time I think he's seen enough with his "old man" (yes, I get ribbed about my age all the time) he signs up for something else.

He could pass on weddings at this point if he wanted to. Nope -- sign him up.

He doesn't have to trudge down to North Carolina to hang out with family. Yet, he wants to do it. He loves doing it. He loves the road trip and whatever we do down there.

He's also a surprisingly traditional person and I hope that's a trait he carries with him forever.

It's true he doesn't go to many games with me anymore for one reason or another and it's sad but OK. I've dragged him to enough places that he generally knows where he likes to go (Brunswick) and where he doesn't like to go (Wonderland of Ice, Bridgeport).

He's taken in the world of minor league baseball from Fishkill to Aberdeen and college basketball from Newburgh to Long Island.

When I told him that Mahopac and John Jay are playing baseball this May at Dutchess Stadium, his enthusiasm was immediate. He and his two friends (Will and Chris) can join me as "color analysts."

We'll set broadcasting back to its very beginnings, I fear.

My boy has become a man. A good man.

The world is there for him to do whatever he wants.

For today, I'm sure there's a cake for him.

I won't see him and that saddens me, of course. But I'll see him again soon.

He graduates this June, so the emotions will just keep rolling.

To quote The (12th) Doctor -- the show we have bonded over: "Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind."

Happy birthday, kid. I mean, dude. er. Bruh.

So many nicknames.

Sigh.

Happy birthday, Sean. Make wishes. Dream big. Then go get it.


Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Guest PA Announcer


I got called into public address announcing duty tonight as Carmel High School hosted White Plains High School in a hockey playoff match up.

I don't consider myself a big time PA announcer by any stretch. I'm likely quite boring both on the mic and with the tunes.

Since I don't have a budget, I don't own the latest hits to play for fans, so I make do with a collection of roughly 17,000 tracks on my MacBook.

I lean towards plenty of classic rock and pop hits. INXS meets The Beatles and Huey Lewis (duh and duh) along with Simple Minds, Rush and whatever grabbed me.

Some liked it and I saw them dancing.

A Spongebob Squarepants song here...a catchy hockey ditty there.

Some didn't like it.

So it goes.

My style, as I know I've written before, is very professional. I don't go high energy and screaming, in part because I share the scorers hut with two other men, both of whom would likely gladly toss me like an octopus to center ice were I to yell.

Let's just that's a fairly outspoken room and you have to be on your game.

My PA idol is Bob Sheppard (no surprise). Thus what they lack in energy and hyperbole they have plenty of enunciation.

As you'll hear, the best "flair" I offered was a hint of a "growl" on "Rrrrams goal!" when Carmel scored the game-winner in OT.


I sort of like doing it and, sure, I'd love to get more creative with music and sounds. But this was a fill-in. It was a call to the bullpen, and I'm not sure when I'll get to do it again. So, in traditional Robcasting style, I overthink it, over-analyze it, and will put it in my back pocket for another day.

I know it would have been a blast to broadcast it, and of course that's where my mind goes.

The kindest thing was when the White Plains coach thanked me for doing the game.

"It's great for the kids," he said.

I agree.

Thanks to Stefanie Mount (guess who scored the winning goal...see the video above) and Carmel for asking me and best of luck the rest of the way. Thanks, as always, to Carmel head coach Mike Chiacchia for his assistance in getting me comfortable.

See? Even a Mahopac guy can show Carmel some love (please note I did live in Carmel for four years).

Friday, February 21, 2020

Hockey Fights Cancer at Brunswick

Katie Kennedy (purple hat) drops the puck
A short post tonight, as I'm home from calling Brunswick and The Gunnery at Hartong Rink.

It was Hockey Fights Cancer night, as the the Bruins and Highlanders played and helped raise money for Alex's Lemonade Stand and Fighting For Ferraris.
Gunnery (in white) and Brunswick pose for a group photo
The Bruins family was touched personally as head coach Mike Kennedy's daughter Katie is fighting Ewing's Sarcoma, and Alex's Lemonade Stand raises money to defeat childhood cancer. While The Gunnery hasn't been hit personally (although, honestly, who hasn't?) Wick's next opponent -- Trinity-Pawling -- has. The Pride's head coach Bobby Ferraris is also waging a battle against cancer.

I hope much was raised tonight in terms of money and awareness. It was a well-run, wonderful night of hockey and community, as we've seen with Mahopac and Carmel.

John Booth joined me for the call. Please give the game a listen.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Athletics and Radio



Baseball on terrestrial radio is down a team in the Bay Area.

The Oakland Athletics announced earlier this week that they will not have a local flagship station in 2020 (and for the foreseeable future).

Instead, A's baseball will heard around San Francisco and Oakland via the TuneIn Radio app.

This sounds fatal but, really, it's not. The A's will still have radio affiliates in other parts of California.

And yet?

I know -- OK, boomer -- but it's a bummer to know that if you're in the car around the Bay Area, you won't be able to hear the A's on your terrestrial car radio.

Still, there's TuneIn and SiriusXM.

But, for me, it's sad, even if it was inevitable.

Is this the beginning of a trend? Some would say it's already happened. Teams in other sports have opted for walking away from local radio for an internet stream.

Many minor league baseball teams have gone this way also.

Like, ahem, the Hudson Valley Renegades, who left the three-station network that "we" were on a few years ago. Yet you'll hear us loud and very clear on the internet (including TuneIn Radio).

I'm not here to advocate for one or the other. At this point, I simply want there to be an audio element for sports.

It's always too easy to push for video and hey, I get it, it's great. I've worked on TV and video streams and it is wonderful.

You probably know I love me some Local Live (and will be on there tomorrow at 6 p.m., calling Brunswick hockey against The Gunnery, as Hockey Fights Cancer).

But there's still something to be said about listening to a game while in the car or mowing the lawn or maybe working around the house. It's can still be the soundtrack of a BBQ.

That's part of why I created Robcasting. It can act as the simulcast of the video feed when needed.

Anyway, I don't know that this is anything more than one baseball team dropping a flagship station in their city, but it's something that we'll be keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Busy Stretch Begins

Today, at Brunswick
It's a happy time.

It's a challenge for sure, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I called hockey today and will be on basketball tomorrow. Then back to hockey on Friday.

Next week begins a slate of FCIAC-palooza as I call all of the playoffs and championships that I can get my headset near.

Then back to Brunswick. Then more FCIAC.

All of this will air on Local Live (audio on Robcasting).

Plus the girls state hockey championship and the FCIAC freshman all-star game. At least, I think so.

There might be a brief chance to catch my breath before spring sports kicks in. Let the lacrosse, baseball, and softball flow!

I've started looking at spring schedules. Among the nuggets I've discovered, Mahopac plays John Jay East Fishkill at Dutchess Stadium in May. Let's just say I've already circled that one.

Beyond that, I don't know that I have much to offer tonight.

Plus, sometimes, we just need something positive, especially when the demons are hanging out nearby.

I'm not one for being phony and I don't post stuff just "because" but this one grabbed me, and I clearly wasn't alone.

Jake Schwartz, a junior at Glastonbury High School, wanted to ask Paige Drury to the prom. So he fashioned the word "prom" in braille as a nod to Paige, who is blind (story courtesy of WFSB, Channel 3).

It's just a simply beautiful moment that made me smile. Many have watched on social media, including my Facebook page. So, if you're in need of a nice moment, just watch.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I Had to Prove He Was Mine

In case there's any question: April, 2013

My son was born on Feb 23, 2002.

I know his social security number.

I can tell you his favorite color, what he likes to eat, who his two best friends are, what his favorite TV show is and myriad other things.

And yet -- yet -- I had to prove he was my child to a photography company.

All so I can have the honor of spending $39 for an 8x10 copy of his senior photo.

Off of Friday's post, my niece Stephanie sent an email to the company in question so that we could look into buying pictures. It went as expected.

"We need to hear from a legal guardian."

* It is at this point that every "Devil's Advocate" should take the day off. Yes, I get it. "Sabrina," on the live chat, was just doing her job. Duly noted. But, please, I beg of you, sit this one out if you're out to tell me how "it's her job."

It was among the most humiliating things I've ever done.

As I've highlighted, I've missed on birthday parties. Doctors appointments. Dentist appointments. Lots of decisions. Even him receiving the letter that he's been accepted to college.

I've been invited to zero of this. Literally. Zero. Did I have a say in his college decision? Nope. Negative.

Other single dads are cool with this. I said -- OVER TWELVE YEARS AGO -- that I wouldn't be.

Yes. Sabrina did her job, and did it well.

It still left me heartbroken having to prove that, indeed, Sean Robert Adams -- named BY ME, in part in honor of my late father --  was and is STILL my own son.

I was once asked, when coming back into the United States: "Is that your baby?" I didn't laugh. I said, "Yes," and moved on. But, it was sort of funny.

You don't understand. I get it. That's fine.

I'm crushed right now.

Monday, February 17, 2020

No Baseball Tonight

Airing Bull Durham -- again -- was more important than the commissioner's press conference on MLB Network
There are 122 days left until June 18.

That's the day when the Hudson Valley Reneagades play game number one of the 2020 season, and I plan on being in Aberdeen, MD for it.

I actually had a dream in which it went right on by and I missed it.

I'm being patient. I'm still thinking about the broadcast format, waiting for game times, formally picking out which road games I'd like to go to, and who will be on games with me.

I also got asked for my shirt size. That actually made me quite happy. I'm dying to get acquainted with the Gades family, beyond those I already know.

I can't wait to just stand in the booth and set it up.

But, tonight, I don't want to talk about baseball.

There are those -- not saying I'm one -- who think the Astros scandal is worse than the Black Sox. Worse than Pete Rose. Worse than steroids.

Is it? I'm not sure about that. Time will determine that.

But, for me, the commissioner isn't helping things. Neither are the Astros. And, if I'm the Red Sox, I say literally nothing.

Except J.D. Martinez decided he'd throw a little gas on the fire and, for my money, should pipe down.

"I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price," Martinez said.

Good god, man. Find a clue. It's clear Carlos Correa only thinks being questioned is the "price" he has paid, given that he'll otherwise keep the 2017 World Series share (and the 2019 share for losing) as well as the ring, plus he thinks they won "fair and square."

Shhhhhhhhhh.

And the commissioner? For the love of Ford Frick! Rob Manfred called the trophy -- the COMMISSIONER'S TROPHY -- a "piece of metal?"

And he doubled down on, literally, EVERYTHING.

But, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Baseball isn't having its best of times. We need games. Real games.

Give me Brunswick. Greenwich. Fairfield American. The Gades. Mahopac. Babe Ruth League.

Give. Me. Something.

So, tonight, I'd like to think about other things.

Except now the sports world is talking now about NASCAR driver Ryan Newman after a bad crash at Daytona at the end of the race this evening.

A race that, frankly, I had no idea was impacted with rain and finished today.

Once everyone (including me) is done bloviating, I'll come back tomorrow.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

So...That Was a Miss

(Found online)
Short post tonight.

Last night's edition didn't exactly go as intended.

That point I was trying to make was that I had a bit of an epiphany that, sometimes, I think what I write is often silly.

Think of it as album filler. You know, "Taxman," "Eleanor Rigby" and among the classics on Revolver, but "Doctor Robert" and "I Want To Tell You" are sort of the songs that take up space.

I felt like there were bigger stories for others to tell. Like I said, I wasn't in a bad mood or or bad place. I just felt my stories weren't relevant yesterday.

However, people were quick to tell me that they do care about the blog content. Thanks much, all.

Believe me when I say it was not meant as a pity party, so I'm a little embarrassed.

But, again, much appreciated.

It's just been one day at a time and it continues to be.

It's almost playoff time and I hope I'm really busy.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

No Stories. Not Really

Do you really care about this?
Let's face it: you don't care.

Do you really want to hear about running like crazy to the Wilton/Trumbull hockey game and how traffic in Connecticut is a joke?

Probably no more than you want to hear about how I had to bail after two periods to get to the FCIAC Wrestling Championships.

Or how Chris Erway crushed that broadcast. He did. He was tremendous.

No need to tell you how I was terrible on the air all day, in part because I was distracted thanks to having nothing to eat.

Some nights, I write these stories and think you want to hear them.

Some nights, I realize there are real stories far more profound than the dreck I write.

This isn't the result of a bad day or night or depression or anything nefarious.

It's just an occasional glimpse of perception.

I gave what I had to both broadcasts. I ran like crazy. I juggled. I did my best for today.

And I'll give it again tomorrow or whenever the next broadcast is.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Senior Picture

A picture of a picture (Prestige Photography by Lifetouch)
I got a wallet-size picture of Sean's senior portrait tonight.

My son turns 18 next Sunday.

For the record, I almost definitely will not see him. Yes, another byproduct of how being a single father (single parent) can blow.

There are the lost birthdays and some other holidays and the doctors appointments that you don't hear about and other things that go on without your knowledge.

There are also lost school pictures in which I might get a small copy that I then take a picture of with my iPhone.

And, to be perfectly fair, some of that falls actually on Sean on this point. He's nearly 18, and we did a reset on communication a few years ago so that it was between father and son. Sometimes, there are miscommunications. It happens.

To be quite clear, I mostly blame myself for things. Lest there be any confusion in what I'm writing here. Further -- I'm grateful I got a picture. Any size picture.

But, like I said, I got a wallet-size picture.

Why, you ask?

For months -- I mean, literally months, I've been asking for any information on senior pictures. Mostly, I wanted to know how to order the blasted things.

I mean, it's one thing to not have certain years, but come on, this is the big one. The LAST one.

My mother even tried.

I've been on the high school website. No info on even who the photography company is.

Not until tonight, when I saw how Prestige had to have their watermark in the lower right corner.

OK. Prestige. Let's do this!

I went to their website. Hmmm...enter a code. OK, I don't have one. Asking Sean if he knows the code is not fruitful. He had that code months ago, no doubt, if he ever had it at all.

Oh. Wait! They say I can enter a state and city! Awesome! The townspeople cry, "We're saved!"

So, I entered New York ("duh" -- Billie Eilish) and East Fishkill (for John Jay-East Fishkill).

Strike one.

Wappingers Falls! Yes, they're part of the Wappingers School District!

Strike two.

I know! Their address is Hopewell Junction!

Strike three.

(OK, I'll shorten it to Hopewell Jct. Yep. Strike three-and-a-half)

So, there's a phone number that I can get a run-around with next week, and I have a strong suspicion how this is going to turn out.

It's safe to say I'm disappointed, mostly in myself because I apparently didn't push the topic enough, so I'll take the blame.

But -- dammit -- my son is a senior. Is it THAT DIFFICULT to get a large framed picture to remember this final stage of his high school years by? His cousins and other loved ones might like a copy.

I've got four wallet-size photos. I'm grateful for those.

In a separate school story, Sean is content with his choice of college and has been accepted. He is staying local (like his father did). I want him to be happy with school so, while I personally wanted him to dig around a little more with four-year schools (and he had people willing to talk with him about it), I'm fine with him starting at Dutchess Community College.

He's his own person and I'm proud of him.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Live from CSB!



Greetings from the podium of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting in Stratford, CT.

This place produced -- sorry, folks -- me.

And I've been at for 30 years. I graduated from here this very month in 1990.

They were kind enough to allow me to do Doubleheader from here today.

Which allowed me rant.

And rave.

About the Houston Astros.

Anyone looking to get into public relations, go watch that press conference and do -- literally -- the exact opposite.

This presser today has the potential to be among the most disastrous ever.

Owner Jim Crane told the media that the Astros' cheating had no impact "on the game." Then, 55 seconds later, he said it did. When asked about it, he denied it.

The apologies were more hollow than a bat filled with rubber balls.

Just awful.

It also led me to talk about the Pete Rose Hall of Fame thing, and here is that thing.

And allow me to crystal clear about it.

I'm not advocating for Pete to make the Hall of Fame tonight, tomorrow, or even in 2020.

I'm not advocating him to be recognized as a great player before the end of his life.

But I am saying you don't truly tell the story of the game without him receiving that recognition one day.

Don't tell me the numbers are there.

Don't tell me I can see his bat or whatever.

Leave him out. Put him in.

But recognize it's not authentic. Especially when you -- the Hall of Fame -- have the power to control the message.

And, to be further clear, Pete isn't some tragic figure. He's his own worst enemy.

Have I made myself clear? I truly doubt it. In fact, I guarantee I haven't.

It's also World Radio Day, and who knows where or what I'd be without this crazy business that has given and taken so much.

But, I still love it. I still love talking into a microphone and creating something.

Radio, at its most authentic, still goes out via an air signal, such as 1490 AM and 105.5 FM.

But radio -- audio -- in 2020 exists in myriad forms.

May it live on in perpetuity.

A quick note of acknowledgement to fellow Mahopac grad Dean Reynolds, who died earlier this week. I know he was a good man, dad, son, etc. I know we knew each other, but not well. I know a good man was taken far too young. My condolences.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Pitchers and Catchers

(MLB)
As soon as Patrick Mahomes took a knee in the Super Bowl, baseball fans began to look forward to this moment.

Today is the day pitchers and catchers for several teams (including the Yankees) report to spring training camp. Some teams have reported yesterday.

Now, it's a bit of a misnomer. It's a bit of a tease. Baseball is back, but it isn't. It all depends on your opinion, I suppose.

It's a happy sign to the see players coming into camp. It's happy to read new Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole whizzing fastballs in Tampa. The actual first pitchers and catchers workout is tomorrow, but the excitement is...sort of...there.

Incidentally, as I'm now a tangential part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, it is my duty and honor to say they report to Port Charlotte tomorrow.

Games -- albeit spring training games -- are roughly ten days away.

On one hand, it's a glorious day. It's 41 degrees here in New York but in Florida and Arizona, they're starting to limber up and get ready for baseball. It's 81 and mostly cloudy in Tampa

On the other hand, the first real pitch of 2020 isn't until March 26 (and that's early). So there are still 43 days to go.

The Renegades, of course, are further out. Not that I'm going out of my mind or anything.

But, it's a start, right?

So we'll enjoy seeing images of the workouts. Then the games mostly featuring players we might not get to see in the big leagues.

It will tantalize us for sure.

For me, there's the extra enjoyment of watching, knowing that each day brings me closer to June 18 in Aberdeen, MD. That will be followed by June 24 in Wappingers Falls.

So, instead of being a Debbie Downer, today is a happy sign. It's an indication that spring is coming. It's a heads-up that we can turn our eyes back towards the field and away from cheating, gambling, the Hall of Fame, the minor league "issues," and so on.

Baseball is sort of back, and it is beautiful.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Restraint

Gotta keep some thoughts in the cloud.
I didn't hold back on "Doubleheader" today. Sometimes I can't resist, even when I know I should.

So, today was a day like that.

And some of it I absolutely do not regret.

On the other hand...

But, this is what it comes down to: we're way too sensitive. It's exhausting.

Still, I dare not say what is on my mind, and either keep it to myself or speak it in quiet quarters.

Some days I'm good at it.

But we dare not criticize.

Hey, The Clubhouse is back tomorrow at 7 p.m. from Grand Prix NY in Mount Kisco. Doubleheader will also be there at 4 p.m. (if all goes well).

Mark Jeffers and Dave Torromeo are back with me for another season. Plus Dave says he's going to join me for Doubleheader. I'm pretty happy to get the gang back together.

Basketball Friday. Hockey Saturday. Wrestling Saturday. Yes -- two events in one day.

In between? Taking care of lots of stuff.

Sleep? Ha. I'll try.

Onto tomorrow.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Middle School Heroes

Now he's kind of a big deal
I'm not famous.

Unlike Ron Burgundy, I'm not a big deal.

So when Jeff Alterman asked me to merge Robcasting with TEN for the middle school championship between Tomlinson of Fairfield and Hillcrest of Trumbull, I jumped.

He thought I might take a pass, given my career of higher level broadcasts.

But, really, why not?

A game is a game. Just bring the same professionalism.

I realized that the first time I was told WGCH was going to broadcast the GYFL Championships.  The game is the game. So long as there are rosters and some kind of facility, there's a story to be told.

We did those games standing on a flatbed truck at Western Middle School in Greenwich. Our power was off a generator. Despite my doubts, we made it work.

Lesson learned.

So I've done many more GYFL Championships (at Cardinal Stadium). I've called two world championship youth hockey tournaments.

I've done little league baseball and I've loved it. All of it.

That's where I make the memories and the friends.

Have headset. Will travel. Always.

So I went to Trumbull and called the game. Sure we only got the Tomlinson roster today and it was hard to see the foul calls and there was no PA and it was in a middle school gym.

But it worked fantastically. There were still athletes in uniforms with numbers, and those numbers matched to a roster.

There was still a scoreboard with a clock.

It worked.

Jeff and I were joined by Bryan Rickert, principal of Hillcrest, who warmly welcomed me to his school and brought solid analysis with the gentle touch of an educator. It struck the right tone for the broadcast.

He also brought a sense of humor, and I always like that.

He also seemed to appreciate my approach, especially when an athlete was injured in the second half. I saw her face and decided to not say who it was or which team she played for. I explained my rationale on the air.

Not every case is the same. That's how I chose to handle it in this situation.

The game didn't go the way of the home team as they suffered their first loss of the year but I was impressed by the passion and behavior of all in attendance.

Too often we hear the bad stories of over-aggressive parents who attack coaches, officials, other fans and, most reprehensibly, the athletes sometimes.

This had none of that. Everyone was well-behaved. I heard no rancor directed at the officials. I saw the winning team hug and the losing team hug and had the sense that literally everyone might go grab some pizza or ice cream before doing homework.

Maybe somewhere they'll hear the broadcast and say, "That guy called the FCIAC Championship" (and I'll be doing the girls basketball title again, with hopefully more to follow). Maybe that will make them smile.

I hope so. Only then do I feel like I'm anything -- because they give me that nudge as if I've done anything meaningful.

But they're the stars. The athletes. The coaches. They're the big deal.

My apartment doesn't smell of rich mahogany.

But I'll come back and call a middle school championship again anytime.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

A Few Sunday Musings

I'm thinking maybe focus on the country, but OK. I'll bite.


Let's get this out of the way now: Tom Hanks has been my favorite actor for years. I've absorbed most of it, from He Knows You're Alone to Splash to Big to Philadelphia right on through the current day.

He's up for an Academy Award tonight and has virtually no chance to grab his long-deserved third statue.

Brad Pitt (blech) will get it.

I will be mad.

*****
So Mr. 45 thinks Pete Rose should be reinstated in baseball and voted into the Hall of Fame.

There is a problem with this. Pete shouldn't work in baseball -- literally ever again. As an ambassador? Sure. On TV? Yes. But in any field capacity? Good lord, no. MLB would need to stipulate that.

A veterans committee would have to review his qualifications for the Hall of Fame. On just baseball talent and numbers alone, he's an automatic Hall of Famer.

On character? Again...good lord, no.

It's a twisted narrative with Pete. He was defiant in saying he did nothing wrong yet took the lifetime suspension from baseball. There's a lot of unsavory stuff but we all know there are plenty of bad guys or people who did bad things in the Hall of Fame.

But, just based on the temperature of most fans, there's a large number of people who want to see him in the Hall. That matters.

I've said for some time that you put Pete in the Hall of Fame with zero fanfare. Literally, put the plaque up. No ceremony. No speech. But Shoeless Joe Jackson MUST also go in. That is not an option.

Beyond that, their plaques MUST say that they were banned from baseball for gambling.

Otherwise, wait until Pete dies and do it then, but I stand by what to put on the plaque.

Don't tell me he has memorabilia in the Hall. That doesn't accurately tell the story and is hypocritical.

There's a way to do it and please the people who are supposed to matter: the fans.

*****
The new XFL started this weekend.

I watched very little, save for a chunk of the just-completed St. Louis/Dallas game.

Overall it wouldn't be fair to judge it, though I'm intrigued by the kickoff rules.

Can I say I've been underwhelmed by the broadcasting? Too many voices talking over each other.

Beyond that, there's still hockey and basketball going on. And auto racing. Sure.

(Pitchers and catchers report this week, but I'm banned from being excited about that)

*****
And I was right. Brad Pitt. Damn.

But he was classy, right? Sure.

*****
(I'm back) Oh, I almost forgot! I'm calling a middle school basketball championship game. When it was suggested to me, it was presented as something that I probably wouldn't be interested in.

Nah. I love calling games. ALL games, and I'm honored that these athletes would even care to have my voice attached to their game.

So, buckle up Tomlinson Middle School and Hillcrest Middle School. I'm going to bring you my best with Jeff Alterman tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. on TEN (Trumbull Eagles Network). The game will also be carried on Robcasting.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

The Sports Broadcasting Camp


It was 1991.

I was already working in broadcasting, doing Saturday/Sunday overnight on Majic 105 when I saw an opportunity to attend a sports broadcasting camp in Syracuse, NY.

I can still see it: $800 got me into the camp along with accommodations in a dorm.

This was a big deal for me. I was 22 but didn't go away to college.

Plus every dollar of it was my own. My mother couldn't and, honestly, wouldn't give me money to go away to a sports broadcasting camp.

I jumped at it. Some thought I was nuts but I knew it was the right thing to do.

My blue Chevrolet Cavalier was packed and ready on the Friday before the Fourth of July as I headed to work in White Plains. I took a half day and departed, planning to spend the first night in Albany, NY.


That night, I attended a Albany-Colonie Yankees game at old Heritage Park and sat in their broadcast booth for a doubleheader. John Thomas, the "voice" of the A/C Yankees, let me hang out with him. He gave me a tour of the ballpark. I always remember him telling me his wife was from Mahopac.

Foolishly, thinking appearance mattered, I wore pants on a day that was well into the high 90s.

It was also my first time at a minor league game. So began attending many minor league games and, eventually, becoming a minor league broadcaster (if you haven't heard).

You can sort of see the press box suspended above the seats behind home plate.
The next morning I headed out across the New York State Thruway and checked into my room at the Dellplain Hall in Syracuse. Among my campers, I was a "big man" in that I had a car, so that meant we could go wherever we wanted.

I then drove to the famed Newhouse School at Syracuse to begin attending the camp.

It was indeed an eye-opener of a week for me. I can still remember going down to Marshall Street one night to drink and, having no idea what to order, I just said I'd have "the same" as a guy I was hanging out with. I also had a drunk girl hit on me -- and kiss me -- that night. It was her birthday.

No, I did not, to be quite clear. I went back to my hot dorm room instead. She tried to hit on two other guys I was hanging in.
I'd be back here a decade later to call three New York football championships
The camp was run by Dave Cohen, eventually the lead TV broadcaster on Yankees games on MSG in the mid-90s. He didn't appear to be a big fan of mine and famously told me I'd make a good game show host.

Thanks for that.

Fred Manfra, who would enjoy a long run with the Baltimore Orioles, was also in attendance. Cohen, known for being the announcer on Bob Costas' radio show (Costas did not join us that week), gave us a good week of practicing baseball and basketball (in the Carrier Dome on a pickup game where I met Jim Boeheim).

I had ups and down during the week, being hard on myself (that's so unlike me) with any mistake I made. But I also became a go-to partner for TV stand-ups (that's what you see with the announcers on camer at the beginning of a broadcast) because I knew how to get through those.

Later on, we did baseball at the home of the Syracuse Chiefs (now Syracuse Mets). A local TV station filmed my partner (a woman, by the way, because I made her feel comfortable as she really didn't know baseball) and I for a story they did on the camp.

I still have all of the tapes, including that TV story.

We went to Cooperstown on the Fourth of July, which certainly made me happy.

I got a lot out of it. I learned about preparation and, interestingly, about having multiple colored pens for various notes. I immediately went and bought a great set of pens after the camp...

...and soon discovered that space and my own personal style didn't really work for colored pens. It works great for many but I've never really mastered it.

Perhaps most of all, it was a time of growth (personally and professionally) for me.

But I can't stress enough that this was no gift. I paid every dime of my own money to attend the camp, for a hotel room in Albany, for my meals and gas as well as a Syracuse Chiefs and anything else.

It was money well-spent, even if it didn't lead to a job. To be honest, I've never spoken to those people at the camp since we went our separate ways in 1991.

I'm all for camps, such as Bruce Beck's. Beck is a great person and an outstanding mentor. He's been on "The Clubhouse" (returning this Wednesday night on WGCH).  For me, it's hoping these students recognize the gift they're being given.

For me, Dave Cohen's camp was a wake-up call. I became a better broadcaster as a result of that and a lot more.

I also got to travel -- on my own. I had to drive to Albany and Syracuse before making the four-hour trek back home the following Friday.

I look back with a smile at that week in 1991.

It was my own coming of age in a way.

And I'm still not a game show host. Guess I missed my calling.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Isms


“Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people.” -- Ferris Bueller

This is what we do now.

You disagree with something? You will get labeled.

Activist. Facist. Racist. Mysoginost. Sexist. Pacifist. Anarchist. The list goes on.

For the record, I agreed with Gayle King asking Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant's sexual assault of 2003. If it was good enough for nearly everyone to condemn Don Imus as a "racist scumbag" or "racist a$$hole" then Kobe's assault charge is fair game also.

I also saw plenty about Kirk Douglas and the rumor that he raped Natalie Wood years ago, with some saying he did it, and no backing out of it. If you disagreed, you would be blocked. This happened literally hours after the report emerged that the actor had died.

Yes. Land of the free. Home of the guilty before proven otherwise.

Many (me) live in near fear of speaking in basically any regard because we'll be marked as...um...something.

If I tell you I'm not in favor of all baseball wearing 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, then I'm a racist. That's logical? No, it actually isn't. I know what's in my heart.

Now, let me add to that. I actually think baseball can do something great by having each team name one person the honorary number 42 on April 15. Call it "The Spirit of Jackie." It can then be a featured part of the ceremony, and used as a moment to teach more about Jackie and others who blazed the trail.

The same was in play last Sunday. Don't like J. Lo and Shakira? You're sexist, and probably xenophobic -- ESPECIALLY if you were a white male and didn't like their performance somehow.

It's like simple opinions can't be handled.

Oh, right. That's because they can't.

But these "ists" and "isms" can damage people. They can destroy reputations and lives.

They have destroyed reputations and lives.

And thus, here's U.S. Senator Corey Booker immediately calling people misogynist because they questioned Gayle King.

I saw something similar regarding Jessica Mendoza departing the Mets and stepping into what's being called a bigger role at ESPN.

Look, I'm not a fan of either person but I do think Gayle King asked a fair question and was set up to fail by CBS. She'll be fine in the long run, but she actually had Snoop Dog threatening her -- yes, literally threatening her. Is that OK, Sen. Booker? I'll just leave that one open-ended for you to ponder.

As for Mendoza, I stand by my belief that she's fine in the right places but was never right on Sunday Night Baseball. But I'm misogynist if I object to her based on talent?

It's troubling. That's also part of the world we live in today -- both sides of the stupid "aisle."

It's become the low-hanging fruit to immediately drop misogynist or racist charges on people.

And that, friends, is a large -- VERY LARGE -- part of what is wrong with our world in 2020.

Once again, I ask: What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Another One of Those Nights

A couple of bums: Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
Welp.

I'm having one of those nights.

I'm tired and light on ideas to write about, so I'm just going to throw a few words together and move onto tomorrow.

Babe Ruth was born 125 years ago today in Baltimore, MD.

To me, he's the best ever. I get the knocks, but I think greatness overcomes that.

In short, Ruth would have adjusted. He was a beast of a player. A freak.

The numbers are still insane. The myths are incredible but the facts are almost too good to believe.

The scary thing is how, if he had taken care of himself and behaved a little better from, say 1924-1926, his numbers would be even scarier. Plus, consider if he wasn't the best left-handed pitcher in baseball from 1915-1919.

For instance, an "off year" for Ruth was 1922, when GHR hit .315 with 35 home runs and 96 RBIs. Or 1925: .290, 25, 67.

So I'm sticking with Ruth.

Give me a chance to start a team and Ruth will be my first pick every time.

After calling hockey yesterday from the Local Live command center in Stamford off a small video monitor, I'm back at a live game tomorrow as Brunswick basketball returns to action.

I'll see you then.