Sunday, January 28, 2007

My greatest home run call

After hearing all the goofy things I used to do on Syracuse Chiefs broadcasts, a few readers asked me to tell the story again of my "greatest home run call".

For three years in the minors and seven in the majors I did baseball play-by-play. Someday I hope to do it again. The staple of a baseball announcer is his home run call.

I was broadcasting for the Chiefs, the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, in 1988. Our station had a weaker signal than my home Wifi transmitter. At night you couldn’t hear it at the ballpark. When people complained I used to say that this was just the flagship station of the “Worldwide Syracuse Chiefs Radio Network”. I would pause for station identification every half hour and make up all this crap about how popular the Chiefs were in Norway and Bhutan.

We had a third baseman named Norm Tonucci. Sweet kid from Connecticut who was on a year long slump. He came to bat once and I said we had many listeners from Borneo because Norm was a folk hero over there. I then created some story that his father had parachuted behind enemy lines in World War II and single handedly saved the country. I said the currency of Borneo is “Tonuches”, that 90% of male babies and 70% of female babies were named Norm. Every time he came to bat I would reprieve this Borneo connection and night after night he would go 0-3, 0-4, 0-8 (doubleheader).

One night we’re in Oklahoma City and Norm hits a triple. When he came to bat the next time up I talked about how excited the people of Borneo were over the triple. The next pitch he just crushed. And this was my home run call:

“Tonucci swings and there’s a long drive to deep left field. Steve Kemp goes back…to the track…to the wall….NO SCHOOL TOMORROW IN BORNEO!”

21 comments:

Chaz said...

Hilarious!

We have a new phrase that pays for the week!

A_B said...

If there were any justice in this world, "NO SCHOOL TOMORROW IN BORNEO!" would be the new catch-phrase to describe any event that was good and wonderful.

Anonymous said...

My first born shall be called
Noschooltomorrowinborneo.

Anonymous said...

I agree with A_B. If I understood the mysterious process by which catchprases become catchphrases, I'd get it started.

Diane said...

Great story!

John said...

Isn't Borneo just on the other side of Onondaga Lake from the SkyChief's ballpark?

DodgerGirl said...

I miss my Dodgers, but we're supposed to be getting an independent minor league team here soon and I'm looking forward to it. I just hope our announcers have half the sense of humor you do.

http://www.somdbluecrabs.com/

Wally said...

Brilliant. Take that, Joe Buck.

dave said...

Wait a minute... you did play-by-play for minor league baseball for how long???

I guess I'm not that familiar with your bio, but weren't you a working writer/producer at the time, too?

Love the home run call!!!

Ken Levine said...

I did three years of minor league ball. The first year, 1988, there was a WGA strike so I didn't miss anything. The other two years I wrote Cheers scripts while on the road. I continued my writing career throughout my baseball career.

jimhenshaw said...

Since you were once part of the organization, any thoughts on former catcher Alan Ashby being named the new play-by-play voice for the Blue Jays?

Miles said...

That's great.

What was your favorite homerun of all time? Not just calling it...

For me, it was Kirk Gibson's agaist Oakland in 88. Jesus. I'm an LA native, I went to college in Boston, surrounded by Yankees fans, and when he hit it, it was very late (East Coast time) and I was alone and I literally hit the ceiling. I hit the ceiling. Then called my stepdad -- from Boston -- who celebrated the Dodgers with me for the first time ever and then I called and woke up every Yankees fan I knew. It was that good.

branfordbob said...

Ken won't plug it, so I will:
Dave (and everyone else) needs to go out and get a copy of Ken's book about his baseball experiences, "It's Gone!...No, Wait a Minute...: Talking My Way into the Big Leagues at 40".

If you enjoy reading this blog, you'll love the book. If all else fails, try www.half.com.

BTW Ken, I spent what seemed like 15 years in Central New York (1976-1980)...which AM station was it? I'm guessing 1260 AM (which was WNDR in the 70's)?

BOB

Ken Levine said...

Thanks for the book plug. If you pay more than $.19 you're paying too much.

My all-time favorite home run was also Gibson's blast in Game One of the 1988 World Series. I was there. I've mounted my scorecard.

I'm happy for Alan Ashby. I was shocked that they let him go in Houston. He's a terrific broadcaster. The Blue Jays now have a great broadcasting team. Jerry Howarth is one of the best, most thorough play-by-play guys out there.

And I will always miss Tom Cheek. I spoke to him just a few days before he passed away. What a nice man.

Anonymous said...

Wow...you must have been calling the Chiefs when I was there (I was an Orangeman from 88-92)...LaBatts and Balls at a Chiefs game...gotta love it...One of the best minor league hats ever, in my opinion...still have mine...shocked me to see the logo on your blog...ah, the memories...

Anonymous said...

I have been stewing over a report for weeks...sure the big boys would demand all kinds of stupid changes and modifications. A few minutes ago, I got word that it had been accepted wholesale...no changes at all! When the assistant told me the news, I joyfully yelled out "No School Tomorrow in Borneo!" Fucking perfect.

TB said...

Just a quick comment on Kirk Gibson's homer. I can't get the tail lights out of my head. When they show the ball going over the fence, you can see the tail lights of those who chose to leave early in the background. It's gotta kill 'em to know how close they were and they missed the greatest homer ever. Of course they wave their stubs around and lie about it, sure, but...the inner angst! God!

VP19 said...

I love the Jack Buck call of Gibson's blast: "...this is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable!"

benson said...

Wally,

I've got the perfect next Holiday Inn commercial:

We're inside an elevator. Ken and three fans, who are just thrilled to be in his presence. The one fan places his fingers on Ken's voice box and Ken says "NO SCHOOL TOMORROW IN BORNEO!"

Anonymous said...

A Funny true story about Kirk Gibson's famous homerun. I was at that game near the top of the Reserved section, and as the game progressed, a very obnoxiously vocal A's fan, plastered with enough team apparel to be a virtual yellow and green billboard, made concerted effort to remind all of us Dodger fans just how much of a superior team his A's were.

With every loud show of his braggadocio, the nearby Dodger fans would send him looks of disapproval, including a small group of nice elderly ladies clearly in their late sixties, all decked out in their finest Dodger jerseys and caps. Since Mr. A's fan was about the size of a Mack Truck, however, no one could quite buck up the courage to tell him where he could put it. Quite honestly, I think the nasty glances only egged him on.

Well, once Gibby crushed that ball into the seats, those nice old ladies turned to Mr. A's loudmouth, pointed directly to him and shouted "There, idiot! Take that!!" That elicited almost as much cheering from the nearby Dodger faithful as the home run.

Febrifuge said...

Thanks for the book plug. If you pay more than $.19 you're paying too much.

Aha! There's a book! I'm enjoying the blog so much, I may go as high as $5.19.

My all-time favorite home run was also Gibson's blast in Game One of the 1988 World Series. I was there. I've mounted my scorecard.

I hope you bought it dinner. ;)

Ken, I remember being impressed at anything baseball-related in Cheers, from certain key bits of Sam dialogue, to everything Coach said and did. Do you recall any of those baseball moments arising while you were writing from the road? It would seem natural...

Just to give a couple of specific examples, there's the story about Sam's lucky bottlecap, and then later (on Frasier, in fact), Sam talks to Martin about a Sox-Mariners game. The drama and the humor in the baseball moments always grounded Sam really well.