Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back from Seattle

The Seattle Mariners graciously invited me to fill-in for a couple of nights on their radio broadcast, reuniting me with one of the most picturesque, romantic cities in all the world -- Tacoma. But Seattle’s pretty keen too.

I arrived Wednesday during a record heat wave. 100 degrees. Who gets sunstroke in Seattle? It was like Tucson with ferries.

Seattle has only two things going against it – relentless rain in the winter and that God awful Perry Como song.

Stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn. I know it sounds like the name of every character Iron Eyes Cody ever played but it was an excellent hotel. Rooms so comfortable you can sleep right through the freight trains going by all night. For whatever reason I always get the room by the elevator, or ice machine, or train.

Hey, they have Starbucks in Seattle too! Who knew??

As I do every trip to the “Emerald City”, I hit Elliott’s Oyster House on Pier 56 for their amazing chilled cracked crab. Although with the heat, people were ordering them to put on their heads and down their pants.

The plan was for me to fill-in for beloved Mariner broadcaster, Dave Niehaus. For M’s fans that’s like going to see a play and learning that Marlon Brando’s part would be played by the understudy.

I was to do play-by-play for three innings on radio. But on Thursday morning one of their other announcers came down with laryngitis and I wound up doing half the game alone on radio and the other half on TV. This particular telecast was also carried nationwide on Direct TV and worldwide on AFRTS. I hadn’t done a television game in ten years so there was already an arctic breeze blowing up my sphincter. As expected, my first half inning featured a freak play that no one had ever seen including the longest tenured umpire in the history of baseball. It involved four runners, three missed tags, a missed base, three runs, a bad call, an appeal, all hell breaking loose, everyone scrambling for their rule books, and me calling it live. My FIRST half inning! I may be the only announcer to ever go to commercial break saying, “And the score after five – your guess is as good as mine.”

Next night’s game was much better. I did radio only and got a foul ball. It came into the booth, crushed our crowd mic and almost killed our engineer but I got the ball so that’s the important thing.

It is worth a trip to Seattle just to see Safeco Field. It’s an architectural marvel – old time charm, modern amenities, spectacular views of the skyline and mountains, and a retractable roof. Players are begging to be traded to the Mariners instead of from. Traditionalists will enjoy the hot dogs, Crackerjacks, and Shiskaberrys (chocolate covered strawberries on a stick just like Ty Cobb used to eat). All that’s missing are vendors going up the aisles yelling, “Lattes here!! Get your caramel machiatos!”

My wife thinks Safeco Field should be renamed “Coffee Grounds”. City appropriate but I vote for “Niehaus Field” in honor of their great announcer Dave Niehaus. Or simply the “Haus that DaveNie built”.

The musical of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN has its tryout in Seattle next month. Instead of spending $475 for a ticket to see it on Broadway, take $400, fly roundtrip to Seattle, pay $75 for the same ticket and have a nice weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

See the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. They have Captain Kirk’s command chair and ET. It’s like having dinner at Faye Dunaway’s house.

My wife, Debby arrived for the weekend and the temperature went from 100 to 75. This is one of the many reasons why I travel with her.

The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.” Damn, I can’t get that idiotic Perry Como song out of my head!

There’s a local Ford dealer that features the “No dicker, sticker”. Much better was the Minneapolis car dealer who once had the slogan, “Bring your wife so we can dicker”.

Got my daughter, Annie a nice souvenir. She’s into pirates so we got her a t-shirt that says “Seattle”, and shows a skull & crossbones with the caption: “The beatings will continue until morale improves”.

If you ever have to use the bathroom in Seattle, stop by the Icon Grill. In the men’s room there are three TV sets with videos of rushing waters – rivers, waterfalls, floods, dams bursting – accompanied by the “Ride of the Valkyries”. Who needs Flomax? For you ladies there’s an old high school health film warning of the dangers of inappropriate thoughts and evil deeds. Not that your date will be in the mood after going like a racehorse for twenty minutes.

Radio in Seattle has gone to crap since Frasier Crane left the airways.

I didn’t have a car. Was hoping Ichiro would let me use the Chevy Tahoe SUV he had just won as MVP of the All-Star game but he declined, claiming he had no idea who the hell I was. So it just sat there.

Being a Mac guy I felt like I was behind enemy lines. But every store and gallery seemed to have an Apple computer. Bill Gates is not taking this lying down. A kid in Western Washington was hit by lightening listening to his iPod. Let that be a warning to you, Seattle!

Was going to go coho salmon fishing but they wouldn’t let me clean the fish in my hotel room.

Also, didn’t get down to the Tacoma Dome to see “Walking with Dinosaurs” -- a stage show featuring 15 life size dinosaurs (45 feet high, 75 feet long) making its US debut after trampling through Europe. Finally a cast that Robin Williams can’t upstage!

But I did get to Utilikilts in Pioneer Square for some new summer kilts. Yes, they’re expensive but I save a lot of money on underwear.

Also in Pioneer Square, there’s the State Hotel with a neon sign that boasts “Rooms 75 cents”. But check with Expedia, you might get a deal.

The Space Needle has a rotating restaurant on top so tourists may hurl while viewing any of Seattle’s stunning attractions.

The bearded sea captain with Popeye hat look is still in. As are tattooed Joni Mitchells.

Stopped by Pikes Place Market, where the fish fly and the tourists buy. Did not go to the Adult Superstore right across the street. I did that once when I broadcasting fulltime for the Mariners. Was with a friend, just browsing, and as I held up an Ass Master, wondering just what the hell it did, it occurred to me – I’m on television every night. This is probably not a place I should be seen in.

The 520 floating bridge was closed all weekend for annual maintenance. So to get from Seattle to Bellevue you could only take the 90 bridge. A faster alternate route was just to go around the world.

Special thanks to the Mariners, Dave Niehaus, Rick Rizz, Kevin Cremin, Randy Adamack, Chuck Armstrong, Dave Sims, Marcy Waldman, KOMO radio, FSN Northwest, and Adrian Beltre for a great week in the great Northwest.

And okay, yeah, well…the bluest skies I’ve ever seen ARE in Seattle.

Next up: a sample of my baseball play by play.

41 comments:

John said...

So the Mariners really didn't score for a month in 1993? Even when they had the chance to make you shave your head? That is a batting slump.

(And a big shout out to XM for allowing me to listen to your broadcast on the long drive home on Interstate 20 in West Texas Friday night, since the 60s on 6 salute to WFIL was long over by then).

Ken Levine said...

It was '92 but yeah, something like a month. I said I'd shave my head if they scored seven runs in the third. I think another week went by before they did score in the third.

Thanks for listening. Thanks to all my blog readers for listening and watching.

Carla said...

I think it's so cool I stumble across your blog, email you about when you were calling for the Mariners and viola' you're back in the booth....Coincident...most likely. Great job!

lohur said...

Ken,
As a lifelong M's fan, I can remember you doing games for a couple of years in the early '90s.
It was refreshing to hear your voice for Mariners games again. Your distinct voice stands out from the cookie-cutter broadcasters everyone hires.

One thing bothered me however. When KSTW cut to a picture of you in the top of the fifth, I wondered, "Does the carpet match the drapes?" Did you really dye your hair for the one day of TV? And did you truly not wear any shoes, or were you just joking? with Valle? One more thing, have you checked with Enjoy the Enjoyment or U.S.S. Mariner blogs to see what they had to say about you?

Ken Levine said...

lohur,

Thanks for your nice note. Just to set the record straight, no, I don't dye my hair. I didn't get the deep voice gene but I did get the dark hair one. What you saw was my real hair.

And yes, the shoes were a joke.

I have read some of the Mariners blog. For the most part they've been kind. I did get a few "Who the fuck was THAT?!" posts and I can see where they're coming from. Especially on TV where I was put on in an emergency situation. But I also received some very nice supportive comments.

Look, here's the bottom line. I love doing it. And if I can convey that joy along with giving you some idea of what's going on out there then I've done my job.

Anonymous said...

One of the amazing things about the internet is to stumble across a blog written by the guy I remember from the past (both for the Mariners and from Cheers), turn on the TV one night and see him broadcasting a game, and be able to actually write to him personally when he gets home.

FWIW, I thought you did a great job announcing over the weekend. I didn't even pick up on the fact that that was your first half inning on the air during that freak play (one of the most bizarre I've ever seen), which speaks well of your composure.

And I really loved the "your guess is as good as mine" comment; the fact that you don't take yourself seriously has I'm sure gotten you out of many a jam.

Anyway, great job this weekend, and I hope to see you back some day soon. Just let me know in advance so I can buy an air conditioner.

paul

Tallulah Morehead said...

Good Old Iron Eyes Cody, one of the few Italian actors in Hollywood to escape being typecast as a Mafia thug. I'll always remember him looking at our litter-strewn streets and letting that single tear roll down his eyes. Things were so much cleaner back in ITALY!

I've been to Italy. Lovely, but crumbling. That Coliseum is a RUIN! But do they ever run a PSA with the Emperor Caligula shedding a tear? (I know. You're sitting there saying to yourself, "Honestly Tallu, any KID knows that it was the Emperor Vespasian who built the Coliseum, more than 20 years after Caligula died!" I know, but Caligula crying is funnier, whether he's John Hurt or Malcolm McDowell.)

As it happens, I was the first to make Iron Eyes Cody cry, when we were filming JOHNNY HORNDOG together, back in 1954. The man was a waterworks. Isn't there an Irish drinking song? "When Iron Eyes get rusty."

By the way, my making Iron Eyes cry wasn't IN the film. It was an
unfortunate incident onset. "Firewater" was involved. I blackened one of his eyes, but his war paint covered it.

No matter how hot it gets, DO NOT put cracked crabs down your pants. Getting crabs out of your crack is damned unpleasant.

I didn't know M had fans. I always liked Q better. Good gadgets.

Are you sure Robin Williams doesn't do the voice of one of the
dinosaurs? Isn't there like a really manic velceraptor?

When Suzanne Summors was hawking Thighmasters, I starting hawking "BUTT SLAVES", made by Popiel, the geniuses who brought you The Pocket Fisherman, and that schoolboy favorite, Pocket Billiards.

At least you were out of town, and missed all the hysteria surrounding the death of Charles Lane: the suicides, the keening, the cries of "Too Young! Too Young!"

People keep saying he was the oldest living member of SAG. Hey! I was and am the second oldest living member of SAG, and I'm 8 years older than Lane. My SAG card has only 1 digit. In fact, they named it SAG after ME! Charles was #3.

Who is #1? I'm not saying, since this "Golden Girl" is still lying about her age. She calls it her "Little WHITE Lie." (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.)

Cheers darling.

Tom said...

I just had to look up that play and see the video, that play was wild. Call me the asskisser, but I think you covered it very well!

Mike Barer said...

Thought you would enjoy this

http://sportscouchpotato.typepad.com/sports_couch_potato/2007/07/a-toast-to-ken-.html

Ian said...

Welcome back to La-La-Land, Ken. Glad to see your humor is as sophisticated and urbane as ever. Of course, I'll be recycling your jokes all day tomorrow...

Chuck said...

Ditto -- it was great to have you back in the booth. And you handled Freaky Thursday just fine.

Particularly compared to your replacement with the Ms, Chip "Don't Call Me Skip" Caray, who had the misfortune to be calling the inning on TV in 1994 against Boston when, with no outs, men on first and second and Mark Newfield at the plate, Pinella called for a double steal. Newfield hit the ball right to John Valentin (SS), who then doubled up the 2nd base runner and tagged the guy coming up from first. Only the 10th unassisted triple play in MLB history. Caray's call, as they went to break?

"Uh."

As I recall. Gotta love him for that.

Frank Abe said...

Ken,
I planned my two evenings around your broadcast. Your call of the crazy Beltre double was perfect, you nailed every moment of the action. Never would have guessed it was your first TV game in years, what a pro. The joy you bring to the radio is just infectious. Thanks for the memory and great to have you back in town, come back soon.

Peter said...

Hi Ken!

Thanks for your thoughtful post on USSMariner, and for your awesome last-minute fill-in on the broadcasts.

I'm 27, and I'll always remember loving the humor you brought to the M's during your time here in the 90's. My brother and I always look at each other when that fateful lead-off walk occurs.

One of us will say: "Ya know, the lead-off walk always comes around to score... unless it doesn't."

The other: "Good ol' Kenny Levine. Love that guy."

Thanks again, and I've already bookmarked your blog.

Cheers!

Phillip Hamilton said...

Ken: I've no blogspot account, but just want to say "thank you" again for your return to duty. Sorry you got put into uncomfortable shoes on the play by play, but you pulled it out admirably, I think. I still have fond memories of your description of the interior of the Kingdome as "smokier than an opium den", following the Opening Day fireworks. Keep coming back, Ken. You are missed by many of us.

Phillip Hamilton

Anonymous said...

Ken,

I figure you were giving Dave Niehaus a chance to spend a few days with his grandkids, so I can cut you some slack for any screwups.

Actually, I thought you did great. The M's have a really good broadcast crew, and you fit right in. I was at the game today, and walking down a ramp, I saw the Silver Cloud across the street from Safeco. I remember thinking "Huh, that'd be a great place for out of town folks to stay if they were coming for a game. Oh, but what about the trains?"

-JMHawkins

Michael said...

I remember you well from your days as a Mariners announcer in the 90s. Your smartass comments would crack me up then, and it was a nice surprise to tune in and hear you for a couple days this week. Thanks, and I hope to hear you again!

troy said...

I'm 26 years old and to this day always think of "Levine's Law" whenever the leadoff batter draws the ole base on balls.

You're as much baseball to me as anyone outside of Neihaus, and I'm sure you understand what a compliment that is coming from a kid who listened to M's broadcasts just about his entire childhood.

Your post on USSM and link to this blog brought up some very welcome nostalgia.

Thanks for being memorable. Outisde of Junior, not many things about those awful early 90's teams are.

troy

Anonymous said...

Ken,

Actually, the last time I heard you on the radio up here was a only a few months back, and not sports-related. I got up one morning and turned on my radio to hear you and Elayne Boosler filling in for Stephanie Miller...laughed my arse off...you guys didn't miss a beat! :)

Anyways, it was great to hear you doing the M's games again this weekend. Come back and see us anytime...Cheers!

-Scott in Seattle

The Crutnacker said...

Mariners didn't score for a month? Big deal, I didn't score the whole year of 1993. 1994 either.

Funny commentary. Wish I'd have heard it. Sadly, my wife's free XM expired last month.

VP81955 said...

Seattle has only two things going against it – relentless rain in the winter and that God awful Perry Como song.

Make that three things -- "Grey's Anatomy." Sorry, but I can't take a show seriously where one of the characters is nicknamed "McDreamy." Fans of that series sound like they regularly share bon-bons with Peg Bundy.

Chuck said...
Ditto -- it was great to have you back in the booth. And you handled Freaky Thursday just fine.

Particularly compared to your replacement with the Ms, Chip "Don't Call Me Skip" Caray, who had the misfortune to be calling the inning on TV in 1994 against Boston when, with no outs, men on first and second and Mark Newfield at the plate, Pinella called for a double steal. Newfield hit the ball right to John Valentin (SS), who then doubled up the 2nd base runner and tagged the guy coming up from first. Only the 10th unassisted triple play in MLB history. Caray's call, as they went to break?

"Uh."


I could be wrong on this, but I believe that '94 game was one of the first games, if not the first, Alex Rodriguez played in the majors. Someone check Retrosheet for that.

And since I personally witnessed an unassisted triple play (Oakland's Randy Velarde at Yankee Stadium, Memorial Day 2000), I can tell you that happens so quickly it's tough to react. I'm pretty sure that when Mickey Morandini pulled off a UATP (or would that be "an" UATP?) for the Phillies in Pittsburgh in '92, it caught even Harry Kalas off-guard. (BTW, Harry did a great inning with Joe Morgan and Jon Miller on ESPN last night.)

Anyway, Ken, great job as the M's fill-in. Now just hope Niehaus has no interest in writing sitcom scripts.

Anonymous said...

>>Seattle has only two things going against it – relentless rain in the winter and that God awful Perry Como song.

Make that three things -- "Grey's Anatomy."<<

Does Gray's Anatomy really take place in Seattle? I never watch the show because I find the extracurricular shenanigans too unbelievable. Now I know I was right. Having been through medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle (go WAMIs) I can say without question that there is no time for any sex, much less the Does Gray's Anatomy really take place in Seattle? I never watch the show because I find the extracarricular shennanigans too unbelievable. Now I know I was right. Having been through medical school at the Univeristy of Washington in Seattle (go WAMIs) I can say without question that there is no time for any sex, much less the astonishing levels in which the show's characters engage. As a medical student or resident in Seattle at any of the UW's many hospitals you're lucky to find time for a once a day bathroom break. Hell, if it didn't rain so ofter we probably would never even have showered.

Alaskaray

tb said...

I haven't seen this "freak play" y'all are talking about. Is there a youtube link or something? Show me

Oregon Mariner said...

Ken.....your stint with the M's this weekend was a welcome addition to the lineup. I appreciate how you make the game fun without going too far and becoming a clown. It is the right mixture of baseball and humor.

If it were up to me, I'd recommend that you quit the day job and keep at the baseball gig. But then, I'm not the guy in Rick Rizzs' borrowed shoes either....

Thanks again

gwangung said...

Ah, would it be that we could have Ken on more often for Mariners games. Just listening to you for the weekend was fun and brought back fond memories. (And it was probably even more fun since the team's doing well).

About the only more fun than that was the recap you wrote here...

Anonymous said...

Ken,

You're the best announcer the Mariners have. Come back any time!

Anonymous said...

Does Gray's Anatomy really take place in Seattle? I never watch the show because I find the extracurricular shenanigans too unbelievable

I don't watch it for pretty much the same reason. But I did see the opening credits, and they have a WA State Ferry sailing parallel to the Seattle waterfront. If you're from Seattle, you know that's not the direction they go. Because, y'know, you take a ferry to get to the other side of the water, so sailing along the waterfront like a tourist boat is useless.

But it made for a pretty picture, so I'll give the show credit for knowing its audience.

PositivePaul said...

Ken,

Just wanted to come over and apologize for completely having bad memories of your broadcasting and making sure I told the world about how much you grained on me when I was growing up as a Mariners fan. After hearing you, even a bit rusty after all these years, right after the ASG fill in for those who needed a few extra days, I've completely changed my mind. It's my perception that was skewed, and not your style or your voice.

You handled yourself very well, and I'm confident that given more notice and a little more time to get back into the swing of things, you'd be the best non-Niehaus (well, he is sort of god-like even if he's blind as a bat, heh, sue me) broadcaster on the M's crew.

I'm officially sorry for any bad word I threw your direction behind your back. And I'd love to see you back w/the M's broadcast crew. Yes, even on TV.

You were very intelligent and humorous, and I definitely enjoyed the game when you were broadcasting.

Thanks for stepping in, and for doing a good-enough job for me to be thoroughly convinced that I'm the one who should be kicked in the ass for doubting you!

Shall I start the "Free Ken Levine!" campaign now, or what???

Anonymous said...

Wait! You didn't get to see the cast of Grey's Anatomy beating each other up?
Oh wait - that was last year. And it was after they *got back* from Seattle.
Darn...

PS -- loved your airport love story (although I saw part of it on ER a couple of seasons ago: that one way to Tokyo? $9000. Good thing it was Carter).

Pam

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

After reading your travelogue on Seattle, just like Norm said once about Hanover, IN (after another one of Woody's incredulous stories): "Before I die I've gotta see that place...."

shaz said...

Loved the Seattle prattle Ken ...the closest ive got to visiting the states is a Vegas postcard someone sent me once so its great to hear your tales from your travels and its cheaper too .
Of course being a jock in the scottish and not the sporty sense the Utilikilts caught my attention so i checked out the website prompting me to exclaim "good god in govan whit the bejesus could drive a fella tae wear 100% wool in 100 degree heat ?"
Mind you i see they do a nice range of summer cotton kilts just be careful if wearing one on the bleachers or someone below might catch sight of "swing" they werent bargaining on .
You have such a love of the game its infectious so much so that this scots lass whos knowledge of baseball is about as small as a gnats thong is definatly gonna stay up till 3am local time and try and catch a game on late night tv live .
Its like rounders right ?
Shaz runs for the hills before she gets bombarded with foul balls .

Mike Barer said...

Alex Rodriquez wanted the fences of Safeco Field moved in to pad his statistics, if he was to stay with the Mariners. But hey, I guess it's better than taking steroids.

Anonymous said...

Ken,

It was fantastic to have you back as the voice of the M's, if only for a few days. My eight year old son jumped up from the table on Friday night when you uttered 'Levine's Law', having heard it from me several times during his first couple years of baseball fandom.

Barring a full time slot for you up here, it would be great to have you be the regular fill-in for Dave's annual vacation. But until then, I guess it's back to the re-runs of 'Dancin' Homer' for the stylings of Dan Horde.

Seattle Doug

Dave said...

Back when the stadium was taking bids for the naming rights, there were more than a handful of suggestions for Starbucks Coffee Grounds and Boeing Field.

Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed listening to you call a Mariners game again. The Mariners have had some really good broadcasters over the years. Dave Niehaus has been a joy to hear from the time I arrived here in the late 70's. You added a lot to his broadcasts in the 90's. It would be great if you could give Rick Rizzs a day off when the Mariners play the Angels in California so that you and Dave could be reunited on the radio again

Stan from Tacoma

Raymond said...

People can watch the freak play here; click on "Mariners score three on wild play" and hear Ken call it. (I have to admit, I know the voice only from that old Simpsons episode.) Sorry I missed you, Ken; I was out of town this weekend just when you came in. We'll have to have that beer some other time.

Not Bond's M said...

It was great to have you back in Seattle. The radio innings on Thursday were a joy: I'd forgotten how much you remind me of Vin Scully (in style, if not voice).

The delay between the radio and Tivo finally got to me Friday night, so I switched channels and watched the Dodgers smack around the Giants (heheheheheh!) while you kept me up to date on the Mariners. My favorite line from Friday:

"My God! Tampa Bay won! ... No school in Tampa tomorrow!" Ah, a true Levine classic.

I'm going to write the Mariners and suggest they have you lined up when Niehaus finally retires. Dave will be an impossible act to follow, but you're the guy for the job.

Laura said...

I wandered in on a link from SusanDennis at LiveJournal, and I just wanted to say - I don't know a thing about sports or baseball but I am so glad she does and cares, because it resulted in this link, and I very much enjoyed your post. :) Thank you for this, I had such a good laugh.

Dave said...

Driving home and finding out that the guy who was at least partly responsible for me making the regretful-to-the-point-of-throat-slitting decision to go into radio (brutal truth) was a pleasant surprise. I mentioned that to my wife while we watched the game, and she reponds "him??". Yes, indeed, you were quite the inspiration
Good to have you in the NW for a few days. I still think you and and a post-lucid Harry Caray would have been the broadcasting pair of the era.

Ebenezer said...

Ken --

As a Seattle resident who remembers you when you were a part of the M's broadcast team, I am bummed out I missed you when you filled in this past week! Apologies to Dave N, but you were the best announcer the M's have ever had. You hear about innovation all the time up here, and you were the most innovative sports announcer here by far, mixing baseball knowledge and humor (and leaving out cliches) .

I found your site, by the way, doing some research on the subject "Are the Mariners for Real?" for my upcoming blog. I'm glad you picked them as a dark horse for the 2007 season - though many don't believe it, they have the talent to go deep into the playoffs. Ichiro and the bullpen are carrying them, but if Weaver, Ramirez, Beltre and Sexton start performing like they can, we'll be in the playoffs and beyond.

While I know that TV comedy writing is a fun and rewarding career, I do think that coming back to the broadcast booth is a higher calling.

Anonymous said...

Glad I caught your return stint with the M's. My favorite Ken Levine memory is when my buddies and I decided that you needed a home run call. We spent quite a bit of time doing our best Ken Levine imitiations with various calls, some printable, some not.

The best we came up with was: "it going, going, going... ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!!! HOME RUN!!!!"

Kevin said...

Check out the hilarious article on the Mariner Moose at this website:

http://etruesports.com/index.php?page=article&articleId=45

Very funny!... guess Mariner Moose didn't "fly away!"

Kevin in L.A. (formerly Seattle)