Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who are these guys?

I had great fun last weekend doing the radio play-by-play for the Dodgers. But Spring Training is a whole different animal. At some point all the regulars leave replaced by a flurry of substitutes, most of them minor leaguers no one has ever heard of. It becomes that I LOVE LUCY episode when Lucy and Ethel get a job in the chocolate factory and they have to wrap the chocolates as they come down the conveyer belt. And the candy starts coming faster and faster. That’s Cactus League action. The entering players all have numbers like 86 and 94, a sure sign they’ll be spending the summer in Tulsa.

At one point in my Saturday game I announced that the right fielder was “Unidentified Milwaukee Brewer”.

After five innings the score is usually 3-2 or 2-1. Then the reserves get in the game and the final score is 13-11.

The wildest spring training game I ever announced was back in ’92. I was with the Seattle Mariners. We were playing the Anaheim Angels of California by way of Los Angeles. Their spring training home at that time was Palm Springs – a nice place for Sinatra to bang Marilyn Monroe but not for baseball. The stadium was old and rickety. And there was no booth for the visiting broadcasters in the dilapidated press box. So they set up a table in the stands. Forget that there’s no shade and you’re a mile from the sun, you couldn’t see half the time because people in front of you would stand up.

And then there was this…

I sat on the aisle. To my left was our engineer and to his left was my broadcast partner. It’s the 7th inning. The Mariners are rallying. I’m calling the action. I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s a vendor. Would I pass a couple of malts down the row? I do (all the while describing a run scoring triple). A moment later my engineer hands me money, which I pass on to the vendor. Now we have another hit. All hell is breaking loose . Guys are running around the bases. The ball is being relayed all over the field. And wouldn’t you know, I have to pass the change.

It’s all in a day’s work in the spring. Hope you can get out to a game sometime this year or in the near future. And for you folks in Europe and Africa, you don’t have to go to Arizona. You can go to the much closer Florida.

15 comments:

xjill said...

I'm psyched to go to the new facility new year for ST. Just couldn't swing it this year. I'm looking forward to the 2nd when I'll be in Dodger Stadium for the first time of the season!
Unidentified Milwaukee Brewer - heh.

VP81955 said...

I remember the 1995 spring training, when MLB used "replacement players." Listening to Harry Kalas and Rich Ashburn call those games, largely involving players who'd had no prior connection to the Phillies and never would again, it was if they were calling games off a script with generic ballplayers. Strange.

wv: "restrowl" -- a rather perverse nocturnal bird that nests near interstate rest stops. Its hoot sounds very much like a flush.

wv2: "medly" -- an abridged version of one of the Righteous Brothers.

Anonymous said...

Spring training is joyous, especially when you still can get close to the ballplayers, which becomes harder every year.

Once in ST, I saw Andre Dawson win a staredown with a pitching machine.

No one else could handle him that year either; he hit 49 HRs and won MVP.

V-word: daccupe, an Italian roadster.

The Curmudgeon said...

What a great story. Now... put it in a road game in the low minors and you have a sitcom pilot... an up and coming 20-something wannabe Bob Costas is the centerpiece. His broadcast partner: An aging local baseball hero who provides the color commentary, when he's available -- he's now the pro at the local country club and customers paying for golf lessons takes priority. Our hero is not an athlete but he has to interact with the bonus babies and lifers and players who can't speak English... now there's a great pre-game interview scene....

The team's owner might be a movie star -- Bill Murray has owned a team; Kevin Costner is starting up an Independent team in Zion, Illinois -- or the owner might be a hotshot lawyer -- a well-known trial lawyer just bought the Gary franchise in the Northern League....

Jayne said...

There was a time there in the late 90s and early 00s that just about anyone who wore a Brewer uniform preferred to be "unidentified!"

Anonymous said...

I'm a neighbor of the Big Unit. You haven't lived until you do Little League snack shack duty with Randy Johnson, LOL. I love Spring Training. Europeans, skip Florida and come to Arizona. Germans love it here. It's a dry warmth!

Was at Brewers/Dbacks down in Tucson yesterday. People next to me were Red Soxers military family from Fort Huachuca. Could not stop raving about how kind Brewers' Bill Hall was to their kids. The nice thing about ST now is that when you go to a Giants game, there's no more Mr. Arrogant Steroids (whose mistress conveniently lives in Scottsdale) doing little jogs along the sidelines. Bye bye Barry.

benson said...

I used to time my visits to mom's in Sarasota-Bradenton to coincide with ST. But somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting to pay major league prices for games that don't count.

But I loved going out to the White Sox training complex early in the day just to watch some of the workouts. Back in '90, the players were striking, so many of the younger prospects were out there, and it was the first time I saw "The Big Hurt", Frank Thomas. I guess he was a TE in college, and dear gawd, in BP especially, what a physical specimen.

Karen from Mentor said...

Ken,
I would have thought you were making the "passing the change" story up, but it must have happened, 'cause if you were making it up you wouldn't have passed up the opportunity to have a beer spilled on the microphone.(and maybe cause a chain reaction that fries all the lights in the stadium?..where have I seen that before?)
Great story.
Thanks!
Karen

KEN LEVINE said...

It is a true story. In fact, I was talking to Rick Monday about it. He said when we was announcing for the Padres the exact same thing happened to him.

Bob said...

Heard today on the Reds/Rays game: "This is the second left-handed Tampa pitcher today wearing the number 19."

bluesky said...

Great story and so describes spring training where goofy things are the rule. Am a lifelong Dodger fan and always wanted to visit Vero Beach in the spring, and never got around to it. Now I guess I can at least tell myself that Arizona is closer to CA when I do finally go.

Scott said...

Ken, great story.

I can vouch for its authenticity. I went to a lot of games in that ballpark during my youth. I remember spotting Rick Monday in the stands a couple times and thought it was odd that he worked from their. After one of the games I was able to get his autograph which was a thrill for me, being a Dodgers fan in an Angels park.

I watched a ton of Angels games. The Padres, Brewers, Cubs, Giants, and A's were the regular rotation of visitors. I got my first baseball player autograph there - Wayne Gross from the visiting Athletics. When the Cubs came, the place was always sold out but you could generally get a game day ticket for pretty cheap for the other teams.

Man, the list of players I met is so extensive. Some were great, some not so much. I still have many memories all these years later. George Hendrick sitting outside the stadium in a lawn chair reading a newspaper, ignoring autograph requests. Brian Downing signing for about an hour after a game once while his family waited patiently in his Jeep. Wally Joyner getting absolutely mauled every time he tried to walk to his car after a game. Cory Snyder looking at the card I handed to him for an autograph and asking if I had an extra because he was missing that one in his own collection. Bob Welch hanging out under a tree smoking a cigarette and me being naively shocked that a pro athlete would do anything that could cause harm to harm his body. Hey, I was 10.

Michael Green said...

The rough equivalent must be the September call-ups. Bob Prince was doing a Pirates game and the Astros sent up a pinch-hitter whose number was nowhere on the roster and his name wasn't on the back. Prince was trying to figure out what to do when he heard the press box announcer--not the PA man--say, "Will Rab Mungee please report to the press gate?" Prince shrugged and said, "The hitter is Rab Mungee." Nobody cared.

Kevin said...

ou engineer! my broadcast partner! we don't have names?

KEN LEVINE said...

Kevin Cremin
Dave Niehaus

Kev, I think you pocketed some of that guy's change.