Hello from Phoenix where I’m covering spring training and doing my Dodger Talk shows on 790 KABC.
On Wednesday I’m calling the play-by-play for the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game on Prime Ticket in Los Angeles, and on MLBN nationwide if you get that cable channel. Game time: noon pacific. I’ll be doing it with Steve “Psycho” Lyons. So set your DVR or better yet, call in sick at work.
Spring Training games are always…uh, interesting to call. Especially early in the spring. Each team has a roster of 100 players and by God every one of them gets in the game. And it is not uncommon to have two or more players on the same team with the same number – usually 87. This year the Dodgers have a player with the number 0 and one with the number 00 (he is licensed to kill).
This was so much easier last spring when the Dodgers played the National Team from Korea. No joke – every player on the Korean team was named “Lee”. So you could have the wrong guy in the wrong position batting in the wrong spot and no one would ever know.
But at least the Dodgers’ new facility – Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona – is gorgeous and state-of-the-art. I’ll be calling the game from an actual booth in an actual press box behind home plate.
That has not always been the case for me.
During one spring training with the Mariners we played the Angels, who at the time were still in Palm Springs. Sinatra and Cheetah were frequent attendees. Since the Angels were also televising that game there was no room in the press box for visiting radio (us). So they set up a long table in the stands and that’s where we did the game. I’m on the air to a thirty-station radio network, sitting on the aisle, and calling a very exciting inning. Hits and double steals and rundowns. Forget that I can’t see them because the six Mo’Niques in front of me stand up, but as I’m calling a triple I feel a tap on my shoulder. I glance over to see a vendor with a two beers. He wants me to pass them down the row. I do, continue to call the play, and then feel a tapping on my other shoulder. I’m to pass the money along. I do, keep announcing, another tap, I have to send along the change. This was the big leagues!
When I was with the Orioles we played two exhibition games at Joe Robbie Stadium (or Land Shark Stadium, whatever they call it now). This was before the Marlins (who now draw maybe a thousand people a game… if it’s “free car night”), there was no baseball press box so they just put us in the football press box, a thousand miles from home plate way down the right field line. Every ball hit looked like it was going to right. You had to take your cue from the fielders. But you could be fooled. “There’s a fly ball to center field…foul.”
Later that same spring, we played two exhibition games against Boston at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Same story. No baseball press box. Just a luxury box. In this case, one box for both our broadcast and the Red Sox, separated only by a flimsy riser. I could hear Boston announcer, Bob Starr as loud as I could hear myself. And so could the Baltimore listeners. All I could do was have fun with it. I’d say, “And now for the 1-1 pitch, here’s Bob Starr” then point the mic to him in time for my listeners to hear “low, ball two.” Then I decided to mess with Bob (who was a GREAT guy by the way and a good friend). Every time he called a pitch a fast ball I called it a curve. Every time he called a slider I called it a change up. Listeners don’t believe announcers can accurately call pitches anyway. This just confirmed it. I would pull these little pranks to amuse myself, and the Orioles listeners. Is it any wonder I only lasted a year there?
So I hope you join me Wednesday at noon pacific – Prime Ticket television in Southern California, and MLBN coast-to-coast on cable. And if anyone knows anything about the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor leaguers – HELP! To quote Butch Cassidy: Who are these guys?”