Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pulling a joke on Baltimore

Hello from Seattle where I'm calling this afternoon's Mariners/Orioles game on 710 ESPN, MLB.COM, and Sirius/XM. Today's post is in honor of Baltimore.  Yes, it's a baseball post but it's not about baseball. And it's not about Roseanne.
I love when the radio plays tricks on people, or in this case, entire cities. This one was played on Baltimore and dreamed up by Hall of Fame baseball announcer and first class devious wit, Jon Miller. In 1991, when I did play-by-play for the O's, Jon was my partner. The following year I moved over to the Seattle Mariners.

The first time we played in Baltimore was mid-May – a good six or seven weeks into the new season. Jon came into our booth the first night and asked if I wouldn’t mind doing the 4th inning of play-by-play for old time’s sake on the Orioles’ radio network. I said sure.

At the appointed time I walked into the Orioles booth and Jon said, “Oh, just one thing – let’s do this as if you had never left”. I loved the idea.  A clear strength of our partnership was that we were both great at following the others leads.

So I sit down, having not been on the Orioles radio network since the previous October, and this is Jon’s introduction: “On to the 4th and here’s Ken.” I came on and said, “Thanks, Jon” and just launched into the play-by-play.

I read the Esskay out-of-town scoreboard as I always did, talked about the Oriole pitcher on the mound and how I’ve detected subtle improvements over his last three outings. I read a promo for an upcoming homestand and was really looking forward to a certain concert scheduled after one of the games. I even paused for station identification on the “Baltimore Orioles Radio Network”. It was all very casual and matter-of-fact.

When the next inning began I said, “Now to the 5th and here again is Jon.” “Okay, Ken”, he said and turned his attention back to the game. And then never mentioned it again.

Apparently the station got a shitload of calls from confused fans. Was I still part of the Orioles broadcast team? Didn’t I leave? Had I been on all this time and they just didn’t notice? Was this the Twilight Zone?

Thanks to Jon for cooking it up and letting me participate in the joke. Wish he were around when David Isaacs and I were killing ourselves trying to come up with those damn pranks for the CHEERS “Bar Wars” episodes.

27 comments:

Terry Benish said...

I miss Jon on Sunday nights.

John said...

The only thing that would have been better is if you started talking about the scene around Memorial Stadium, since the O's moved into Camden Yards to start the '92 season. That would have really made the people call WBAL asking why the hell they were airing a rerun of a game from last year.

Steely Dan said...

Hello from Baltimore and the oppressive heat and humidity! (Something tells me you probably don't miss the weather here) I can't believe it's been 20 years since you worked here. I now officially feel old.

Markus said...

What Terry Benish said. Jon (and the Sunday Night Baseball crew) had quickly become pretty much my favorite announcer when I started following baseball as a complete newbie to the sport only very few years ago. Just the right mixture of knowledge, wit, humor, and a good speaking voice.

I don't think I ever had the chance to catch a Ken Levine game though (here in Europe being stuck with ESPN America and not having an mlb.com account). That would be interesting.

Mary Stella said...

That's a great prank!

Rupert Mother Jones said...

Funny stuff. And once again, the M's pull one out of their asshat, last night. What's with this team? I'm not about to jump on that bandwagon, yet. But I must admit, they're a whole lot more interesting this season - and they still can't hit!

FYI, for only $20., you can listen to any MLB game via MLB.com. You can hear every single announcer from every single team. Pretty cheap entertainment for 6 months, plus the post-season.

Please Don't Eat Me said...

Now, if you do a stellar impression of Joe Morgan, you two could pull that prank on the Game of the Week.

Sebastian said...

I hate it when my favorite Blog moves to repeats right after sweeps! ;-)

I laughed out loud reading this again even though I read this one at least three times already. This is why people love your blog, it's just as good as a rerun of any comedy show.

Too bad there aren't any royalties after you made it to 100 posts ;-)

Ken Levine said...

Sometimes the repeats are inadvertent. I've been doing this for so long now that I forget which stories I've told and which I haven't yet. I hope that isn't the first sign of aging.

Chicodee said...

I love it Ken! Brilliant. But wasn't Seattle put off by you "helping" the Orioles with their b'cast??? I'll have to try and find you on today's b'cast.

Eitan Loewenstein said...

I remember the early 90s, when the Orioles were actually good. *sigh*

It's tough enough being a writer, why do I have to be an Oriole fan as well? Can't something in my life be easy?

Fun story, sorry I wasn't listening to that game/paying attention to who was talking.

Eitan
eitanthewriter.com

Carlos M Hernandez said...

"Sometimes the repeats are inadvertent. I've been doing this for so long now that I forget which stories I've told and which I haven't yet. I hope that isn't the first sign of aging."

Didn't you say the same thing the second time you posted this story? I kid.

Breadbaker said...

Ken, my mentor died about the time of your story, quite tragically and very early (he was 46). When he died, some of us were given the job of going through his papers and one thing we found was that he kept a list (handwritten, since it was still the early 90s) of which anecdotes and stories he had told which person, so he'd never repeat them. Another reason he was such a rock star (a metaphor, of course; he was actually a lawyer). Great game last night; if I'd remembered you were announcing I'd have turned down the sound on the TV and put on the radio, regardless of the difference in the delay.

Mac said...

Cool prank. I'm not aware of a high volume of repeats, but maybe that's me showing the first signs of aging. There will come a time when you'll the post the same story every day, and I'll enjoy it because I'll have forgotten I read it yesterday. But hopefully that's a few years away.

Ted said...

1. Please come back to Dodger Talk.

2. Friday question - After 60 years the laugh track (live and canned) seems to be slowly dying away. It did create a certain same rhythm to the jokes - you can see it on Lucy and on Cheers. Your comments on the faster pace of no laugh track?

benson said...

I think I shared this story the last time repetition came up. My friend Mark's wife says he doesn't get new material, just new friends.".

Ah, reruns!

wv: Oonves (these can't all be computer generated....more or Les)

Mrs. Bunker said...

"I hope that isn't the first sign of aging."

If it isn't the first sign, it's certainly the 2nd.

Where in the hell is Wally Bunker?

Phillip B said...

"I hope that isn't the first sign of aging."

OK if it is the first, or even the second. Just hope it is not the last!

l.a.guy said...

I don't care if it is a repeat, it's still a great story. (Do you get residuals for repeating your own stories?)

I really miss Jon Miller on the ESPN Sunday games-- Joe Morgan, not so much. To me Miller is right up there with Vin Scully and Dick Enberg.

Friday Question:
In all my time working at a literary agency I don't recall any of the writers crossing over between 1/2 hour comedy and 1 hour dramas. Do writers usually stick to one format or the other? And if so why?

Michael said...

Ken, if I remember the story from your book, one time in spring training you and the Red Sox announcers had to share the booth, so Jon Miller kept passing the microphone in front of Bob Starr, then the Red Sox announcer, on every other pitch.

By the way, I also miss Miller on Sunday Night Baseball. I also read a line from Duane Kuiper about a Miller routine we'll never hear: his imitation of Vin swearing. Which, as Kuiper says, is especially funny because he's never heard Vin swear, nor has he heard Jon, except when he does Vin. What makes that funnier to me is that I do a knock-off of one of Miller's best Vinnie routines, where Vin says, "Dusty Baker wears the number 12, which has profound Biblical implications," and constructs this whole point about multiples and divisors of three, culminating with Dusty saying, "You know, I hadn't thought of it." I would do that one and close with Dusty swearing. I stole it from Miller and didn't know it!

Robert Publicover said...

Jon Miller was the best thing about the Orioles. Not take anything away from Cal, but Jon could make a long rain delay compelling radio. I grew up listening to Curt Gowdy and the Bo-Sox and thought he was the best until I listened to Jon Miller. Miss him dearly, don't miss the Oh's though.

Mike Barer said...

Neat story.Old Oriole manager Earl Weaver was interviewed on Sportradio KJR this morning. I did not know that he was still around.

mcp said...

Ken,

I was wondering if you saw the article in The Hollywood Reporter about Ben Shapiro accusing Hollywood of rampant liberal bias in his new book Primetime Propaganda. Isn't this like saying everyone in Hollywood breathes? Although, I'm not so sure about agents.

Cap'n Bob said...

Two nights ago I turned off the TV and listened to you and Rick announce the game on the radio. I finally heard your home run call. Frankly, Ken, it needs work. A creative writer like you can come up with a doozy, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

So too bad for the people who just want to hear the ball game and don't give a rat's ass about the self-indulgent pranks of a couple of jerkoffs? They want the game, not your lame-ass imitation of comedic improv.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - the words "lighten up" spring to mind quickly.

Johnny Walker said...

@Anonymous, Eh? A professional baseball announcer did a play-by-play. How did those who wanted to follow the game have that in ANY way interrupted?

I wish Ken would delete your post.

Hilarious stuff, Ken.