Monday, March 24, 2014
Killing at a banquet can kill your career
Back in 1993 when I was announcing for the Mariners (that’s the “other” sports team in Seattle), I got a call from the great Jerry Coleman (who recently passed away). He sponsored a San Diego charity and every offseason held a fundraising banquet. For guest speakers he would always ask various major league announcers from around the league. This year he asked me. I was delighted to accept.
On the dais that night were Ralph Kiner of the Mets (who also recently passed away at 87), Harry Kalas of the Phillies, Ted Leitner (pictured above) of the Padres, and me. So legend, legend, legend, skeesix.
As it happened, I killed that night. (The raffle was after the speeches.) I was a tough act to follow and poor Ted Leitner, who is a very funny man in his own right, got that assignment. He did okay but would have done better following Ralph Kiner.
The next morning I’m driving home from San Diego and Ted is on the air doing sports for a local radio station. He mentions the banquet and does five minutes on never follow a Hollywood comedy writer. He thought he had bombed (which he didn’t) and got a lot of mileage out of how bad he looked in the process.
Now flash forward a couple of years. Jerry Coleman is doing the CBS Radio Game of the Week every Saturday and the Padres need a play-by-play guy to just work weekends. Their new president, Larry Lucchino had been president of the Orioles when I was broadcasting in Baltimore. He remembered me and thought I’d be perfect for the role. But since I’d be partnered with Ted Leitner, out of courtesy he ran the idea by Ted.
Now Ted could have easily said, “Not a chance. I don’t want that guy upstaging me. I got burned once. Ixnay.” Their conversation was private. No one would be the wiser. But instead Ted said he thought hiring me was a great idea. As a result I was offered and accepted the job.
And Ted and I got along great on the air. Padres fans were treated to some hilarious exchanges over the next three years. Trust me, most of the time the broadcasts were better than the product on the field.
Performers in all mediums can be very insecure. But no more so than in the acting profession. Some actors feel horribly threatened by anyone whose talent might show them up. I’ve seen series stars treat guest cast members like shit. There are many instances of actors counting lines to make sure they have more to say than their rivals… I mean, fellow cast members.
But the truly good ones understand. They know that if they’re in a scene with someone good they will come off looking better as a result. Good actors elevate each other. It’s the old story – a high tide floats all boats. And the reverse is also true. A bad actor can totally bring down a scene.
Happy to say I have also witnessed many examples of gracious, unselfish actors embracing their fellow thesps. As a showrunner, these actors are Gods to me.
Thanks again to Larry and Ted. I loved my association with San Diego. And in all future Padres banquets I let Ted go first. And there were a couple of times he was way funnier than me.