Monday, April 06, 2015

Opening Day

For baseball fans, this is the greatest day of the year. OPENING DAY – when hope burns eternal, even for the Phillies. It's especially meaningful this year.  After such a harsh winter in the Midwest and East, baseball means spring is here in only three more months.

There’s always great pomp and circumstance and the stadium is always filled. For some teams it’s the only time that happens all year. If they had “Free Car Night” in Tampa I don’t think they could sell out a game in May.

For many years I would always go to opening day at Dodger Stadium. And then of course, as a broadcaster, whatever team I was working for generally insisted I be there.

My biggest opening day thrill was calling the first game ever at Jacobs Field in Cleveland. I was doing the radio for Seattle, describing all the ceremonies (Clinton throwing out the first pitch and 102 year-old Bob Feller throwing with more velocity) and unbeknownst to me at the time, the CBS radio network picked up our feed and I was broadcasting all around the world. I'm so glad I didn't know.

My first year with Baltimore, Vice President Dan Quayle came in the booth and I interviewed him my first inning. Not a lot of comedy there. It was like playing tennis against a blanket.

My first year in Seattle the team was down 9-0 by the time I made my debut in the third inning. Since no one gave a shit about the game at that point I spent the inning discussing the stupidest ROCKY movie.

The next year we opened on the road and by the time we returned to Seattle we were 1-5 so that was a festive home opener.

Now that I’m no longer with a team my great joy is not going to opening day. Along with the tradition comes massive traffic congestion, long lines at the concession stands, and idiots who are smashed by the national anthem. As an LA fan, I now much prefer to sit home and watch the great Vin Scully call it on television.

A couple of years ago he had a bad cold and missed opening day. You would have thought the city suffered an 8.5 earthquake. There was near panic and crying in the streets. Good luck to the guy who replaces Vin Scully.

The important thing, whether you’re there or not, is that baseball is back. And not just for seven episodes like MAD MEN. It’s back every day for the next six months. There will be amazing highlights, spectacular fielding plays, one of your favorite players busted for PED’s, unlikely heroes, no-hitters, bench clearing brawls, bobbleheads, controversy, a blizzard of statistics, blockbuster trades, two managers fired, thirty pitchers needing Tommy John surgery, and some stupid Alex Rodriguez distraction.


This post is dedicated to Lon Simmons, the longtime play-by-play voice of both the Giants and the A's who passed away yesterday.  He was 91.  Not only was he a great announcer with a spectacular voice, he was wickedly funny.  No one could make me laugh... or boo like Lon Simmons (I was a Dodger fan remember).  He is deservedly in the Hall-of-Fame. 


MikeKa.Pa. said...

"OPENING DAY – when hope burns eternal, even for the Phillies."

Wrong, much like the FAMILY GUY episode when the first Mets' batter makes an out and the announcer says "And the season is over," the mood in the City of Brotherly Love is much the same.

"For many years I would always go to opening day at Dodger Stadium." As a Dodgers' fan, I hope you enjoy all the maddeningly first-pitch pop-ups you'll be getting from your new shortstop.

"My first year with Baltimore, Vice President Dan Quayle came in the booth and I interviewed him my first inning" So, how many questions before you mentioned MURPHY BROWN?

"Good luck to the guy who replaces Vin Scully." To quote the late Perry Como, "It's Impossible." Harry Kalas is still sorely missed six years later. Enjoy every game Vin calls. He's amazing.

However good or bad your team is, baseball is still the best and most unique game we have and so American.

Dan Ball said...

I've often given thought to naming a kid 'Play'.

It'll be interesting to see how Cincinnati plays out this year. I don't know good baseball deals when I see them, but I don't feel like Jocketty and the Castellinis have given us many to see. However, they're supposedly the experts at these things, so we'll see how it goes. Ever since the doldrums of the early 00's when the club relied on prospects to hit their stride in Cincy, I've been nervous to see this happen. Now they've done it again, I feel. A team full of prospects and accident-prone vets. (We thought Griffey Jr. was bad as an old dude!)

Regardless, the Louisville Bats will be starting up this week too and win or lose, there's nothing better than spending the spring down at Louisville Slugger Field on nice, mild spring evenings.

VincentS said...

Can't believe you couldn't get a laugh out of Dan Quayle. Maybe you should have challenged him to a spelling bee!

Matt said...

You wouldn't believe the optimism in Seattle. It is hardly recognizable for their baseball team.

With our football team being great and the expectations of our baseball team, all we need is a commitment for a basketball team and everything would be perfect.

Curt Alliaume said...

Lon Simmons did everything - beside the A's and Giants, he was also a long-time voice of the San Francisco 49ers. His first 13 years with the Giants were with Russ Hodges.

Curt Smith's "Voices of the Game" is an outstanding reference book about all the announcers from radio's early days through the 1980s.

john brown said...

As a Cubs fan, It is always interesting to see what the next year will bring. As I understand it, they have a five year put the stadium back together.

Michael said...

Nice shout-out to Lon Simmons. Pat Hughes, the Cubs voice, does CD's of legendary baseball broadcasters, and his tribute to Simmons and Russ Hodges is terrific. And amen on The Vin.

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Ed said...

You said on the broadcast you referenced that Rocky V was worse than Rocky IV, right?

DwWashburn said...

Baseball is the only pro sport I follow. I'll watch the four majors in golf, and I go to my brother-in-law's Super Bowl party mainly for the food and booze. But baseball is my sport.

Since 1968 I have been a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Looks like they're good again -- not World Series good, but good. Sure wish the geniuses that assemble the schedule would allow the Cards to play the Angels in St. Louis. Can't believe this hasn't happened in the last four years.

Mike Barer said...

I still am amazed at how diminished the World Series is in stature. Now a regular season NFL game gets better ratings.

Mike Barer said...

or at least seems like a bigger deal.

Mike Barer said...
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Brent said...

Sorry to hear of Lon's passing. I grew up in San Jose listening to him call Giants games along with Russ Hodges. I've lived in the Seattle area now for decades, and I feel pretty fortunate that for most of my life my baseball announcers were those two or Dave Niehaus.

Following Scully will be like following Lombardi in Geeen Bay or Bryant at Alabama. No matter how good you are, those shoes are too big for anyone to fill.

blinky said...

The 2015 season is just a waste of time since the Giants only win the World Series on Even Years. 2016 will be 4 for them.

Sean in NoCal said...

I've heard from friends who grew up Dodger fans that though of Lon Simons the way I do Vin Scully. The hated the Giants the way I hate the Dodgers, but loved listening to Lon call the game. Another huge part of my childhood is gone.
Happy Opening Day! Go Giants! (Even if it is an odd-numbered year.)

John Holton said...

I'm probably one of the few people following the Braves this year, judging from the number of people who complain "that's it, I'm through" every time John Hart makes a move. I'm glad the season is starting, because I've heard nothing but negativity all winter.

Diane D. said...

John Brown
Did you ever hear of the famous quote by Chicago columnist Mike Royko: "The Cubs only set embarrassing records." He said that when the Cubs had won the first 3 games of the play offs (in the 1980s, I think). No team had ever won the first 3 games and gone on to lose the Pennant, and Chicago was going crazy. The Cubbies managed to lose the next 4 games!

LOL Dan Ball! How can you resist being Play Ball's Dad? Name him Trey, and you're almost there.

Victor Velasco said...

Happy Opening Day to you and everyone and thanks for mentioning Lon; those of us who've lived here for a while were very fortunate to have listened to him for many years. Jeez, to say 'what a wit' just scratches the surface. When he was broadcasting the A's, he was teamed with Wayne Hagin - who may have been a good guy but came off like Eddie Haskell- and so between pitches, Wayne is talking with Lon about growing up in San Jose and dropping the name of Dave Righetti and his brother, of whom Hagin said was "one of my better friends"...Lon waited a beat and said "Hmm, that's very interesting" Hagin says "what? the fact that I knew Dave's brother?" to which Lon replied "...strike, the fact that you rate your friends good better and best..." RIP Mr. Simmons

Bryan north of Seattle said...

It's opening day and the Cubs are already out of it.

benson said...

I know there are some fellow White Sox fans on here. My son texted me last night at 8:05pm.

"Cubs first pitch was a strike. Start planning the parade."

So proud.

benson said...

Oh, forgot to add this.

Ken, you remember the legendary WLS jock and Cub fan, Bob Sirott. He tweeted this yesterday.

"It'll be interesting hearing the Cubs on WBBM. They'll only tell you what the score is on the 8's"

Jon B. said...

Go Mariners!

Oat Willie said...

I miss Jack Brickhouse announcing for the Cubs in the 70s. I also miss Ken's take on last night's "Mad Men. Where have you gone Joe Pepitone, nobody misses you.

Glenn said...

Can’t wait for the game when the in-the-dugout player interview coincides with a flash bench-clearing brawl, and the mic’d up player takes us running onto the field into the action. Play ball!

Mike said...

A popular joke in the UK in the early '90s:
"If Bush is seriously injured, the Secret Service are under orders to shoot Dan Quayle."

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

So glad you wrote about this today. I kinda figured you would with your background and all. Opening Day IS one of the best days of the year for sure- and yes the winter here in the Northeast was terrible.

And yes, the old time baseball announcers are treasures- Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, Vin Scully


H Johnson said...

I'm watching The Dodger game via as I write. It gave me goose bumps as it always does when Vin Scully said "time for Dodger baseball!"

This is one of life's moments you want to savor.

God Bless Baseball and God Bless Vin Scully.


Mike said...

Ken, what do you think of Cheers being #1 on the list of shows that need to be remade?

Dan in Rhode Island said...

I have to confess, I'm a Red Sox fan, and although I think he has a tendency to ramble on like your Great Grandfather telling old war stories, and you wish there was someone that he can play off next to him, I greatly admire Vin Scully. To still possess keen insight and strong pipes at a advanced age is a wonder to behold.

Friday Question: As an experienced baseball broadcaster, do you think it's best to for the Dodgers to hire an experienced but familiar voice, (like a Dan Shulman)to replace Scully when the unfortunate day comes, or do you think it's best if they hire someone from the minors with no big league experience, even though the shoes will be almost impossible for an inexperienced Major League broadcaster to fill?

Mike Schryver said...

"Jocketty and the Castellinis"

Weren't they a doo-wop group?

David P said...

For some of us, opening day is a reminder of MLB shafting our team, cancelling the season, letting the team be dismembered, and then rewarding the villain in the piece with another franchise.

And now we're still stuck waiting for Tim Raines to get into the HoF like he deserves.

DrBOP said...

Ok, ok.....I'll be the fanboy and nominate YOU to replace His Vinship!

It's a win-win, even if you fail....

(which you most likely will)

Those who thought you could do it will write it off as The Scully Curse, strong enough to scare off even Costas, etc.

While those who thought you couldn't do it......
......they'll remain your friends.

VP81955 said...

John Brown
Did you ever hear of the famous quote by Chicago columnist Mike Royko: "The Cubs only set embarrassing records." He said that when the Cubs had won the first 3 games of the play offs (in the 1980s, I think). No team had ever won the first 3 games and gone on to lose the Pennant, and Chicago was going crazy. The Cubbies managed to lose the next 4 games!

Ah, typical Cub hyperbole. They won the first two games of the 1984 NLCS against San Diego, then lost the next three; it was then a best-of-five series (the final year of that format). And they weren't the first team to do that -- in 1982, the Angels (a team with its own history of heartache) beat Milwaukee in the first two games of the ALCS (the Brewers once were an AL team, kiddies), only to drop the next three in Wisconsin.

The only team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason baseball series is the Boston Red Sox (2004)...and their fans have been insufferable ever since.

gottacook said...

Unrelated to baseball:

"To borrow the kind of pop culture analogy the show's hero loves to make, this could have been 'AfterM*A*S*H,' when for the moment it feels like it could be on its way to being 'Frasier.' "

-- a sentence from Alan Sepinwall's very positive review of the season finale (and the entire first season) of AMC's Better Call Saul

MikeK.Pa. said...

As rebuttal to Ken's statement: "OPENING DAY – when hope burns eternal, even for the Phillies," I present two newspaper headlines after just one regular season game (an 8-0 loss) as evidence that hope has already been extinguished:

Phils' offense won't get any better
Phillies fans have lost hope

Bring on the 2015 MLB draft.

Deanna said...

I know it's blasphemy, but I can't stand listening to Vin Scully. He never shuts up. I find the silence in the broadcast when you can hear the crowd and the vendors and the pop of the ball in the catcher's mitt to be a beautiful thing! Scully never comes up for air!

VP81955 said...

In defense of Scully (as if he needs it from me), his radio work is different than when he strictly does TV. (The Dodgers are unique in that his first three innings are simulcast, something that often used to be the case for hockey and basketball -- I recall the Flyers' Gene Hart was simulcast in Philadelphia -- but Scully is about the only one left in that crowd.

I recall when Harry Kalas did Phillies games on radio, he talked quite a bit more than for games on TV, where the picture told the story.

About my only fault with Scully is his use of the phrase "chowder and marching society." Aside from that, he's great.

Diane D. said...

I shouldn't have trusted my memory. It was, of course a best of 5, and the embarrassing record Royko referred to was that it was the first time a National League Team had won the first two games and lost the next three.

Off the subject, are you entering one of your screenplays in the April 11 competition you mentioned? Good Luck if you do!

Kent Morgan said...

It would be difficult lt to sell out a game in Tampa in May when no team plays there. I must be missing your point.

VP81955 said...

Diane D. said:

Off the subject, are you entering one of your screenplays in the April 11 competition you mentioned? Good Luck if you do!

Right now, probably not. It's at about 120 pages, and I'm not yet at the climax -- it needs plenty of cutting. Better I wait, finish it up, then edit it to an appropriate length. Writing the romantic comedy equivalent of the Erich von Stroheim "Greed" (albeit with dialogue) probably isn't a wise idea; there are plenty of screenplay contests out there, and I might as well wait to get it right before entering one of these things.

But thanks for your support; it's good to have folks like you in my corner as I try to emulate screenplay heroes of minue such as Ben Hecht, Robert Riskin (not many are aware of it, but he came close to marrying the lady in my avatar), Norman Krasna, Billy Wilder, etc.

Mike Schryver said...

"It would be difficult lt to sell out a game in Tampa in May when no team plays there. I must be missing your point."

Yes, willfully.

diane D. said...

I had to look up Erich von Stroheim---what a fascinating read, and what a tragedy with the film, Greed.

Thank you for sharing the progress on your screenplays. I'm sure there are many others who are interested but just don't bother to comment.