Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reporting from the Cactus League

Back from a short trip to Phoenix to perform some Dodger duties. Having covered spring training in both Arizona and Florida I greatly prefer the “Valley of the Radio Shack on every corner”. More teams in closer proximity. You can spend your vacation going to ballgames not driving hundreds of miles just to see some split squad game or getting lost in “Deliverance” country.

And the fact that it hailed the first day, that could happen anywhere.

Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Glendale. The couple in the next room took the word “express” literally. Who says Phoenix has no great theater? A crackling hate-filled performance of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” played nightly in Room 301. (I sided with her, by the way. He doesn’t spend enough time with the kids.)

Hooked up with a few buddies – Howard from LA and Mike & Bob from New York. Middle-aged Jews don’t hunt. They go to spring training games and eat less sensibly. Which you pretty much have to since Phoenix is the land of bar food. I don’t think there’s a place in town that doesn’t serve buffalo wings including sushi bars and vegan cafes. There are also gift shops in every restaurant. This is very strange to me. But you can enjoy a hearty breakfast at the Cracker Barrel and still pick out that perfect wedding gift for sis!

We dined our first night at the Saddle Ranch Chop House. What really sold us on the place was the d├ęcor. They had a mechanical bull! Add attractive women and beers from many lands and there’s no greater entertainment in the west! “Suburban Cowboy”. For middle-aged Jewish guys this was Hooters without the guilt.

The Chop House was just one of many fine establishments in the Westgate City Center. It’s as if a developer said, “You know what would look good on this empty field in the middle of friggin’ nowhere? Times Square! And just to give it that real authentic desert touch, let’s put a hockey arena in it!” All that was missing was a guy playing Three Card Monty and another urinating on your shoes and you’d think you were back in the greatest city in the world!

Warning: There are freeway cameras that capture you speeding. The fine is a hefty $161.00. I’m told the way to fight it is to claim the person in the photo is not you. Not sure that works in Phoenix. It does in Beverly Hills where most women have different faces then they did two months ago.

Good ribs at Famous Dave’s.

On Wednesday I got to announce the Dodger game from their spring mecca, Camelback Ranch. It was seen on Prime Ticket in southern California and just my luck, nationwide on the MLB network. What a train wreck… and by that I mean mostly me. First off, I still have an inflamed cornea so I really just have one good eye. I was fine as long as no one hit a ball to left field. I was counting on watching the monitor but because of the glare of the sun I couldn’t see it. They’d be flashing starting line ups on the screen and I’d be merrily talking about something else. Eight years major league experience and viewers must’ve thought I was there because I’d won an auction.

Then someone batted out of turn. Well, to be more specific – three players batted out of turn. This never happens. My daughter, Annie said, “How could they screw that up? Isn’t baseball like the only thing they do?”

So now I’m on coast-to-coast TV completely confused. Then all the substitutions began and it was like Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory and those chocolates just kept coming down the conveyor belt faster and faster. I may have called a Diamondback pinch runner Diablo Cody, I’m not sure.

Steve Lyons, my partner, said in fourteen years of broadcasting this was the hardest game he’s ever had to call. It was surely not my finest hour but still I had a blast. Thanks again to Steve for never saying on the air, “What the hell are you talking about? and the Dodgers for the chance. I look forward to doing another game when runners pass each other on the base paths and a meteor lands on the field.

If you do come out for spring training make sure you catch a game at Camelback. Tickets are affordable and new this year: free parking. Would you call that a “fee nix”? That’s maybe the only stupid thing I didn’t say during the telecast.

Happy Hour” has two meanings in Phoenix. The standard one (that I took advantage of, downing six drinks in rapid succession after the game) and it’s also code for “Early Bird Specials”. The old people who aren’t filed away in Florida are in the Valley of the Sun. And they love their early dinner specials! So if you stop off at a local eatery looking to wet your whistle and order the “Happy Hour” special don’t be surprised if they bring you boiled chicken.

But you don’t have to be 80 to feel old. Howard and I asked the young desk clerk at the hotel where might we go for a good breakfast (and decorative soaps) and she said at the Westgate there was the “Jimmy Boo-fay”. What she meant of course was Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Face it, folks; we’re all “wasting away”.

During the flight attendant’s safety instructions on my Southwest trip home she warned that there was no smoking in the lavatories and added, “The fine is $2200. And I’m sure if you were willing to blow that kind of money you would’ve flown Delta.”

Later on the flight when they were taking drink orders, the skeesix a row ahead of me actually asked for an Arnold Palmer. I know that’s unbelievable but I saw it with my own one-and-a-half eyes.

Now you may think that all I did in Phoenix was eat, drink, and make a jackass of myself on television. Not true. There was so much more! I rented a car, I hosted Dodger Talk, and I got vigorously patted down. What a jealous boyfriend! I was just taking a picture of her on the mechanical bull.


Max Clarke said...

“How could they screw that up? Isn’t baseball like the only thing they do?”

Hilarious, Annie.

Simon H. said...

I only caught the first ten minutes of the telecast before going to work. Your opening line really amusingly captured how meaningless most of the game was actually going to be. And if you did screw up as bad as you say, I can't imagine more than a few thousand people saw it. It's Spring Training. Even the announcers have got to practice to get up to speed before the season starts.

Unknown said...

I caught that game in progress on MLB network last week. You said something about the complications of scoring the game, I thought you were just complaining til they detailed the craziness. It's hard enough to follow it all much less enhance the proceedings with commentary, you shouldn't feel responsible - it's like an actor victimized by a bad script he he he
I just stumbled onto your blog, have been a big fan of your and your colleagues' TV work. Raised on Honeymooners in NY area, I remember every line on those shows like classic songs. Thanks for the glimpse at that bizarre Gleason flop and his classic, straight-up handling of it all. Love to buy you a pop when you come to SF ...

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a little early for a Friday question but, here goes. A few days ago you posted a story about some spring training radio experiences that didn't go so well, and then today you kind of topped them. Although the two posts are obviously unrelated if they were in a book it would be pretty obvious foreshadowing. My question is when writing a TV series over the long haul did you ever find that you had inadvertently foreshadowed a plot line? Just wondering cause watching some of the reruns of cheers there seem to be plots that make reference to things characters said to each other in much earlier episodes that I wouldn't expect the audience to remember. Watching in reruns and seeing the episodes back to back to back it seems obvious in some cases but it seems like going to a lot of trouble when the episodes would have originally aired six or seven weeks apart.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

In case you didn't know it, FSW re-ran the Dodger broadcast that you did on Wednesday night. I caught a couple of innings. You really didn't sound that bad. Hey, it's spring training for the announcers too!

Jonathan said...

Great post! And thanks for referencing Skeezix -- my grandmother used to call me that...

I used to work for an NBC affiliate in New England and would occasionally have to go out with the crew to do a U Maine Hockey game. My job on those occasions was "Font Coordinator": I had to prepare all the stats and interesting talking points for the Chyron operator. Then, during the game I had to watch the monitors and let the operator know who scored or who was penalized and what the penalty was. being a San Diego kid, I knew virtually nothing about hockey. The goals were easy: just need a jersey number. But the penalties were impossible for me. And over the course of 4 games, I missed all but one: two players collided mid-ice, one got up, grabbed the other by the collar and threw him back down on the ice. The whistle sounded. "I would call that 'Fighting.'" And indeed it was.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I would have appreciated not having the line up read to me.

It's a litle pet peeve of mine in television these days (the Dennis Leary Ford Truck commercials being the worst offenders), but I hate the presumption of illiteracy that goes along with an announcer reading aloud what is on the screen. There! Off my chest!

Exception: The Top 10 List.

Is there a reason that an official statistician for the Dodgers can't be nearby during a broadcast?

Big Pauly said...

The Dodgers look bright this year. It is encouraging to see all the young talent with Withrow and such on the spring training roster ready to come up. I enjoy seeing the Dodgers on Prime Ticket more this year and wish that more Dodgers radio coverage on KABC was possible. I am sick of the fact that the angels have their 24 hour angel radio and the Dodgers don't. GO DODGERS

Patrick said...

Try the Tilted Kilt in...Tempe? Anyway, waitresses in mini kilts. And the food ain't bad.

What do you think of G.A. making the Dodgers?

Unknown said...

Next spring come on up to the Buffalo Chip Saloon in Cave Creek. We have REAL bull riding.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas Sparks slams Cormac McCarthy for being too "pulpy" and "melodramtic". Oh, the irony.

bevo said...

Thanks for the travelogue. It confirms that I never want to visit Arizona or its poorer, step sister, New Mexico.

What a dump?

wv: Inessi - plural form of incest.

Matt Patton said...

Actually, Cormac McCarthy IS pulpy and melodramatic. So is Nicholas Sparks, but nobody takes him very seriously.

Cap'n Bob said...

I was in LA for the past five days and caught a little bit of the Dodger games as I channel surfed my way through the night. I wondered if you might have been one of the announcers, Ken, but not once did they identify themselves. I didn't expect it during the middle of an inning, but I thought it would make sense to do it after a commercial break. Is there a rule about how many times you need to remind people who's in the booth?