Sunday, July 06, 2014

From the "Chutzpah Hall of Fame"

Here's another baseball post for people who don't like baseball. It's about one of the most outrageous characters I've ever met.

This goes back to my minor league days. For the three years I broadcast in the minors for Syracuse and Tidewater. You meet a lot of colorful individuals on that circuit but none even close to the announcer for Louisville (who was replaced by a guy named Joe Buck). This guy, we’ll call him “Louie” had a big booming voice and a style that only can be described as carnival barker. Having crossed into middle age, Louie was still a big skirt chaser, although in those days he generally wound up getting girls in big skirts.

One day Louisville is in Des Moines. He meets some woman at the hotel and they arrange to rendezvous in the lobby at 11 PM after that night’s game.

Unfortunately, the game drags on.

The visiting broadcast booth is right next to the main area of the press box with an open window between the two. Reporters can easily hear the visiting broadcasters.

It’s 10:40. Going into the 8th. The game has at least a half hour to go, then there’s wrapping up the broadcast, shutting down the equipment, and getting back to the hotel. No way will Louie make his 11:00 tryst.

As the two teams are changing sides and the pitcher is making his warm up tosses, the reporters start to hear play-by-play coming from Louie’s booth.

“Bottom of the 8th, Jones up, swings at the first pitch. Fly ball to right. Krellman makes the catch. One out. Next up is Smith. He swings at the first pitch and hits a grounder the first. Two quick outs…” etc.

Louis begins MAKING UP the play-by-play. Sure enough, “his” game is over in ten speedy minutes and he’s out the door. Louie belongs in the “Chutzpah Hall of Fame” for that one stunt alone.

But there were many others. Among them: getting thrown out of a game by an umpire for ragging on him from the press box, getting thrown out of an NBA game and costing his team a technical foul when he did same thing during his brief tenure as the San Antonio Spurs announcer, getting fired from the Minnesota Twins for illegally promoting a drag strip nightly on the broadcast he had ties with, getting canned from a Cleveland sportstalk station for accusing a team of “Jewing down” a player’s agent, and last I heard he was doing TV weather in a small Midwestern town and was arrested for fondling some woman’s breast in a carwash.

As a writer, if you were to put Louie in a script your producer would throw it right back in your face saying he was waaaaay too implausible. And he’d be right…except in minor league baseball. Guys like Louie made all the nine hour bus rides, make up doubleheaders, and dinners at Shoneys worth it.


Mike in CT said...

Heh. I remember reading/hearing about "Louie" getting T'd up for the Spurs. One morning show or another around here wondered what it'd be like to hear Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard do the same thing. "Great call, ump," in the voice of God.

Michael said...

Ken, if I am correct about who it is, he got his job with the Twins by saying he'd get attendance up to 1 million; on the last day of the season with attendance at about 650,000 for the year, someone said to Herb Carneal, who toiled for so many years with the Twins in the shadow of lesser announcers, "If the attendance isn't 350,000 today, he's in big trouble."

The same guy allegedly once threw his false teeth at an official. Whether that got him the technical, I don't know.

Igor said...

And thus (perhaps) the difference between a guy who broadcasts play-by-play, and a play-by-play announcer.

Anyway, a great/funny story, Ken. Made only a bit sad by the unfortunate reality of your comment about the "waaaaay too implausible" problem.

Mike Botula said...

Back "in the day" before network lines linked all the radio stations, the sports event "recreation" was the big thing. Local announcers would rip the line scores from their wire machines, and with the help of some ballpark sound effects like cheering and groans and bat slaps etc., would stand in front of an open mike and "recreate" the game from their wire copy. It was a big deal back then, and a lot of fans failed to tell the real thing from the counterfeit. But, your tale of yore is a first for me. Where an announcer creates a live action account of a fictional game. Gotta love show biz.

Dick Balsch said...

So when he was trying to make it to the show, it really was a show! Good story.

Paul Duca said...

Don't forget, episode of (pre-Ken) M*A*S*H had Hawkeye, B.J. and Klinger "recreate" a phony ball game to fool Major Burns, who was listening to AFRN boradcasts on the sly, then taking bets on the outcome.

Ed said...

An aspect that distinguishes Triple-A from the lower levels - meals at Shoney's. In the Double-A Southern League, it was meals at Waffle House. Often times, many of us suggested the "W" in that restaurant's name should be silent.

Abba Dabba said...

Hello, Mr Levine.
Sorry for jumping in with something else entirely (& please try, if you can, to forgive my rotten treatment of the English language!)...

The thing is, we're the same age, you and I... but my childhood was in Oslo, Norway, Scandinoovia, northern Europe. Not exactly Woodland Hills, CA -- believe me, baby!

Now I just finished reading/listening to your book 'The Me Generation... By Me (Growing Up in the '60s)' -- and, lo & behold, on almost every page there's a parallel to my own experiences, growing up.

So much so that in a few years, or minutes, when i go senile ( ...where am I? I typing this?), I'm afraid I'll mix your reminiscences in with my own.

Just an observation (or oddservation) and I guess, in the words of that happy Scottish camper: Signifying nothing. Just wanted to say thanks. For the memories.

KenNYC said...

I think Pete Rose [made a killing][lost a bundle] on that game!

Unknown said...

Mike Botula, Ronald Reagan was on a Cubs broadcast in Chicago when he was President. He told the story of how he used to do those radio broadcasts from the wire. One time in the middle of a player's at bat the wire went down. He kept announcing the batter fouled off the pitch one after another until the wire started up again