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Aledmys Diaz, Kurt Warner & Talent Evaluation: Tunnel Vision, Not Knowing What You Don't Know & Missing Greatness



Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

posted July 3, 2016

In June of 1981 I met a young lady (Susan) who, in September of 1982, became my wife.

In 1983 we attended a David Bowie concert at what was then known as the Rosemont Horizon (in suburban Chicago). By that time, Bowie had become a mainstream pop star whose songs were heard all over the world.

It was my first Bowie show, and the entire experience catalyzed an acute awareness of David Bowie and his music. (Late to the party, eh?)

In 2004 Bowie performed at St. Louis' Fox Theatre, we were there, and those in attendance were mesmerized by what we observed: we were in the presence of a star.

By that time, I had gained knowledge of most of his career--in large part thanks to wife Susan, who was far 'ahead of the curve' on Mr. Bowie.

=====

Forty years ago (March 3, 1976, to be precise), Susan attended her first David Bowie concert, at Chicago's International Amphitheater.

She was eighteen years old and returned home from college to see the show--accompanied by her younger brother.

Bowie's perfomance confirmed what she first suspected years previously after seeing the man on a Saturday night Don Kirshner-style music video TV show: namely, David Bowie was an avant-garde performer with world-class talent, talent impossible to ignore if you knew what to look for.

Literally ten days prior to Bowie's International Amphitheater show, that same Bowie tour paused in Evansville IN on
February 22, 1976, for a Sunday night performance at Roberts Stadium (the home of the Evansville Purple Aces basketball team).

I was seventeen at the time, still a senior at a small town high school located a half-hour or so from Roberts Stadium...but I believed I had better things to do than watch some Brit named David Bowie perform a couple dozen of his songs.

As I look back to February of 1976, I had plenty of awareness of the upcoming bicentennial celebration; plenty of awareness of high school advanced chemistry, physics, trigonometry and analytic geometry; plenty of enjoyment of high school golf; a fun job at an area supermarket (don't laugh: $2.10/hr and time-and-a-half on Sundays); as well as fun and frivolity with friends and a high school sweetheart..

This was my world, and it was all good.

But my good world, in February of 1976, would have been my better world if I had possessed a little more awareness of the earth around me and had opened my eyes to the talents of David Bowie, who, to me at the time, was the guy who sang the throwaway Top 40 pop song 'Golden Years'.

Therefore, in 1976, I had no interest in attending the Bowie show in Evansville, Indiana.

After all, it was a Sunday night (school the next day!) and I had never attended anything other than basketball games and the Shrine Circus in Roberts Stadium, a venue that I believed to be infested, during rock concerts, with pot-smokers and troublemakers that roamed freely in a world that I did not understand.

In other words, my perspective was foolishly limited and suffered from myriad distractions, and my tunnel vision of that world was incomplete.

The result of tunnel vision?  I didn't know what I didn't know.

=====


Tunnel vision in professional sports?


On a macro scale, the industry-wide ban on players of color, best exemplified by MLB's 'habit' of not allowing black players to play the sport of baseball at its highest level, is probably the best (worst?!) example of tunnel vision.


On a micro scale, Cardinals' rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz comes to mind as a player whose skills were viewed by major league talent evaluators with tunnel vision: they didn't know what they didn't know.


Recall that on July 8, 2015,  Diaz was placed on waivers by the Cardinals, and was therefore made available to the other 29 big league clubs for no charge other than the price of assuming the balance of his contract (which includes 2016 and 2017 salaries of $2.5 million per season).


Diaz went unclaimed, and it seemed as if his aspirations of ever wearing a major league uniform would remain unfulfilled.


=====


At the end of today's game (July 3) the Cardinals will have played 81 games (exactly half of the scheduled 162 regular season games), and Aledmys Diaz' current half-season statistics project to a 20+HR/80+RBI season to go along with his current .300+ batting average/.900+OPS stats--first-half numbers that, despite early-season defensive shortcomings, are likely to earn Aledmys Diaz a place in the upcoming All Star game.


Spring training injuries to starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta and spring acquisition Ruben Tejada (as well as sub-par shortstop play from Jedd Gyorko) opened the door for Diaz; he was literally the Redbirds' fourth and last resort--and the Cuban defector has not looked back.


=====


Another St. Louis example of professional talent evaluators not knowing what they didn't know was personified by the circuitous path taken to greatness by former Rams QB Kurt Warner.


Recall that Northern Iowa alum Warner sat on the bench for his first three college seasons and only cracked the Panthers' starting line-up for his senior year.


Warner was not drafted by any NFL team before spending a couple of weeks as Bret Favre's caddy in Green Bay. He then played three years in the Arena Football League before the Rams signed him in 1998.


In 1998 Warner starred for the Amsterdam team in NFL Europe before returning to St. Louis where he managed a few minutes of playing time in the final game of the 1998 Rams' season.


Prior to the 1999 season, the Rams signed free-agent QB Trent Green to a four-year multimillion dollar contract, and viewed Warner, at best, as a back-up--because he (Warner) was made available to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL's 1999 Expansion Draft!


The Browns did select a quarterback in their expansion draft: Tampa Bay QB Scott Milanovich, who was released before training camp commenced. Browns' management were convinced that #1-overall draft choice Tim Couch would be their QB for a decade.


Nearly two decades later, the Cleveland Browns are still looking for a quarterback while Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner hopes for his induction to the professional football Hall of Fame, and Aledmys Diaz is hoping for an invitation to Miami for the 2016 MLB All Star Game.


And the great David Bowie died in January of this year.


I do not want to miss any more greatness.




Two Over .500...
and a Gurney at Busch?!

posted June 19, 2016 (9:00pm)

 

Gurnee IL is a small town in the endless strip of north-of-Chicago suburbs that stretches from Evanston all the way, it seems, to Kenosha WI.

Most midwesterners, if they know Gurnee at all, remember it as a location for a wonderful Great America theme park that has superb roller coasters.

I looked this up because, as media were queueing up for the elevator at the conclusion of the monstrously awful 5-4 St. Louis loss to Texas late Sunday afternoon, Busch Stadium medical staffers were seen pushing a gurney.

Thankfully, the gurney was 'empty' with no patient aboard, a piece of good luck in the face of the humidity-laced 93 Fahrenheit degrees felt in the ballpark.

In writing this piece, I had to look up the word 'gurney'. I guess I didn't know (for sure) Gurnee IL from 'gurney'.

Now I know.

Merriam-Webster defines gurney as "a bed on a frame with wheels that is used for moving people who are sick or injured".

Upon seeing the gurney, a smart-aleck (that would be yours truly) cracked--'that gurney is for the Cardinals'.

A few of the assembled media chuckled, including a couple who have the ability to insert this kind of nonsense into a column.

From this chair it looks as though the Cardinals are (metaphorically) sick or injured...or both--and belong on that gurney.

The team lost all five games of its homestand (two to Houston and three to Texas) and, as this is written, the Cubs are on their way to yet another victory over the skidding Pirates.

Ergo, at the end of tonight's play, St. Louis (35-33) could be 13 games behind Chicago in the loss column (47-20), but, shockingly, remain in the mix for the two NL Wild Card slots...as the Marlins and Mets both have 32 losses, while the Cardinals and Dodgers have 33 while the Pirates and Rockies have 35 and 36 losses, respectively.

=====

Sometime in mid-March, the Cardinals assigned SS Almedys Diaz to their AAA Memphis squad, more-or-less saying that a team challenging for a playoff spot should not expect a successful outcome for what would amount to on-the-job training for what (other than catcher) is arguably the most important defensive position on the diamond.

This was an admission that Diaz was not ready for the demands of the major league shortstop position.

But only a day or two later, incumbent SS Jhonny Peralta injured his left thumb, and underwent surgery to repair a tendon in that thumb.

Diaz was quickly recalled, and has displayed much-needed offensive talents: through June 19 his 69 hits are only four behind team-leader Stephen Piscotty (73) and tied with Matt Carpenter (also 69).

Diaz has been a revelation with the bat, and upon the recent return of Peralta, an infield shuffle of sorts transpired in which Matt Carpenter was shifted to 2B, Peralta staffed the hot corner, and newcomer Diaz kept his spot at SS.

=====

In more than one way, today's game served as a microcosm for the young 2016 season to date.

The Cardinals fought back (there were five lead changes and the last one was most painful as Texas scored twice in the top of the eighth after Mitch Moreland, who had earlier blasted a 450ft home run, was intentionally walked, putting the winning run on base) but a key eighth-inning out call on a
6-4 fielder's choice was overturned after video review showed that Moreland beat SS Diaz' throw to Carpenter at 2B, putting two runners into scoring position for Jurickson Profar, who then stroked a two-out two-run single to center field.

Says here that a veteran shortstop would have made that play, and the inning's complexion would have dramatically changed. Instead...

Game Over.

In the first inning, Texas scored an unearned run due in large part to a play in which Diaz failed to corral a throw from C Eric Fryer as Rangers' CF Ian Desmond attempted to steal second base. The muffed catch-and-tag dribbed into short center field and Desmond advanced to third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly.

As has been documented on these pages, the Cards are in the hunt for a wild card position in MLB's post-season tournament.

Also says here that you may see Jhonny Peralta at shortstop sometime in the team's upcoming eight-game road trip, a journey which starts tomorrow at Wrigley.

Check your scorecard Monday.


=====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

Tony La Russa, IMB and the Sweetheart

Mark Bausch

Dear reader, if you were lucky, you had a high school sweetheart or two.

I had mine...and in my mind's eye, the young lady in question was the prettiest girl in school.

But the prettiest girl in school went away to college. There, she found another gentleman's charms a little (a lot?!) more to her liking than those of yours truly.


click here to read more...



----------

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Law-and-Order Mike...(Lock Him/Her Up?!)

posted July 21


This probably wasn’t the way the suits at 700 Clark Street wanted to start their week.

Back in January Christopher Correa, the former Director of Baseball Development for the St. Louis Cardinals, pled guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer from 2013 to at least 2014. His services with the team were terminated last summer.

Prosecutors argued that in 2013 Correa improperly downloaded a file of the Astros' scouting list of every eligible player for that year's draft. During the trial they said Correa also improperly viewed notes of trade discussions as well as a page that listed information such as potential bonus details, statistics and notes on recent performances and injuries by team prospects.

On Monday July 18 Correa was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes to 46 months in prison and a court order to pay $279,038 in restitution. The former Cardinal employee had faced up to five years in prison on each count.

During the sentencing Correa read a statement to the court "I violated my values and it was wrong ... I behaved shamefully," he said. "The whole episode represents the worst thing I've done in my life by far."

We now move to the second phase of this story, one that hits much closer to home: Major League Baseball versus the St. Louis Cardinals, LLC.

To wisely get ahead of the story team Chairman and CEO, Bill DeWitt Jr., immediately issued the following statement when the word came down: “While today’s sentencing of Chris Correa marks the end of the Government’s investigation, we also understand that the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball will now conduct its own investigation of this matter.  As we did with the Government during its investigation, we intend to fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office in connection with its investigation so that this matter can finally be resolved.  Pending the outcome of the Commissioner’s investigation, we will have no further comment.”

Suddenly the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball are sounding like New England Patriots fans. Opposing baseball fans across the fruited plain annoyed by the Red Birds past success and perceived superiority mockingly ask if this is what “the Cardinal Way” means.

The ominous term the Feds use in these matters is “Corporate Espionage”. This bureau has engaged in friendly debate with smart baseball folks on this matter. To these untrained eyes: this is a big deal with serious consequences. Just one bureau’s opinion here, but if an employee of a McDonald’s restaurant on the north side of town breaks into the offices of the McDonald’s restaurant on the south side of town to review files of current and prospective employees, that is a crime. To this amateur legal mind, whether one franchise breaks into another franchise’s files without permission through the back door or a firewall, what difference does it make? 

Here in Cardinals Nation the wait begins for the next shoe to drop. The Sword of Damocles is hanging over the heads of self-proclaimed Baseball Heaven.

Smart money suggests that shoe will be dropping like an anvil.  This story now advances to 245 Park Avenue’s 31st floor in New York City and to the offices of Robert D Manfred, Jr., Commissioner. Logic suggests that if the main offender gets a penalty of almost four years of prison time and a fine of over a quarter-million dollars that signals the franchise employing that main offender will likely be thumped harshly also. We’ve seen in college sports how Universities have been penalized for the actions of their representatives and employees. In the past the NCAA has hurled the term “lack of institutional control” at offending institutions.

On a cold night nine days in January 2015 before the Super Bowl on the self-proclaimed “Sports Voice of America” radio station, one of the Fox Sports Midwest apologists was behind the microphone and editorialized, questioned and mocked the honesty and integrity of the New England football team and its Head Coach Bill Belichick. That night there were no remarks relating to tolerance, patience and process. It will be interesting to see how that gab-master will square this circle once the hearings begin with the organization that pays his salary.

Some believe the Cardinals, rightly or wrongly, will be penalized severely for this matter. It is possible the team could lose upcoming draft choices, forfeit a portion of their international signing pool, endure a severe fine, or all of the above. In all likelihood the Commissioner’s review will be lengthy. In the interim the anxiety level will be elevated throughout the 314.

Whatever is the eventual outcome, one thing is crystal clear. The St. Louis Cardinal “brand” has taken a big hit. In the eyes of Cardinal Nation their heroes play hard and stand for truth, justice and the American Way. That is an image the team embraces and markets. A Midwestern city experiencing declining population, fleeing Fortune 500 Company headquarters and racial tension. A town with a departed franchise in that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League that loves its baseball. You’ve heard the numbers: 3.5 Million fans annually and over 40,000 fans in the stands each night. Cliché’s such as “Baseball Heaven”, “Best Fans in Baseball” and “Best Baseball City in America” are frequently uttered throughout the region. These reinforce that brand.

This hacking story strikes directly to that heart of that pristine and pure Red Bird image. Suddenly that Cardinal red doesn’t look as bright. Time will tell if some of the same adjectives hurled at the Patriots during Deflategate will continue to be directed toward the local nine.

“As we did with the Government during its investigation, we intend to fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office in connection with its investigation so that this matter can finally be resolved.  Pending the outcome of the Commissioner’s investigation, we will have no further comment.”

Yeah, this is a big deal.

This probably wasn’t the way the suits at 700 Clark Street wanted to start their week.




=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Mike Huss' Take Five

posted July 3

Random thoughts the calendar changes from June to July

Memo to David Backes: you made the right decision.

Speaking of the Blues’ former Captain, Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster Jim Hayes conducted a five-minute get-together with the former #42 during the 7/1/16 Cardinal/Brewer game. The conversation was solid, straight-forward, professional and very good. There were no sentimental, tear-jerking or leading questions here: just a solid two-way interview. In the eyes of this bureau, Hayes is one of the very few at FSM (and arguably in this market) who could have conducted this chat in the solid manner.

As of the morning of 7/2/16, so far in 2016 the Cardinals have committed 64 errors in 79 games-played. Saying it another way in 81% of the games played in 2016, Red Bird fielders have committed an error.

As we approach Independence Day let’s review how some of our town’s former heroes are performing Outfielder Jason Heyward is hitting .265 with four home runs and 26 runs batted in. Starter John Lackey is 7-4 with a 3.27 earned run average in 104.2 innings pitched. At this writing outfielder Jon Jay is on the Disabled List as he fractured his right forearm, but has compiled a .296 batting average with 2 homers and 23 RBIs in 290 plate appearances. Finally outfielder Peter Bourjos has 3 home run and 17 RBIs along with his .262 batting average.

AND FINALLY FROM THE “NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT” BUREAU: Teddy Mitrosilis of Fox Sports.com writes: “July 1 has become an underrated American holiday for baseball fans: “Bobby Bonilla Day”. Bobby Bonilla Day is the day every year the New York Mets cut a check for $1.19 million and Bonilla smiles a little wider and walks a little straighter as he cashes it in between whatever leisurely activities 53-year-old retired athletes do these days. Bonilla cashed one of these checks on 7/1/16 and on July 1 every year through 2035. In the final year, Bonilla will be 72 years old and still getting paid handsomely by the Mets. If you're unfamiliar with how this all came together, in 2000 the Mets owed Bonilla $5.9 million but decided they didn't want him on their roster anymore. So they agreed to pay him an 8 percent annual interest rate with the first payment coming on July 1, 2011.” So I guess even losing his roster spot to an up and coming rookie named Albert Pujols worked out alright for Mr. B.


Comments?        Contact Mike at:    mike@stlsports.com

=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Busch II

(posted May 7)

It occurred fifty years ago this Thursday.

Back in the day (that is during the 1960s) it was vogue for cities to construct multi-purpose sport facilities. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Oakland and other towns constructed dual-purpose sports venues that would house Major League Baseball during the summer and the rich and arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League during the winter. St. Louis was also one of those cities. That new venue was named “Busch Memorial Stadium”.

In the early 1960’s, then-Cardinal owner August A. Busch Jr. spearheaded a plan to build a new facility for his baseball team. Behind the power and influence of his company, Anheuser-Busch Incorporated, the region created the Civic Center Redevelopment Corporation: an entity that oversaw the construction, funding and development of a new outdoor sports stadium, two adjacent parking garages and a hotel with a revolving rooftop restaurant. Civic Center maintained the stadium until the Brewery purchased it outright in the winter of 1981. Subsequently AB sold the property with the ball club in the winter of 1995.

Replacing the long-time facility at Grand & Dodier in north St. Louis, Busch Memorial Stadium opened for business on Thursday night May 12, 1966. That night 46,048 saw the Cardinals defeat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in extra innings as Lou Brock drove in the winning run. Then-Red Bird right-fielder, now-Red Bird broadcaster Mike Shannon hit the first St. Louis home run in the new playpen. Atlanta’s Felipe Alou homered twice in that game. Reliever Don Dennis earned the win in relief for the Red Birds. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro suffered the loss for the Braves. Unlike today, that first game was not televised locally. Unless you have a ticket, the only way you could only way one could experience it live was on the radio via the 50,000 red-hot watts of KMOX with Harry Caray and Jack Buck calling the action.

It’s now a half century later. On that same sacred ground where Gibson, Brock, Ozzie, McGwire and Pujols honed their crafts, Bob Forsch threw two no-hitters, where Bruce Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas on a chilly Wednesday night in October 1982, where the Cardiac Cardinals played, where Pele’ was once on display and the Beatles once performed, today sits a series of western-town-style buildings that houses overpriced restaurants and an overpriced parking lot.

But today I’m here to talk about the past.

All of us age 16 or older have stories to spin and share about the old ball park. I’m no different. During my high school and college years and then beyond, Busch Stadium provided me an employment opportunity. From 1970-1979, I traveled downtown to usher the events while witnessing some of the more dismal days of Cardinal baseball and some of the exciting days of Cardinal football while earning a few bucks for gas, tuition and beer money in the process.

My Dad and I watched our first game at the-then Busch Memorial Stadium on a Saturday night in June 1966 in then-salmon-colored seats in the Upper Terrace. I was eleven years old then. A month later, after riding the Red Bird Express bus downtown, we again sat in the Upper Terrace. This time it was in dead center field on a hot Tuesday afternoon to experience the 1966 All Star Game. Game time temperature was 106 degrees. Veteran Manager Casey Stengel remarked that the new ball park “held the heat well”. We didn’t care. Dad and I sat in the shade and giggled as we watched those beautiful people and social butterflies in the uncovered high-priced metal field boxes seats be carried out of the sun due to the heat.

The ballpark would be a gathering place in our lives. From first dates to second dates, to nights out with the guys, to working a doubleheader to sneaking down from the upper deck to sit in the field boxes to eventually a return as a member of the local media, it always seemed to occur at 250 Stadium Plaza. It was at Busch II where I first met a then-nine year old boy on a chilly and rainy April 1992 Sunday afternoon. His name was Dan. He would eventually become my stepson and today is the Dad to my granddaughter. Whether it was meeting at of the Stan Musial statue or on the catwalk outside Gate 4 or gathering at Section 250, Busch Stadium II was the place.

As one who patrolled the ramps of Busch II during my ushering days of the 1970s, I would regularly see the same faces sitting on the same benches in the left field bleachers night after night: regardless how the Cardinals were playing. Walking to the ballpark on a summer weekend morning I would pass rows of cars on parking lots bearing license plates from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and other destinations around the Midwest. Back then, families would travel to St. Louis to spend a weekend in town using baseball as an excuse.

In Busch II’s early years, very few road games were televised and a home game was never on local TV. If you wanted to catch a game, pay $3.50 for a General Admission seat (top seven rows of the ball park). Bleacher seats were sold on the day of the game. The number of fans sitting in the bleachers provided a very visible measuring stick how the team was doing. There was no such thing as licensed merchandise as fans show up in everyday garb.  There were no ribbon scoreboards. There was no CD music to rev up the crowd.

250 Stadium Plaza has now been a memory for a decade. But to this bureau, those days at Busch Stadium II were and remain special.

The current Cardinal Management has done an incredible job of marketing the ball club and establishing a unique brand. The numbers speak volumes as over 3 million parade through the gate each year like clockwork. While the success on the field always is the best magnet, the current Busch III provides a clean and family-friendly place to attend a baseball game.

Still, I watch today’s fans leaving for the exits in the 8th inning of a tie game to get a jump on the traffic, or watching them trying to do The Wave during the bottom of the seventh as the Red Birds have the tying run on base, or fans hoping to be caught on the big screen during the Kiss Cam segment or others hoping to catch a t-shirt from a pretty Team Fredbird girl, I wonder about the mindset & the passion of the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball then and now.

But it was a different at Busch II: especially during those early years. To this bureau, those were special days. Win or lose, those same guys would sit in the same bleacher seats night after night.

Back in the day (that is during the 1960s) it was vogue for cities to construct multi-purpose sport facilities. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Oakland and other towns constructed dual-purpose sports venues that would house Major League Baseball during the summer and the rich and arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League during the winter. St. Louis was also one of those cities. That new venue was named “Busch Memorial Stadium”.

Has it really been fifty years?
 


WDBX Saturday/Sunday Sports Review
hosted by Mark Bausch


Saturday/Sunday Sports Review Show Intro #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and (the late) Charlie Spoonhour and Joe Buck)


Saturday/Sunday Sports Review Show Intro #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, (the late) Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


=====

Recent WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights

Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday


Sunday Sports Review 160717 (July 17)
Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
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Sunday Sports Review 160710 (July 10)
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Sunday Sports Review 160703 (July 3)
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Sunday Sports Review 160626 (June 26)
Deniston&Hefferman  Rainey&Hefferman  Huss
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Sunday Sports Review 160619 (June 19)
  Huss and Baker
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Sunday Sports Review 160612 (June 12)
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Sunday Sports Review 160529 (May 29)
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Sunday Sports Review 160522 (May 22)
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Sunday Sports Review 160515 (May 15)
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Sunday Sports Review 160508 (May 8)
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Sunday Sports Review 160501 (May 1)
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Sunday Sports Review 160410 (April 10)
Deniston&Hefferman  Rainey  Huss
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Sunday Sports Review 160403 (April 3)
Deniston&Hefferman  Rainey  Huss
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Sunday Sports Review 160313 (March 13)
  Baker  Deniston
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Sunday Sports Review 160306 (March 6)
   Deniston  Hefferman  Huss  Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review 160228 (February 28)
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Sunday Sports Review 160221 (February 21)
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Sunday Sports Review 160214 (February 14)
   Deniston  Hefferman  Huss  Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review 160207 (February 7)
  Deniston  Huss  Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review 160131 (January 31)
  Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
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Sunday Sports Review 160124 (January 24)
  Deniston  Hefferman  Huss
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Sunday Sports Review 151206 (December 6)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review 151122 (November 22)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review 151115 (November 15)
Hefferman, Deniston, Huss & Rainey



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MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
For Many St. Louisans—the Sound of Baseball Remains the Voice of Harry Caray


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted March 8

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.

 

No kidding: It might be—it could be—it is: a century

 

For those of us baby boomers that grew up in the Gateway City, state of Missouri, the Ozark region or throughout the Midwest, Harry Caray was the soundtrack of summer. For a quarter century, Caray was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. His style was unique and no holds bar. His voice boomed describing the exploits of Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and others. For twenty-five years, Harry Caray was the sound of St. Louis baseball.

 

In the world where one can be immediately identified by their first name (Elvis, Ozzie, Madonna, etc), if back in the day you said that “Harry” was on the radio, you knew exactly who was on the air. For many of us growing up in the 1960s and earlier, Caray’s familiar, bold and dramatic musings heard through a transistor radio muffled under a pillow (as we were hiding it from our parents after being sent to bed) created the perfect ending to a summer’s evening.

 

Born Harry Christopher Carabina from Italian and Romanian parents, he grew up on La Salle Street on the near south side of St. Louis on 3/1/1914. Caray’s father died when he was an infant and his mother died when he was around eight years old. In essence he grew up as an orphan.

 

In his youth Caray played semipro baseball before auditioning for a radio job at age nineteen. It was then when young Harry found his calling. He would cut his teeth in the radio business in markets such as Joliet, Illinois and Kalamazoo, Michigan before returning to his home town. He joined the Cardinals radio broadcast team in 1945. It was here in St. Louis and particularly behind a hot KMOX radio microphone where the legend of Harry Caray evolved.

 

It was Caray’s voice that narrated the stories of the successful seasons of the mid/late 1940s, the challenging 1950s and the memorable 1960s for the Cardinals. But it was during the down years of the 1950s when Caray’s career rose to prominence. In February 1953, August A. Busch, Jr. convinced his Anheuser-Busch Board of Directors to purchase the Cardinals from Fred Saigh. The Big Eagle and Harry Caray were both cut from the same cloth. Both wanted to be the center of attention. Both appreciated pretty girls. Both were Type-A. Both were highly competitive.

 

But most importantly, both could sell beer. That alliance would make Harry larger than life. Over the KMOX airwaves he was an unabashed homer. But above all, he could sell beer. Busch once referred to Caray as his best beer salesman. The bond was then formed.  

 

Behind Busch’s influence, the powerful KMOX signal and Caray’s bombastic style the Cardinal radio network became the largest in the Major Leagues. Prior to 1957, St. Louis was the westernmost franchise. Cardinal fans were emerging west of the Mississippi. Caray was the evangelist. Casual and non-baseball fans listened to the games only to hear what Harry had to say. During it all, he promoted and pushed Budweiser. The match seemed made in heaven.

 

The Cardinals went to the World Series three times during the 1960s: winning it all twice. After advancing to the series in 1967 and 1968, St. Louis was expected to make it a three-peat. It didn’t happen. In 1969 St. Louis finished a disappointing third in the newly created NL East. But days after the final out, a bombshell was dropped in the Gateway City. Harry Caray and the Cardinals parted ways. The larger than life broadcaster was out as Cardinal broadcaster.

 

There have been many of urban legends as to what led to the split. We’ll never know for sure. But we did observe in a pre-cable, pre-internet era, that the divorce was far from amicable.

 

Leaving St. Louis, Caray took his talents to Oakland where he spent one season working for the colorful Charles O Finley’s A’s. One year later, Caray was signed as an announcer by legendary owner and promoter Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox. It would not take long for Harry to discover that Chicago was indeed his kind of town. 

 

During Caray’s tenure on the south side, the White Sox were not very good. In his first season the Sox went 56-106.  The high water mark was 1977 when they won 90 games. During Caray’s time on the South Side, the Sox had a losing record in eight seasons.

 

But despite the ineptness on the field, fans listened to the White Sox games because of Harry Caray. Partnered with the colorful and unpredictable Jimmy Piersall, the broadcasts were more entertaining than the games. Caray introduced Comiskey Park fans to the familiar chant from the musical group Steam as pitchers were removed from the game or when the Sox were going to win: “na-na-na-na---na-na-na-na-----hey, hey, hey---Good Bye”.

 

Caray and Piersall would broadcast games from the bleachers. On July 12, 1979 Harry spoke over the Comiskey Park PA pleading for calm on “Disco Demolition Night” where the Sox had to forfeit the second game of a doubleheader. Fans rushed the field causing extensive damage.

 

Yep, the White Sox were not very good then—but it was sure fun to listen to the games.

 

In 1982, Caray moved to the north side of Chicago: signing a contract to broadcast games for the Cubs. It was there through the magic and power of the WGN-TV Superstation signal where Harry Caray would be introduced to a new generation of baseball fans. The Cubs turned Harry loose over the airwaves and it proved to be reality television at its finest. The Cubs were not very good. But just like when with the White Sox, baseball fans tuned in to hear Caray offer his insight and opinions: from trying to pronounce player’s names backwards to welcoming who at the ball park that day to saluting the smallest towns throughout the fruited plain.

 

During his stay with the Cubs, Caray introduced his trademark: the seventh inning stretch singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Regardless of the score or the loyalty, Wrigley Field fans sang along with Harry: as Caray, then in his 70s, used his microphone as a baton.

 

My last conversation with Harry was in 1996. It was during a Saturday afternoon game at Busch Stadium II between the Cardinals and Cubs. Prior to the game, I was in the press lounge. Sitting very quietly in the corner was Harry Caray watching the Fox Network pre-game show. On the screen was his grandson Chip. As I passed his table, Harry smiled and said to me, “isn’t he great?” I politely smiled, agreed continued some small talk. During it all Harry just kept smiling.

 

 

So here is this larger than life personality I grew up listening to via a transistor radio under my pillow savoring the moment as a proud grandfather. I started smiling also.

 

In 1989, Harry would be inducted into the Broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a year later, into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He suffered a stroke in 1987. But Caray would not leave the broadcast booth. Then in February 1998, Caray fell at a restaurant and suffered a head injury. He died February 18, 1998 of cardiac arrest with resulting brain damage. 

 

1998 was the season of the great Home Chase that rescued baseball from the 1994 Work Stoppage. The Cardinals’ Mark Mc Guire and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa would blast long flies in pursuit of Roger Maris’s single season home run record. It would have been fun and perhaps fitting had Harry hung around one more year to describe those events as only he could.

 

Today, television (particularly cable television) is the primary outlet for baseball. The legendary baseball voices from past years have been replaced by some combination of blow-dried polished announcers and former ball players: each parroting team written talking points and are nothing more than an extension of the team’s marketing department. You know: always remember that good seats are available, always look for the positives and never criticize the Home Team.

 

I wonder if Harry Caray would have been hired as a broadcaster in today’s environment. My thinking is probably not. And that’s too bad. Games were sure more fun during Harry’s day.

 

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.

 

Holy Cow.

 

=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
Dan Kelly: Simply the Best


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted February 7

On the same date the Beatles made their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show a half century earlier, this Sunday will also mark the twenty-fifth  anniversary of the death of long-time St. Louis Blues broadcaster Dan Kelly. He once was called the "purest, most knowledgeable, most accurate" voice in hockey. Kelly was 52 years old when he died at his Chesterfield home after a five-month struggle with cancer.

Patrick Daniel Kelly was the best play-by-play announcer ever to broadcast a hockey game. He was an announcer, a salesman, a preacher and a teacher. Born on St. Patrick’s Day 1936, no one has ever come close to his talents in describing the sport of hockey. To this day he remains the Gold Standard in the industry. When Dan Kelly’s voice boomed behind a nationally televised hockey game, you knew that game had to be important.

There will always be a debate on who is/was the best baseball announcer. While Cardinal fans lobby for the talents of the legendary Jack Buck, one can understand why those on the West Coast provide equal testimony for the great Vin Scully. Yankee fans speak with pride about the calls of Mel Allen. Yet those in Michigan fondly will counter about the homespun style of Ernie Harwell. You will never get consensus on who is the best baseball announcer. But there is no debate on who is hockey’s best announcer. As NBC’s Bob Costas once said: “hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is second is really closer to third or fourth”.

The Canadian-born, portly Irishman cut his broadcasting teeth in the CFL and on his native land’s best-known hockey vehicle: Hockey Night in Canada. Back in the day when only the original six teams skated in the National Hockey League, a young Kelly would assist legendary broadcaster Danny Gallivan in calling the Saturday night Game of Week as it beamed throughout all the Canadian provinces and in the northern US.  It was THE event on TV in Canada.

Then in 1966, the NHL expanded: doubling from six to a dozen franchises. The new markets would be Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Local insurance executive Sidney Solomon Jr. and his son Sidney III owned the St. Louis franchise and nicknamed them the Blues. The Solomons purchased the deteriorating fire trap at 5700 Oakland Avenue and transformed it into a hockey arena. The Blues games were aired over the 50,000 red-hot watts of KMOX Radio that first season. Buck was named as the team’s first radio play-by-play man with former NHL defenseman and Coach Gus Kyle providing the analysis. Jay Randolph replaced Buck once spring training arrived. The Blues finished in third place that first season. But behind the goaltending of veteran Glenn Hall, the Note advanced in the playoffs to the NHL Finals: only to lose to the mighty Montreal Canadiens in four straight games. 

The following year, the Blues searched for a new play-by-play man to take over for Buck. A young up-and-coming St. Louis hockey executive named Scotty Bowman recommended Kelly to the Solomons. They’d pay Kelly a king’s ransom to lure him and his family from Ottawa to St. Louis. But it would be money well spent.

It took the 34-year-old Kelly and his partner Kyle only a short period of time to earn the respect and admiration of the St. Louis listening public. Kelly would educate his mid-America radio audience about the rules, traditions, beauty and skills of hockey. With the help of the KMOX signal, Kelly and Kyle would spread the word into over 44 states and throughout Canada. Kelly’s familiar “He Shoots, He Scores” call quickly became and still remains a St. Louis hockey staple. Kyle would be the loveable sidekick: referring to close games as “barn burners” and occasionally butchering the English language. A classic “Kyleism” occurred after a jolting Bob Plager hip check. Old Gus said: “Plager hit him so hard, his socks changed feet”. It was just great stuff.

Back in those days, the Blues were the hottest ticket in town. There was actually a season-ticket waiting list for Blues games. 1968-1969 was memorable for the franchise and Kelly would serve as the narrator. He painted the pictures with words over the KMOX airways as Hall of Fame goaltenders Hall and Jacques Plante captured the Vezina Trophy. Kelly’s description of all six goals scored by Red Berenson on a November 7, 1968 night in Philadelphia remains legendary. Kelly and Kyle would announce with fervor the fisticuffs when the Plager Brothers and/or Noel Picard would not back down from the League’s tough guys. That season the Blues won the Conference title and returned to the NHL Finals: only to again be swept by Montreal. After the season Kelly narrated a KMOX-produced album re-living those 1968-69 highlights.

It took less than one season, but Canadian born Dan Kelly became a St. Louis original.

He would become the Gateway City’s hockey evangelist. For the next nineteen seasons, it would be Kelly’s voice describing Blues action on those cold winter nights. He was behind the microphone in January 1972, when some Blues players went into the stands in Philadelphia to confront the Flyer fans: eventually sending Head Coach Al Arbour and those players to jail. He calmly explained to fans why trading Berenson to Detroit was a good thing as a young star named Garry Unger would be coming to town. Kelly helped hockey fans grieve over the sudden death of young defenseman Bob Gassoff. He told fans to keep the faith as the Solomons were contemplating bankruptcy due to rising debts. He introduced Ralston Purina as new Blues owner and Emile Francis as the team’s new President.  A few years later, he watched helplessly as Ralston left the Blues for dead: with the distinct possibility the team would be relocated to Saskatoon. He introduced and interviewed Harry Ornest: a Beverly Hills businessman who bought the team off the scrap heap while bringing hockey executives Ronald Caron and Jacques Demers to town with him. Kelly described the classic 1981 first round Game 5 playoff game when Mike Crombeen’s double-overtime goal advanced the Blues into the next round.

It was Kelly’s voice that narrated arguably the franchise’s most memorable game: May 12, 1986 (a. k. a. the Monday Night Miracle). The Blues faced elimination in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against Calgary. St. Louis trailed 5-1 in the third period, only to tie the game and then win it in overtime on a Doug Wickenheiser goal. Kelly’s voice provided that soundtrack.

Dan Kelly was the link. From the Solomons to Ralston to Ornest to Shanahan: from player trades to coaching changes, from possible relocation to financial stability, it was Kelly that was the constant for Blues fans. He not only taught the Gateway City the game of hockey, but also served as the voice of reason and experience.

While hockey was his trademark, Kelly was also versatile in other sports. He was in the locker room in Montreal when the Cardinals captured the 1982 National League Eastern Division title. In 1983, he and Mike Shannon described Bob Forsch’s second no-hitter. He was one of the CBS regional NFL TV broadcasters.  Kelly was behind the University of Missouri radio network microphone when the Al Onofrio-coached Mizzou football team marched into Columbus to upset Ohio State. Kelly teamed with Bob Starr during the glory years of the St. Louis Football Cardinals: including the legendary Mel Gray phantom catch game against Washington. Plus Kelly made countless cameo appearances on Jack Carney’s highly-rated KMOX radio show.

Unlike today, especially as seen on local cable telecasts, Kelly was not bashful to speak his mind: even if it ruffled the feathers within the Blues front office. One night he was in New York to emcee an event honoring Arbour. Kelly introduced himself saying, “I come from St. Louis where we had Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour and we fired them both. How smart are we?”

Then in 1988, hockey’s greatest voice grew weak and ill. We eventually found out that cancer was the culprit. Others would describe Blues games. But it wasn’t the same. We then realized just how spoiled we all were. In January 1989, the Blues honored for their play-by-play man. That night it also was announced that Kelly would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The guest list included local celebrities such as Buck, Costas, Whitey Herzog and Shanahan as well as his hockey colleagues Don Cherry and Jiggs Mc Donald. They all took turns playfully roasting, yet honoring the Voice of the Blues. But the Great Kelly was too ill to attend in person. Ironically, he listened to all the festivities on KMOX Radio from his hospital room.

A month later, hockey’s greatest announcer died at the far too young age of 52.

Now a generation has passed since we heard Dan Kelly announce a hockey game. Millenials do not know what they missed. Thank goodness for audiotapes. On his tombstone at Resurrection Cemetery in southwest St. Louis is engraved “Voice of the Blues”. That just says it all.

“Hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is second is really closer to third or fourth”.

Said another way, Dan Kelly was simply the best.

 

 

 

 


 

...from the stlsports.com archives:

FOX, with Joe Buck as host, is once again televising the Men's US Open Golf Championship. In 1995, St. Louis Sports Online sat down with Joe for a lengthy Q-and-A.

Check it out!
 =====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

Joe Buck Speaks

originally posted June 17, 1995



Joe Buck, along with his father (Jack Buck), Mike Shannon, Al Hrabosky, and Bob Carpenter, is one of the five broadcasters that bring Cardinal baseball into the family rooms, cars, and offices of Redbird fans all over the midwestern United States. Joe Buck’s work in the St. Louis market is not simply an accident of birth--the FOX network hired Buck to do play-by-play work for their inaugural season broadcasting NFL games. National reviews on young Buck were mostly positive. Indeed, by the end of the NFL season, he was regularly given assignments indicating that FOX considered him among their top two or three play-by-play guys.

In a nutshell, the guy has as much talent as any young broadcaster, since, say, a youthful Bob Costas. Most St. Louis Sports Online readers surely recall that Costas, fresh out of Syracuse University, took St. Louis, and then the country, by storm.

In thinking about Joe Buck and the kinds of questions I would ask, two things came to mind. First, I hoped to bring StLSO readers some new and timely information about the Cards young broadcaster. On this point I feel reasonably confident.
I had also hoped that Buck would play along and poke a bit of good-natured fun at his legendary broadcasting partner, the one and only Mike Shannon. For example, during a recent broadcast, Shannon was discussing ballpark architecture and Coors Field, and, while querying Joe Buck as to the age of the Roman Colosseum, Shannon suggested that it [the Colosseum] was “three- or four- hundred years old, right Joe?”.

In that regard I failed, as Joe Buck played all Shannon-related questions straight down the middle, earnestly saying that “Mike has been extremely helpful to me just starting out in this business.”

Prior to a recent Cards-Braves game, Buck and I sat down in the dining room behind the Fulton County Stadium press box. He is 26 years old...and looks young enough (and fit enough) to be part of a double play combo with Cards shortstop Tripp Cromer. Indeed, Buck said that the Cards had thoughts of drafting him right out of high school. I should have reminded him that the Cardinals drafted Paul Coleman right out of high school, too.

It should surprise no one that Joe Buck, who makes his living as a play-by-play sportscaster, is a verbal individual. But I was surprised to find Buck to be extremely intelligent, as well. Throughout the interview he listened very intently to the questions, and at times, gave quite specific and carefully worded answers that sort of demanded that the original question be rephrased. When a tough question was posed, he wouldn’t give an inch. In other words, the guy is good...and, at least in this interview, didn’t really let down his guard too much. In retrospect, perhaps I could have done a better job interviewing him.
I didn’t feel so bad, though. After all, he’s the professional interviewer!

And before we started, Buck was kind enough to remind me to turn on the recorder...
________

StLSO: Joe Buck, you’re a St. Louis native. Do you have brothers and sisters, and are they still living in St. Louis?
Buck: I have seven brothers and sisters. All except one (who resides in the Chicago area) still live in St. Louis. I’m the second-to-the-youngest...my younger sister works for a radio station back in St. Louis and I have an older sister who works for a TV station in St. Louis. So we’re everywhere.

StLSO: Where did you go to high school, and when did you graduate?
Buck: I went to St. Louis Country Day High School, and I was graduated in 1987.

StLSO: What were your favorite subjects?
Buck: Chemistry...uhhh...you know what? That sort of stuff always baffled me. I’m not a smart guy. I know that. That’s why I’m a broadcaster. I was more an English and Spanish...those kind of subjects, as opposed to math and chemistry.

StLSO: Did you attend a college or university?
Buck: Yes. I went to Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana. I played some college baseball there...Mickey Morandini was also on the IU baseball team.

StLSO: What was your major...and did you graduate?
Buck: I was an English major. I did not graduate. I was at IU for three and a half years, and in the middle of my fourth year I got the Cardinal job. While I was going to school I was broadcasting Louisville Redbird games.

StLSO: If you weren’t a sportscaster, what career might you have pursued?
Buck: Probably...law.

StLSO: Give us an oral resume, starting with your first broadcasting job....
Buck: In 1987, I did afternoon sports reports on KMOX, and mornings on KMOX’s sister station on the FM side, which at that time was called KHTR. I worked Louisville Redbirds games for two years, beginning in 1989. During that time, I also did some fill-in work for the Cardinals when my Dad was doing football or baseball...and that blossomed into a full-time position which is when I left college.

StLSO: Are you married? If so, does your wife enjoy sports?
Buck: Yes I am married, and I have been married for two and a half years. And yes, my wife does enjoy sports.

StLSO: Do you have children?
Buck: No.

StLSO: You are no doubt aware that ESPN spawned ESPN2. Does ESPN3 have a futures contract on your first-born?
Buck: [Laughs out loud in a resigned sort of way.] Sure...that’s the way things are going in baseball these days. The kids are taking over.

StLSO: Approximately how many nights per year do you sleep in an out-of-town hotel room?
Buck: Ummm. I would say...I would say about half the nights in a given year I’m on the road.

StLSO: Does your wife often accompany you on road trips?
Buck: Yes, she does.

StLSO: What are your favorite cities to visit?
Buck: Cities where I have friends like here in Atlanta...or in Los Angeles with a friend of mine who’s in a rock group out there. Both are towns that I enjoy visiting because I have good friends from high school who reside there, including Kevin Omell here in Atlanta.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Omell was also graduated from Country Day in 1987, and sat next to Buck for much of the interview.

StLSO: On a given three day trip to Pittsburgh, what do you do between games?
Buck: Golf is a big time-killer. You know, we get back so late...I can’t get to sleep before three o’clock in the morning...I get up about eleven and have lunch and maybe do a little exercising and then go to the ballpark.

StLSO: In your job as a Cards broadcaster, who is your boss....any one person? And on Fox?
Buck: A lot of people. For the Cards, I guess Steve Uline of Bud Sports is my boss. It just progresses after that. You’ve got Anheuser-Busch and their broadcasting division, and you’ve got the Cardinals and their division.
For FOX, David Hill is the Vice-President of Sports, and Ed Goren, I think, is the Executive Executive Producer, and George Krieger is Executive Producer. All three of those guys are more-or-less in charge.

StLSO: Politicians and their staffs often work from “talking points” when they try to get out a certain point of view to the public. Have any A-B or Cards brass ever suggested that you say, X, Y, or Z? Putting it differently, are you ever given “talking points” to work from?
Buck: No. That’s a good question and I would assume that other broadcasters are told what to say and what not to say. But I work out of common sense. I know where my bread is buttered...so...I’m always trying to promote the Cardinals. But I’ve never been told to say something or not to say something.

StLSO: How does your work with the Cards differ from your work with Fox?
Buck: Well, when I’m doing baseball with the Cardinals I feel like I’m more part of the team, and as the team goes so goes my mood.

StLSO: You’re not feeling too good then, eh?
Buck: Yeah, exactly. If the team’s not playing well, I’m usually not in a good mood. With FOX, with something more national, I couldn’t care less who wins...I have no attachment to the teams and I’m really worried about my performance and being accurate and here [with the Cards] it’s more being a part of the group and hope that they’re winning.

StLSO: Do you review your own on-air performance? If so, what do you listen for?
Buck: All the time. I listen for...verbal crutches and things that I fall into from time to time...repeating the way I’m describing something over and over...varying your call when you’re describing something. I’m not one for cliches.

StLSO: Do play-by-play broadcasters suffer slumps?
Buck: Oh yeah. There are days when I wonder whether can speak English! I mean, sometimes you’re not enunciating and just not getting the words out...and other days you’re almost telling yourself to shut up, because the stuff is just coming out so quick and easy.

StLSO: Do play-by-play men read reviews of their work (i.e. USA Today)? Do you?
Buck: Yeah...and anyone who says they don’t...is lying. This is a very...uhhh...this is a business where you like positive reinforcement, and negative criticism really gets at you.
It [negative criticism] hurts...I’m doing everything I can...I’m traveling and sweating in the booth and doing my homework and when you read something bad about yourself...it’s not fun.

StLSO: I recall hearing you broadcast some Missouri Valley Conference basketball games a couple of years ago.
Buck: Let’s see...that was two years ago so it was the winter of ‘93.

StLSO: I remember watching one of those games...quite honestly, it didn’t seem that you were prepared for one of those games.
Buck: Really [said in the form of a statement].

StLSO: Yeah, that night, the normal Joe Buck delivery seemed less smooth than normal as you didn’t seem to know the names of the players and their uniform numbers...I bring this up not to embarrass but rather to make the point that a good deal of preparation is involved in your job. This is true, isn’t it?

Buck: Yeah, you absolutely have to prepare. But you have to remember that what people might hear or see on television and what comes across is not always...
See, you can look at something and say he doesn’t know the name or number and say that he’s not prepared, but sometimes that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it might be what’s going on in my ear. Sometimes it might be what the producer’s telling me...sometimes it might be what the director’s saying, while I’m talking, that could throw you off that is incorrect. A lot of the times the people behind the scenes make mistakes when you’re the front man out there.

StLSO: I don’t think I’m wrong about this...my point was that you just didn’t seem as familiar with some of these guys as other times and I think that points out how much preparation is important...
Buck: It’s all familiarity. I could run down the names and numbers of all the guys in major league baseball....that’s one thing because I’m around it every day of my life. But when you’re swooping down to do a game on a given weekend...having to learn two different teams...or...in fact, I was doing two MVC games a week...that’s four different teams...including women’s games....you know, keeping that straight all the time is not the easiest thing in the world. And I might add that the MVC production side of those games could have been improved, in my opinion. The MVC deserves better.

StLSO: You received a lot of positive notoriety for your ESPN duh-duh-duh...duh-duh-duh after Mark Whiten’s fourth homer vs. the Reds. Was that spontaneous or did your practice that?
Buck: [Buck delayed answering for an instant while a look of disapproval came over his face.] You can’t practice anything. If I were to practice something....I mean, that’s the beauty of what I do...you can’t practice anything. It just comes out...you don’t know what’s going to happen.

StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical Cardinal game that commences at 7:35...
Buck: I prepare for every game...very easily...just by being there. I know exactly what’s been going on, on a daily basis...I mean, I know more, about this team, than anybody listening knows about this team.

StLSO: So, for a 7:35 start, you arrive at Busch Stadium at what time?
Buck: 4:00...4:30, sometimes 5:00...depending on whether I have other obligations..doing other work during the day...commercials or reporting of some sort.

StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical FOX broadcast...
Buck: It’s totally different [from the Cards preparation]. When I’m preparing for a Sunday game for FOX, I start out on Monday evening doing spotting boards that I make out for myself...then we [the FOX team] get to the city on Friday and meeting the teams on Saturday...meet as a group on Saturday night...and as a group on Sunday morning....do the game on Sunday and then come back on Sunday night.
So there’s really a lot more preparation to be done...because I’m having to learn two new teams each week and I’ve got to pick up a team in week #14 and act like I’ve been watching them for the first 13 weeks.

StLSO: I’ve noticed that some things about baseball seem easier to evaluate while watching TV, as opposed to coming to the stadium and seeing the game in person. In particular, certain aspects of pitching seem to be much easier to follow on TV, as opposed from the stands.  Do you rely on a video monitor while broadcasting?
Buck: You can’t rely on it...you have to split your...

StLSO: Rely is the wrong word...utilize is better...
Buck: Oh yeah, yeah, you have to...you have to be aware of what they’re showing. You have to work together. You have a director and a producer and you have to all be on the same page. I can’t start talking about the crowd while they’re shooting Ken Hill and I can’t start talking about Joe Torre when they’re shooting Todd Zeile.

StLSO: And on radio?
Buck: Well on radio I can do whatever I want. There’s no one that is working with me...it’s all what I want to cover.

StLSO: Earlier, you said you graduated from high school in 1987 or so. Do you keep in contact with many of your high school classmates?
Buck: Yes, I do. Some more so than others.

StLSO: What fraction of them are baseball fans?
Buck: I would say, probably, half.

StLSO: The ones that aren’t...why aren’t they, in your mind? What would you tell them if you were to try and persuade them to come to the ballpark?
Buck: Well, that’s a tough question. I just think it’s a personal preference. I would never try to persuade someone to enjoy baseball. Baseball is just something that either you grow up around and really enjoy, or you have a tough time picking it up and staying alert while you’re at a game. I think [that for] some people, the game of baseball bores them. To me, I enjoy the two and a half to three hours that it takes to play a baseball game. But I think, to some people, that’s too slow. It’s a reflection of our society...they want things fast and they want scoring.

StLSO: Assume for a moment that you’ve been named Commissioner of baseball.
Buck: I’d quit...

StLSO: What would you prescribe for what ails baseball 1995-style?
Buck: Well, everybody’s trying to speed up the game. If I were to do one thing I’d make the umpires call a legitimate strike zone. I think that’s the absolute only way you can speed up the game...not when the PA announcer says the guy’s name one minute and fifteen seconds into the break. That doesn’t have anything to do with it...it has to do with a small strike zone and pitchers falling behind. These guys [the batters] don’t go up there swinging the bat...then they’re waiting to get ahead in the count and then they’re hammering away. I would say call the strike zone as it is written in the rule book.

StLSO: Among your suggestions for major league baseball, I’m surprised you didn’t include grammar and diction lessons for your broadcasting partner Mike Shannon.
Buck: No...I would not say that.

StLSO: Your on-air work is the most visible part of your job. Tell us a bit about your off-air responsibilities as a member of the Cards broadcasting team.
Buck: I’m involved with a lot of charity work in St. Louis, which, I believe, is part of being a broadcaster. In the off season I do a number of the Cardinal Caravans. But mainly charity work.

StLSO: After an evening’s worth of broadcasting, you said you were up ‘til three a.m., what do you do to unwind?
Buck: It’s not that I’m wound up...it’s just that my schedule starts later than everybody else and I end up later than everyone else.

StLSO: Do you work out regularly?
Buck: Yeah, I do. I try to. On the road, definitely, and at home, every day.

StLSO: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Buck: Uhhhhh...the travel. It’s tough, with a wife, and you want to see each other as much as possible...but it’s not always economically feasible to have her with me all of the time.

StLSO: Is there one part of a baseball game that you would like to do a better job communicating to your listeners?
Buck: I wish I could interview people better.

StLSO: Do you enjoy doing rain delay fills?
Buck: Yes and no. I don’t really feel that qualified to do them yet. I think people more enjoy listening to people that have been around the game a little longer than I have...I don’t have the background that Mike Shannon or my Dad would.

StLSO: What is the best part of your job?
Buck: Every day...the thrill of doing it every day...there’s not one day that has gone by where I had not wanted to do a game. I would rather do a game than not do a game.

StLSO: Bob Costas tells a story of traveling with the team on a day off...when he first started broadcasting. He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to do that.
Buck: Yeah...well, that’s fun though. I did say travel is the toughest part but it can be the most enjoyable part...to get to know these guys...it’s like a traveling fraternity.

StLSO: Joe, you’re only 26 but have already accomplished a great deal in an extremely competitive field. What do you do to keep from getting the big head?
Buck: From day one, from being around my father, I’ve realized that being a broadcaster is not the most important thing in the world. It’s a fun job and I’m lucky to be doing it and I’m lucky to have been doing it for the last five years. But it doesn’t matter what level of success that I achieve...in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important. Therefore I will not get the big head.

StLSO: As far as your career is concerned, what would you like to accomplish professionally in the next five years?
Buck: That’s tough to answer. Because if anybody had asked me back in 1989 that five years from then if I’d be doing NFL football on FOX, I’d have never imagined that. Five years from now I would be very happy doing what I’m doing right now, and if something else comes along, like a chance to do nationally broadcast baseball, I would jump at that chance and would hope to be doing it.

StLSO: Joe...the best broadcasting I ever heard you do was during one of your football games. It was something minor and not something that I’m sure I’m going to be able to put into words. Your timing on what we used to call a down-and-out...it’s sort of like counting to five.
The quarterback takes the snap, drops back three or four steps, throws the ball on a line to the receiver, the receiver makes the catch and runs a little bit, and the defender makes the hit, knocking him out of bounds. You talked around all of those things, rather than interrupting what I was watching.
Buck: Sure. That is the essence of how I broadcast, or how I try to broadcast. It drives me nuts when I hear broadcasters talking incessantly. And just talking over the entire action.

StLSO: Do you understand what I’m talking about? That’s a perfect kind of a play that sort of has a rhythm to it...your basic seven yard down and out.
Buck: Well, broadcasting is all rhythm.

StLSO: I want to try this again. Do you practice that [the rhythm]?
Buck: No. That’s the way I grew up. I don’t think my Dad talks incessantly on a broadcast. I told myself because I listen to myself so much...watching tapes of my games on TV whether it’s basketball, baseball, or football...my voice sometimes drives me nuts...I don’t want to hear it all the time. I would rather accent the action instead of knocking you over the head with it. Especially on TV, being a TV play-by-play guy is almost redundant with people watching it. So if you can accent it, and you can add to it, then that is, I think, my job, and not tell people what they’re already seeing.

StLSO: At this point in the season, you’ve seen the Cards play forty some-odd ballgames and play .400 baseball. What should Cardinal fans look for in the future?
Buck: Well, there are no untouchables on this squad. You can’t have untouchables if you haven’t won since 1987. In my opinion, two-thirds of the significant players could, emphasize could, be different in 1996. If you asked Walt Jocketty or Mark Lamping, I think they would admit that this is not a first-place ballclub.

StLSO: So finally, Joe, when was the Roman Colosseum built?
Buck: Seventy-five years ago. You never know what you’re going to get on a nightly basis. You can be talking about rain or a home run and something like that comes along.

StLSO: Thanks.
Buck: OK. Thank you. 


=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
posted November 10

Role Models in Radio; Role Models in Coaching?

There's always good radio to be found the day after the Philly Eagles lose. That's because 97.5 The Fanatic employs long-time sports-talk radio pro Tony Bruno, who, with wit and wisdom and alacrity, persuades most (but not all) of his ever-insufferable listeners not to jump from the top of the nearest tall building. The wonder of the internet brings Bruno and his Philly-based station to anyone looking for an entertaining listening experience.

In a similar vein, the Cardinals' flagship radio station, 'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL), in the mid-afternoon of Wednesday, November 7, 2012, supplied a great deal of potential.

Hosts and callers alike on this station, during the mid-afternoon time slots, lean right-of-center (ya think?!)...and the day before (November 6) was election day.

'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL) has always tilted a bit to the right.

For example, you can bet the mortgage that long-time CBS VP Robert Hyland had no use, in 1972, for most of the positions held by that year's Democratic presidential nominee (George McGovern).

But somehow, back in those days, the political views of the newsreaders and hosts at TVoSTL were, if not difficult to ascertain...they were at least restrained. Hyland himself voiced an occasional, usually right-of-center 'editorial' in the early a.m. (before what is now called morning-drive), but his opinions were not delivered with the 'in-your-face' and 'take-no-prisoners' mentality that a certain Cape Girardeau-born nationally-syndicated personality (heard five days a week on TVoSTL) has popularized.

And the 'take-no-prisoners' approach to talk-radio has metastasized: in all likelihood, the locally-based right-of-center show that commences on TVoSTL at 2 pm (and other regional shows like it around the country) would not exist were it not for the popularity of the nationally-syndicated show that precedes it.

=====

On Tuesday, November 6, voters in Missouri re-elected Democratic senator Claire McCaskill...while voters in the United States re-elected President Barack Obama.

These results virtually guaranteed that compelling mid-afternoon radio would be found the next day on TVoSTL.

Indeed, during the 2 o'clock hour on November 7, while discussing the election results and a 60 Minutes TV segment that featured a chilly and forced conversation involving US senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV), TVoSTL's mid-afternoon local host chimed in with his own view, agreeing with the notion that it would be hard for anyone (including the Republican leadership in the US Senate) to work with Reid, saying "Yeah, I hate Harry Reid too."

First, I chuckled--I was right! Then I groaned and quite literally thought of Robert Hyland, whose approach to radio is missed by many.

But Hyland is gone, and a man with the golden EIB microphone has acolytes all over the United States.

My chuckle and groan was followed by a click, as I changed the station to a St. Louis-based sports-talk station, whose update guy was discussing the St. Louis University men's basketball program and its head-coaching situation.

Back to sports, and to SLU basketball in particular.

To recap, in the wake of what is apparently a life-threatening medical issue, SLU head coach Rick Majerus has relinquished his coaching duties and has been replaced, on an interim basis, by veteran basketball man Jim Crews.

Crews, who played (1972-1976) and served as an assistant coach (1977-1985) at Indiana for more than a decade while the Hoosiers were coached by Bob Knight, was, beginning in 1985, a head coach at Evansville and then Army, for 24 successive seasons (seventeen and seven years, respectively), during which time his teams qualified for four NCAA tournaments.

From a basketball perspective, SLU's athletics department is fortunate that Majerus, prior to the 2011-12 season, was able to persuade Crews to return to coaching and join his staff at SLU.

My own thinking about Crews, though, centers on a post-game press conference held at the Arena at SIU-Carbondale, after an Evansville-SIUC game.

I don't recall the outcome of the game. I don't remember anything about the game itself. I'm not even certain as to the game's exact date, although I am certain it was in the late 1990s.

What I do recall, vividly, is being embarrassed, as a 1980 graduate of Evansville, to be in the same room with Jim Crews, as he, while serving as Evansville's head basketball coach, berated and belittled...INTENTIONALLY...a young man who was apparently the Aces' beat writer for the Evansville daily newspaper.

The reporter, who didn't look a day over the age of thirty and did not at all resemble the late Mike Wallace in demeanor, had the temerity to politely ask a mundane question about something that had transpired during the game he had just witnessed...a game that, as part of his job description, he was required to describe to his paper's readers.

Jim Crews would have none of the reporter’s questions and the reporter did not persist in asking them. Crews left the closet-sized room for the comfort of his team's locker room, leaving most of the other half-dozen or so in the tiny room shaking their heads. I do not recall, ever, in person, witnessing a more childish, silly and needless display of (bad) attitude by a person in a position of leadership.

Well, that's not exactly true.

A couple of months later (late in the decade of the 1990's), Bob Knight visited Jupiter FL as a spring-training guest of his buddy, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

During one pre-game session near the Roger Dean stadium first-base line, La Russa and a horde of media left the area, and Knight and I remained in place, alone for several minutes.

While the details are not important, suffice it to say that as Jim Crews was to that Evansville-based basketball reporter, Bob Knight was to yours truly.

Mr. Knight was not interested in idle chat of any type that morning, and had a rather direct way of expressing that perspective. Furthermore, his approach is not likely to be found in the classic book 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'.

=====

No one can deny the (broadcasting) excellence of Rush Limbaugh, in terms of listenership and revenue generation. Limbaugh is a wealthy man and a man of significant influence.

No one can deny the (coaching) excellence of Bob Knight, in terms of four-year player graduation rates and national championships. Bob Knight is in basketball's Hall of Fame, and, like Limbaugh, a man of significant influence.

But the effect of Limbaugh, on aspiring broadcasters...and the effect of Knight, on aspiring coaches--it seems to me that the plusses and minuses of those effects can (and should) be debated, in part because, in fact, only a fraction of their work is on public display.

What listeners hear, on the radio, from Limbaugh...is unique to him...and impossible to duplicate. And what goes into Limbaugh's daily 'performance' is something unseen to his listeners; it is private. Indeed, Limbaugh's private life is just that: private.

But in radio studios all over America, the talk-show posers try to imitate the master.

Including the clownsuit at 2 pm on TVoSTL. Click.

And what fans of college basketball saw of Knight, on the bench, was certainly unique to him...and also impossible to duplicate. One can argue, I think, that Bob Knight succeeded as a college basketball coach in spite of his public demeanor, not because of it.

But even today, in high school and college gymnasiums all over America, the coaching posers still try to imitate the General, in all his glory.

=====

Bob Knight was dismissed, at Indiana, in September of 2000, after physically accosting and verbally abusing an IU undergrad. It was, according to the leadership at Indiana, the last in a long line of missteps committed by Knight.

Jim Crews was dismissed, at Army, in September of 2009, under cloudy circumstances that some said involved physically accosting and verbally abusing Army players (i.e. cadets). Crews’ offense was, according to the athletic leadership at Army, the last in a string of missteps. His dismissal came only a few weeks after signing a three-year contract extension (with a two-year option), and just weeks before the start of the college season.

Three years after his dismissal at Army, one hopes that Jim Crews emulates the results associated with Bob Knight, and leaves out the General's 'colorful' side.

That dog won't hunt in the genteel college basketball climate that is St. Louis University, whose most successful modern-day coach (the late Charlie Spoonhour) opened practices to the public at the old gym on Pine Street and, for awhile, was arguably the most beloved sports figure in St. Louis.

It really was a site to see—while Spoonhour watched his team do 3-on-3 drills, runners were circling the track above the court. Runners as in students and faculty. Other athletes were exercising courtside, too…but there was an excitement in the air: everybody wanted to be a part of Spoonball—it was fun and all of St. Louis knew it.

One hopes that interim coach Jim Crews gets the memo.

 

 

WDBX Sunday Sports Review
SSR Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber, Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour, and Joe Buck)
SSR Show Intro mp3 #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


 

...from the stlsports.com archives:

Rick Ankiel is now part of the extended Cardinals family again, as he has been hired by Fox Sports Midwest for pre- and post- game commentary. In 1999, St. Louis Sports Online sat down with Rick for a Q-and-A.

Read on...

=====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

Reluctance & Mystery,
Talent & Expectations:
A Conversation with Rick Ankiel

originally posted June 28, 1999

Rick Ankiel is the brightest lefthanded pitching prospect in all of baseball…and at 19 years of age, is gaining maturity on and off the field…

Reluctance

Earlier this month, Thomas Harding, the Memphis Redbirds’ beat writer for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, asked yours truly a simple question.

It was a question I’ve heard before.

But admittedly, the sports context of his question...was new.

Certainly, though, Harding’s query brought a smile to my face.

His question was this: “How was it for you?”

The context?

Harding, a friendly bloke, wanted to hear about the Rick Ankiel interview I had conducted earlier that evening in the Redbirds’ dugout.

My answer was polite.

“He was...uhhh...reluctant.”

“Good answer!” said the beat writer, making like game-show host Richard Dawson.

Generally speaking, if you want to know something about a professional baseball player, talk to his beat writer.

Evidently, my description of Ankiel squared with Harding’s view of the youngster: reluctant.


Mystery

But the reluctance that Rick Ankiel displays, in his interviews, only adds to the mystery that surrounds him
.
Here’s an analogy.

Think back to when you were fifteen or sixteen...a freshman in high school.

Wasn’t there a pretty girl, a graduating senior girl, that you found mysterious?

Wasn’t she difficult to approach?

And wasn’t she hard to talk to?

But from a distance...wasn’t she fun to watch?

That’s one way to view the mysterious side of Rick Ankiel.

-----

The first thing you notice about Ankiel, up close, is his demeanor.

No, that’s not exactly right.

It’s the combination of his demeanor and his appearance that is so striking.

It’s like one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” features, where one thing is out of place in a photograph.

That’s because, while Ankiel is only 19, and his face and body have the unfinished look of a 19 year old, his outward disposition appears to be that of a veteran (or maybe a teenager trying to act like a veteran).

In this reporter’s opinion, an opinion based on a limited set of observations, Ankiel’s disposition displays equal parts detached arrogance and active intimidation.

And as the recent pre-game beaning in a collegiate baseball game evidenced, there is a substantial intimidation component to pitching
.
(Don’t believe that? Step into a batting cage and dial it up to 80 MPH. You’ll get the picture...and don’t forget your helmet.)

So, for what it’s worth, Rick Ankiel appears intimidating...and mysterious.


Talent

From a distance, though, Rick Ankiel’s pitching talent is obvious to anyone with even a modest knowledge of baseball.

For starters, Ankiel’s delivery has a bit of (ex-Met lefty) Sid Fernandez flavor to it.

You remember El Sid--he hid the ball behind his front hip and leg for what seemed like an eternity, before projecting an above-average fastball toward the batter.

Ankiel’s trickery isn’t as pronounced, but it’s there, and he uses it to his advantage. As a result, Ankiel’s fastball seems to handcuff hitters in a way that adds a few MPH to its 91-92 MPH velocity.

Ankiel’s breaking pitch looks more like a curve ball than a slider. Its effects are best observed by observing the helpless, weak-kneed batter, who often looks like a Little Leaguer watching his first roundhouse.

That’s because Ankiel can throw his sharp-breaking curve for strikes...which, when combined with his heavy fastball, leads to stupendous strikeout totals.

But that’s not all. Ankiel’s change-up, though harder to spot from the stands, is apparently well developed, too.

So where do those strikeouts come from?

In the words of Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins: “He has a very deceptive fastball...the ball jumps...it explodes at the plate.

“He can pitch up in the zone...and the ball just jumps by the hitters’ bat. He can use his change-up to strike guys out...he can use his curve-ball to strike guys out...he has weapons that produce strikeouts. He’s a gamer. He’s an intense guy. When he has two strikes on a guy he tries to strike him out and he has the weapons to do that.”

Riggins continues: “It’s amazing that [Ankiel] has the breaking ball and the change-up at 19 years of age.
“We have guys in our system at the AAA level that we’re still trying to teach the change-up to. Rick has all of those pitches already. It’s just a matter of consistency and getting those pitches in the locations he needs to...all the time.”

Which leads to...


Expectations

Ankiel is 19 years old. The last 19 year old pitcher to make a big splash in the big leagues was Dwight Gooden.

Is it unreasonable to compare Ankiel, the summer 1999 Ankiel, with Gooden?

“I think so,” said Riggins. “You don’t want to put that much of a burden on him. We as pitching coaches treat every kid the same...whether he was a number one [pick] or a free agent...whether he is 8-and-1 or 1-and-8...

“We treat all these guys the same...and try not to put the pressure on him...that’s created more by the media..
.
“The expectations are also created by the fans,” continued Riggins. “That’s great...I love that stuff. But we shouldn’t put that much of a burden on Rick right now. He’s still a young kid trying to develop his stuff.”

And a young kid that, at 6-1 and 190 lbs, still sometimes looks like the teen-ager that he is.

Yet one final word from the Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator, Mark Riggins.
“His body is still growing. Usually at 21 or 22 years old...they fully develop. He’s got a couple more years...and may grow an inch or two…and his body will harden up,” Riggins said.

“When we signed him he was just a soft kid...a little overweight for his age...

“Last year in Peoria...Rick was very low on a test administered by our minor league strength coordinator.

“Rick, he was very low in the group of pitchers. That really stuck in his mind...but the very next day he was out early, running...

“By the end of the year, last year, he had grown into a man and he’s still growing.”


The Last Words

And how might Rick Ankiel finalize his development?

Recently, it was suggested to Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan that a pitcher combining the veteran moxie of Kent Bottenfield with the talent and tools of a Rick Ankiel would be a superstar pitcher.
Duncan’s response?

“That would be a nice combination,” Duncan replied. “Hopefully that’s what Rick Ankiel will be when he gets to the big leagues. He’ll have his physical skills so that he can execute and the only thing that will be missing is what you gain with experience at this level.

“And that’s knowing the opposition and knowing what you have to do to be a successful major league pitcher. He is 19 years old. There’s no getting around that,” Duncan said.

“I think he’s a mature 19 when it comes to baseball...he has a very good idea what he’s doing. He pays attention...he’s been a very coachable athlete and he’s learned a lot in the short time he’s been playing professional baseball.”

And Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty‘s view on Ankiel?

“Rick Ankiel is a young man who just needs a little more seasoning. He’s going to get better with experience. He’s got great ability and great pitches...he has to learn how to get hitters out at the higher levels...how to set up guys....everything comes easy for him right now but it’s going to get tougher as he moves up. But I think he’s very capable of making the adjustments.”

Jocketty’s parting shot, issued in March of 1999?

Not a promise or a commitment; just a declarative sentence.

“I don’t think it will be very long before he gets to St. Louis.”


The Conversation
[recorded June 12, 1999]

StLSO: We’re here in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting with Memphis Redbirds lefthander Rick Ankiel. Good afternoon, Rick.
Ankiel: Hi…how you doin’?

StLSO: We’re doing all right. Rick Ankiel…you’re 19 years old…you finished high school…two years ago?
Ankiel: Yeah, I believe so.

StLSO: That’s not too long ago. Fans are interested in your pitching ability and they are interested in some other things about you. Your pitching ability has brought you along way…do your high school days seem like a long time ago…or just yesterday?
Ankiel: It seems like a long time ago…to be honest. Last year was a long year, this year has gone well and has been flying by and I hope it will continue to be the same.

StLSO: What kinds of experiences from your high school days directly apply to what it is you’re doing now?
Ankiel: What do you mean?

StLSO: What I mean is…did you feel like your pitching skills were pretty well formed as a senior in high school…or not?
Ankiel: I don’t think so. [In high school] I just went out there and threw. I’ve started to learn a lot about pitching rather than just throwing the ball by people. I’m learning a lot and it’s a lot of fun right now and it couldn’t be better.

StLSO: It couldn’t be better…I guess you had a satisfactory for yourself last night…you feel pretty good about your performance yesterday?
Ankiel: I think last night was probably my worst performance of the year.

StLSO: In what way was it not as good as you would like?
Ankiel: In every way…in five innings I threw 92 pitches. As a starter, you’re not going to be able to stay in the game and help your team. As a starter, you just can’t pitch like that.

StLSO: We cover 40 or 50 games with the Cardinals every year…and you can hardly do a post-game interview with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan without either of them using words like ‘adversity’ and people being able to come back from adversity…was yesterday as adverse a set of conditions that you’ve faced as a minor leaguer?
Ankiel: I don’t know as a minor leaguer…but definitely this year. It just wasn’t a good outing…I couldn’t really find a zone and things just didn’t really go too well.

StLSO: Rick, what is it that you like best about minor league baseball at this point…your teammates, the traveling…or not?
Ankiel: Everything…I mean…you’re playing something that you love to do and you’re playing in a dream when you’re doing things like that.

StLSO: So things are in a real positive sense for you…you’re happy where you’re at, biding your time, and looking to make good pitches…
Ankiel: I guess so.

StLSO: I’m wondering if there’s something I can ask you outside of baseball…that you’d be interested in talking about…high school…favorite classes…something you were interested in or not?
Ankiel: No man…baseball…that’s it.

StLSO: When you were eight, when you were ten, when you were twelve…you wrote on a paper somewhere that you wanted to be a baseball player…how long has this been a dream of yours?
Ankiel: I think, like, most kids in America, just growing up…it’s always a dream…for me, I don’t know. I guess ever since I’ve been little…right now, I’m trying to fulfill that and just keep focused on baseball.

StLSO: Do you have any sense of the anticipation that the folks in the city by the Arch, St. Louis, have for you?
Ankiel: I don’t pay attention to that…I leave that up to you guys…I just try to stay focused on pitching…and not worry about media…and other outside influences.

StLSO: Frankly, we’re interested, in the media, as well as the fans, in seeing that, that can happen for you, Rick Ankiel…good luck the rest of the year.
Ankiel: Thank you.

=====

 

=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

Nearly 18 years ago, the androstenedione controversy surrounding Mark McGwire was the talk of St. Louis...but perhaps not how you mighrt remember it!

Out on a Limb?

posted August 27. 1998

A look at the way the St. Louis media handled the publicity surrounding Mark McGwire’s use of androstenedione


MEMO TO:
The St. Louis sports community

SUBJECT:
Mark McGwire and Androstenedione (andro)

DATE: August 27, 1998

....on KMOX radio, Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Jack Buck said it was a “non-story”, and pledged not to talk about the Mark McGwire androstenedione controversy.

Ex-St. Louis Sports Online contributor Randy Karraker, ably working the KMOX mike alongside Buck, agreed.

KTRS’ Kevin Slaten pitched in with his own bombastic opinion, saying that the original AP account of the story, and the front page androstenedione follow-up by the Post-Dispatch, only confirmed his own view that print journalists, and sportswriters in particular, are the lowest form of life on this planet.

In essence, Slaten completely agreed with the stated Buck-Karraker on-air opinion, saying that the whole Mac-andro affair was a “non-story”.

On KFNS AM-590, host Frank Cusumano expressed his view that “it’s legal, and therefore I don’t have a problem with it”.

St. Louis media veteran Scott Simon, another former St. Louis Sports Online contributor who now plies his trade at Kansas City’s CBS AM outlet, KMBZ, informed yours truly that the story was overblown...that he himself suffers from asthma, and the medication that he takes to control his condition renders him ineligible for the Olympics.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m thinking of the Jamaican bobsled team...Mr. Simon.)

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, a recent guest of the Saturday Sports Review, chimed in with a rather balanced view of the McGwire andro connection, noting that (1) the Olympic ban of andro can’t be taken too seriously in light of the IOC’s banning of various over-the-counter medications (such as Sudafed); and (2) the NBA ban of andro is ridiculous, too, since pot is not on the league’s list of banned substances.

But Miklasz covered all bases by espousing the view that androstenedione is legal, considered to be a nutritional supplement, and not banned by baseball’s establishment.

In other words, it’s OK to take andro because it’s not against the rules to do so.

KFNS’ Brian Stull, yet another former St. Louis Sports Online contributor, noted that the current media attention to Mac’s andro usage is, in his view, overblown, since Stull claims that McGwire openly discussed his use of supplements on at least two occasions in the weeks prior to the AP “scoop”.

And in their initial comments on the McGwire story, which were apparently based on early media accounts of the controversy, St. Louis Sports Online columnist (and WGNU sportscaster) Mike Huss, and St. Louis Sports Online photographer Eric Niederhoffer both leaned toward the view that the story was overblown...and that a possible driving force for the story was the media’s incessant desire to tear down the heroes that they themselves elevate.

So, despite all those opinions, all which sound logical in one way or another...

…why does McGwire’s use of andro leave a funny feeling in the pit of the stomach of this observer?

I don’t know.

Well, maybe I do.

Maybe it’s because all of Mac’s defenders sound, to my ears, a lot like President Clinton’s defenders.

Literally straining to defend their man.

Parsing their words.

And sounding like lawyers.

The Clinton defenders...and the McGwire defenders...their statements sound OK...they just don’t sound right.

Complicating issues include the fact that yours truly voted for Clinton.

Twice.

And McGwire’s mammoth home runs have lit up summer for this particular sports consumer like no other recent time in sports.

But one thing seems certain.

In the 1998 baseball season, there is almost nothing connected with Mark McGwire that can be referred to as a non-story.

And the McGwire-androstenedione connection is, in fact, a huge story.

And, to this observer, it seems wrong to blame the media for publishing a story that, in more than one aspect, defines sports in the ‘90s.

We haven’t heard the last of Big Mac and androstenedione.

It does seem unfortunate, though, that in this one-in-a-lifetime baseball season, that Mark McGwire’s historic chase has been tarnished.

One more thing, though.

Recall that longtime St. Louis baseball observers--guys like Bob Broeg, Red Schoendienst, George Kissell, and the aforementioned Buck (that’s about two centuries worth of baseball there, folks)--all grin and utter more or less the same line, when asked about McGwire.

“I’ve never seen anything like him.”