The Baseball Cheat Goes On

The great Dave Ramsey often says that high-income earners can fall prey to “doing stupid with zeros at the end.” In other words, we all make mistakes, but with increased wealth comes the possibility of bigger, more costly mistakes.

I’m reminded of this as we hear yet another round of Performance Enhanced Drug allegations, involving big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Gio Gonzalez and others.

The fact is, baseball players have always cheated. Or should I say, “stretched beyond the written rules to gain an edge.” Take this brief list, for example:

- Pine tar

- Amphetamines

- Scuffing

- Stealing signs

- Petroleum Jelly

- Corked bats

- Steroids


- Synthetic PEDs

Baseball players have always looked for an advantage, and always will. They were cheating 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 1 year ago, last week and today. They will cheat tomorrow and this season too.

The only difference now is that today, through remarkable innovation, the methods of cheating are beyond anything we’ve ever seen. We’ve gone from cork and greenies to labs and synthetics.

I heard all the rumors and stories when broadcasting in the 90’s, and some guys I knew well ended up named in the Mitchell Report.

Players are only human. They’re going to cash in when possible. The big difference, today they are cashing in with zeros at the end.

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New York Super Bowl Freeze Out

With next year’s Super Bowl looming for New York, all the talk in the Tri-State area is about the possibility of frigid, near-zero temperatures for the big game.

Will fans stay home? Will they pay exorbitant prices to freeze their pigskins off in early February?

The question may not be aimed so much at the fans as it will be the media.

Fans will come out, they always do. Especially for the Super Bowl. And they will pay – and overpay – a pretty penny for the privilege to do so.

It’s the media and sponsorship world that will voice their disapproval. After all, they do the Super Bowl thing every year, and it’s always in a nice, warm place. The working media deserve the best of the best, right?  How can they go from Bourbon Street to East Rutherford?

Fans, they just yearn to be in the stadium, or within a hundred miles of it. They’ll camp out in the cold, make snow angels in their undies or walk barefoot across an icy Garden State Parkway just to get near a Super Bowl. After all, by noon many of them won’t feel the cold anyway.

Fans will pay to attend, and they’ll have a blast. It will be a day New Yorkers will not forget. Those of us not paying will be the ones yapping about the cold.

Grand Release Interview for Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

When we released the new minor league baseball book, Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues, we launched the book on the popular Denver sports talk show, Artificial Turf.

Listen to the interview here! Time marker 46:30 of the program

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Podcast Powered By Podbean Or go here.... December 23rd, time marker 46:30

Guest Post: Who's On First? - By Ricky Cibrano

Who’s on First? - By Ricky Cibrano -  @RickyCibrano

A few weeks ago, I was flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon and came across a college basketball game on ESPN2. It was a game between North Carolina and an opponent I’ve since forgotten (it’s not important), which was being called by a fairly prominent broadcaster who shall remain nameless. I’m not the most avid college basketball fan, meaning I really had no clue who most of the guys running around the court were. But hey, that’s why we have play-by-play guys, right? To tell us what’s going on? Only problem was, this particular broadcaster seemed to be just as clueless as I about who was on the court. A typical possession went something likes this: 5 seconds of color commentary, followed by 20 seconds of silence, followed by (after a made basket) “so-and-so has 6.” These weren’t critical late game possessions, mind you, where a broadcaster might choose to “let the moment breath,” but rather a stretch of play in the middle of the 1st half. Maybe it was a bad day, maybe the play-by-play guy got better as the game went along—I don’t know, because I didn’t stick around to find out. After about 10 minutes of being in the dark and remaining clueless as to what, or more specifically who, I was watching, I got frustrated and changed the channel.

The point of this little anecdote is that it reminded me of the importance of something that I struggled with when I was first trying my hand at broadcasting—memorizing names. Learning the names and numbers of players seems so simple—I mean, how many countless names pop into your head for no reason at all on a given day? In reality, it’s not as easy as it seems—but it is absolutely essential to producing a quality on air product, especially on the radio. I can remember 4 years ago doing my earliest football demos for WFUV while I was at Fordham, and spending all this time putting together boards for the occasion—they were done up in different colors, highlighted, shaded, underlined—you name it, I did it. Only problem was, when the game started, they were utterly useless because other than the two starting QB’s, I had no idea who was on the field (ironically, Fordham’s QB that game was current Arizona Cardinal John Skelton, a source of pride for a football program that has less alumnus in the NFL than the now defunct Hofstra Pride). That bit of history aside, I wasn’t happy with the work I did that day, and it took me a little bit of time (and a few more demos) to realize what the problem was and how I could correct it.

The bad news is, unless you’re one of the privileged few who can watch a couple minutes of warm-ups and immediately know everyone on the court or field (if you are one of those people, I hate you), there is no quick fix, you simply have to take the time to memorize the names and numbers, as dull as that sounds. However, while at Fordham, I did figure out a couple of tricks to speed up the process and maximize my time. For example, I’d keep the opposing teams roster on my phone and periodically drill myself on it during the day—in class (you can guess what type of student I was), at the gym, while watching TV—I’d quiz myself, until I could run through the list of names and numbers without a hitch. Of course, the best way to learn the names is to watch game tape of the team you’re studying up on, but when you’re not always afforded that luxury, sometimes you have to get creative, which is what I tried to do.

Résumé and Reel:

Twitter: @RickyCibrano

Is It Really About The Broadcaster?

Why do so many broadcasters make it all about them?

Last week, during the Packers-Niners playoff game, they threw it down to sideline reporter Erin Andrews as the second half was about to begin.

She started, “Well I just talked with coach Jim Harbaugh, who told me….blah blah blah…”

Why is it about her? Why not just say, “Coach Jim Harbaugh just said….”

Fans are watching to see the game and hear about its participants.

Of course you talked to him, but we don’t care. After all, it’s your job.

Some broadcasters just like you to know that they were just talking to an NFL coach.

Many broadcasters, like Andrews, simply fall into the lazy habits of the pack.

Successful, secure sportscasters try to cut to the chase and leave themselves out of it.


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Al Michaels In A Landslide

Your voices were heard loud and clear, and it was a landslide.

In last week’s poll, you voted Al Michaels as the NFL’s best television play by play broadcaster.

The results were as follows:

Al Michaels 61%

Jim Nantz 16%

Mike Tirico 11%

Joe Buck 6%

Gus Johnson 4%

Other 2%

Your reasons for choosing Michaels were enthusiasm and knowledge.

Michaels is always on top of the game, the situation, the rules and the flow of the action. He lets the game come to him. Michaels speaks the fan’s language, with the ability to dissect a situation with great complexity.

Al Michaels’ has a sense of humor, however he doesn’t seem to force it. That was one criticism of Joe Buck.

While the margin was somewhat surprising, it made complete sense why our voters went with Al Michaels in a huge way.

Any attributes I left off?

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Bobby Knight Overmatched

Bob Knight was overmatched by the shot clock last week.
During his role on Thursday's broadcast between Kentucky and Vanderbilt, Knight either fell asleep or completely forgot what a shot clock was for.
I personally think he may have drifted away from the game, allowing himself to become confused and disoriented.
Not the Knight we've been used to seeing and hearing for so many years.

One of the first rules of sportscasting.  Always, always, always know the rules of the game.
I don't doubt that Bobby Knight knows the rules of the game of basketball.
Even more concerning, I think this example shows him slipping off to a momentary confusion.

Can you explain his on-air behavior?

You Can't Play This Game On Milk & Cookies!

“You can’t play this game on milk and cookies!”

Those were the words of a minor league manager about 20 years ago, hearing about his star player’s late-night exploits the night before.

Baseball is full of colorful characters and colorful quotes. One of the all-time greats came from Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson, who in 1930 set baseball’s all-time single-season RBI record with 191.

Manager Joe McCarthy had become increasingly irritated by Wilson’s late-night debauchery, which was legendary. One morning, he called the slugger into his office and closed the door. On his desk were two clear drinking glasses – one filled with water, the other with whiskey.

McCarthy dropped a live, squirming worm into the water, and watched it squirm. He dropped the second worm into the whiskey, and it immediately went stiff and died.

McCarthy looked up at Wilson and asked, “So what does that tell you?”

“Well,” replied the hung-over slugger, “It means that as long as I keep drinking, I won’t catch worms!”
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A Ballplayer Who Wet The Bed

The following is one of more than 80 stories told in Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues

Baseball is famous for its practical jokers and one of the best we’ve had in Salt Lake was one particular relief pitcher. Unfortunately for this pitcher, one his best pranks was an expensive one for him.

The team was in Vancouver and he waited for a couple of his teammates to leave their room. After the coast was clear, he somehow was able to get into it and proceeded to remove the sheets and blanket from one of the beds. He then took the mattress off of the bed and took it into the shower where he completely soaked it. After he was done, he put the mattress back on the box springs and then made the bed as neatly as the maid that worked in the hotel.

A while later, the two teammates made it back to their room for a mid-day nap. Well, when one of them laid down he went “squish”. He sank down into the cold wet mattress and become soaked as well.

This pitcher had a great laugh until the hotel sent him a bill for $400 to replace the ruined bedding.

-Steve Klauke, Voice of the Salt Lake Bees

This and 80 more stories, told by more than 20 professional broadcasters, in this book.  Click for info!

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A Tool Every Baseball Broadcaster Needs

There was one tool that every baseball announcer CANNOT live without.  Without this tool, you would lost on the air.  You would have no clue.  The game would fly by you and your career would end before it ever got started.

What is this one indispensable tool?

Your scorebook, of course.

Whether it's the back of a napkin, or a top-notch, professional quality scorebook, it is the one tool you absolutely must have.  A necessity to help you keep up with the rosters, game history and storylines.

I've used many scorebooks in my day.  As a teen I used to keep score of games on TV and radio with the basic book you can buy from any sporting goods store.

My broadcasting life changed one day, however, as my broadcast partner, Bill Rogan, bought me my very first Bob Carpenter scorebook.  From that day in the mid-90's, I've never broadcast a baseball game without this book.

I've never met Bob Carpenter, and I don't benefit in any way from this recommendation.  It just happens to be the very best scorebook I've ever used.  The book's layout is exactly as you would wish, with plenty of room for customization.  Large writing areas, ample room to keep you organized during that five-hour, 16-inning affair.

The best part about this book - all kinds of extra room for tidbits.  As I always say, tidbits make a broadcast, and in baseball you need a ton of them.  Interesting facts, figures, stories and anecdotes that make a ballgame a joy to listen to.  Bob Carpenter's scorebook has more than enough room to keep you going.  Add in a few hours of pre-game prep and you're all set.

This may not be the best book, but it was for me.  Check it out, it may help.

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Keep Your Focus On The Field

I received a tweet yesterday that I disagreed with completely.

The author was thrilled that a football television broadcast included so many great crowd shots during the exciting game. Philosophically, I couldn’t disagree more.

A broadcaster’s role is, in a sense, to put the viewer in the seat next to you at the game. What can I do to make the viewer feel as though he is sitting in the arena? How can I make them feel as if they are at the game?

I’ve been to many an exciting game in my day, both as a fan and as a broadcaster. I can honestly say that – with the exception of an occasional high-five – I hardly ever scan the crowd looking to see how other fans are reacting. Since I’m at the game, I’m watching the game. That’s precisely why I’m there! I’m not wasting my time watching how fans are reacting to the game that I paid to watch myself.

That’s not to say an occasionally crowd shot – during down time – shouldn’t be a value added to the telecast. But in spots, and not intrusively placed.

Next time you’re at a game, look around. Are fans constantly turning their heads, gazing into the crowd, rather than onto the field? Nope, they are watching the game. That is why they are there! The telecast should reflect the occasional glance, rather than the over-used shots of crazed fanatics.

Your job as a broadcaster is to facilitate as much of that feeling when your viewer is at home.

Am I wrong?
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Chris Spatola

More than a decade ago, I called games for Army Basketball at West Point. 
The team was mediocre, at best.
The players and coaching staff were first-rate - excellent people and leaders.  As a broadcaster, they treated me extremely well, as if I was one of the team.

It was a great experience being around these guys and traveling with them.  I could feel the respect these Cadets garnered upon entering each opposing arena - especially places such as Duke, Ohio State and N.C. State.  These Black Knights were true leaders, much more than most so-called "student athletes."

During my final season at West Point, Chris Spatola was the team's starting point guard.
It was a pleasure to watch him and Coach Pat Harris get the most out of their team. 
Legendary Author John Feinstein even chronicled that Patriot League season in his book, The Last Amateurs
Today Spatola works as a television college basketball analyst, as well as in numerous roles connected to Duke University's basketball program.  It has been fun watching his career from afar, and following his thoughts on Twitter.
Follow his work here if you have a chance. 
He is a fine product of the United States Military Academy, and a terrific reminder of my exciting seasons calling games for Army Hoops.
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10 Great Things About Baseball 2012

R.A. Dickey - Starts the year with a telling, soul-filled memoir. Ends with a Cy Young and lucrative new location.

Baltimore Orioles - Like him or not, Buck Showalter was fabulous leading the surprise O's to a 93-69 regular season record and a wild card playoff spot

Superb Pitching - 7 no-hitter, 3 perfect games.  Especially from unexpected sources.

Bill Hamilton - Reds phenom minor leaguer, swiping a combined 155 bases at two levels

Vin Scully - Honored by a Dodgers bobblehead while calling his 63rd season for the organization

Hall of Fame Discussions - More focus on blocking the juicers from Cooperstown, at least for now

Miguel Cabrera - First Triple-Crown since 1967, amazing year for the AL MVP

San Francisco Giants - Stunning 4-game sweep of Detroit.  First NL team since 1919 to chuck consecutive World Series shutouts.  Fantastic performance by Bruce Bochy and the gang.

Los Angeles Dodgers Sale - As ugly as a bad reality show.  The drama finally ended.

Josh Hamilton - The ultimate story of redemption.  After personal combacks and a strong showing with Texas, now has $125 million reasons to love Los Angeles.

What would you add to the list?
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