Radio for the Off-Days

It’s an off-day today.  So I figured I’d pound out a few thoughts.

First, I’ve always had a thing for baseball announcers.  Their stories fascinated me as a kid.  Growing up in small-town Nebraska, I didn’t get much access to broadcasts, but when I did I was a good audience.

I loved Joe Garagiola during the Saturday Game of the WeekBob Uecker popped up on the broadcasts and the commercials during those days.  He’s a genius.  And it turns out Vin Scully was pretty good during the post-season.

Fortunately, Pat Hughes — the long-time voice of the Chicago Cubs — shares a similar affection for these guys.  Pat has produced a series of CDs devoted to the careers of several great announcers.  He even did one on my partner, Milo Hamilton.

I strongly recommend spending a few minutes to check out “Baseball Voices: Commemorative Audio Tributes to Baseball’s Greatest Announcers.”  Pat has written, narrated and produced 10 fabulous CDs with historic radio calls, background stories and lots of extra audio rarely heard for legends like Harry Caray, Marty Brennaman, Red Barber and others.

Along those lines, the Astros returned from Chicago late last night after completing a three-game series with the Cubs.  Per usual, the radio booth at Wrigley Field was a disaster.  It’s tiny and uncomfortable.  Often times it’s suffocatingly hot.

It’s also one of the greatest places on earth.

For years I sat no more than a foot away from Cubs radio analyst Ron Santo — separated only by the pane of glass between our booths.  We talked a lot.  Ronnie loved to chat.  And, man, did we laugh.  Everyone who talked to Ron laughed.

A lot.

I tell my boys that Ron never had a bad day.  I’m not exaggerating. I’ve never heard of him appearing tired or frustrated or down.

We’re talking about a guy who endured eight surgeries on his right leg before doctors had to amputate his foot.  Several weeks later, they brought him back in to amputate the rest of his leg from the knee down.

The following year, doctors took his left leg from the knee down as well.  Heart attacks, quadruple-bypass surgery and a life-long battle with juvenile diabetes never seemed to bother Ron Santo.

The one thing that occasionally drove Santo nuts was — no surprise here — the Cubs.  When they played well, Ronnie beamed.  When they struggled, it broke his heart.  His suffering was heartfelt, genuine and painful.  It was also endearing.

Ron Santo passed away at the tail end of 2010.  First week of December.  Less than a month ago he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame; a recognition he openly hoped to receive.

I always felt Ron’s playing career was Hall worthy, but admit that I might be swayed by my affection for the man and his unique broadcast style.

Last week, I pulled into my garage and let our mini-van’s engine idle for a few extra moments as my wife and kids climbed out.  I wasn’t quite ready to get out, myself; I needed a little more time.

It just so happened that we were listening to “Baseball Voices: Ron Santo.”  It’s the only audio tribute Pat Hughes has done for a non play-by-play man.  And it’s a beauty.

“Mom, is Dad laughing or crying?” my 9-year old son asked.

“Yes,” she said.

My wife understands me pretty well.  I was definitely laughing.  I was also crying.  I couldn’t help it; Ronnie had that effect on me.  I miss the big fella.


MORE SANTO (thanks James)

Santo’s wife, Vicki, delivered a terrific speech at Ron’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  She captured the spirit and personality of the man as beautifully as could be imagined.


If you want a little taste of the kind of funny stuff you’ll find on “Baseball Voices: Ron Santo,” check out this video of Pat Hughes talking about Santo before his HOF induction in July.  Good fun when you have a few minutes to watch:

Pat Hughes and Ron Santo — great broadcasters but better men.

Strange and Breathless Days

So the Dog Days of summer are here.  Not sure if you noticed.

On Sunday morning I wrote a lengthy blog about this annual phenomenon.  I’m not going to tell you that it was prize-winning prose, but I was happy with the way it read. Then I hit the “publish” button on my screen and watched in horror as everything I wrote vanished into the ether.

I could have been furious at or my computer.  But I was too tired.  Maybe it was cached somewhere.

It wasn’t.

Fact of the matter is, I screwed up.  I didn’t check to see when last auto-save took place.  I wasn’t careful enough to copy the text before leaving the screen.  I was reckless.  Lazy.

That’s what happens this time of year.

The heat bears down on a guy.  The baseball schedule and exhaustion start to wear like a lead jacket.  If I didn’t know it first-hand, I surely would have noticed it last week.

When we arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday night, I watched Astros TV man Bill Brown struggle with his room key.  Every weary traveler has dealt with this frustration, right?  The card was mis-programmed or the magnetic strip is corrupt.  Sometimes an older hotel room door can be sensitive or wonky.

Anyway, you have to gather up your stuff again, traipse back to the elevator, return to the front desk and wait in line.  Once there, you explain the situation, dig out your driver’s license and start all over again.

Or, in Brownie’s case, you could just put your Starbuck’s gift-card back in your wallet and try your actual room key.  Much easier.

Poor fella.  He was all tuckered out.

I’m not trying to tell you that we’re all tired.  I’m trying to tell you that we’re passed-out-at-the-lunch-table exhausted (yep…that happened too.  Story for another day.).  That is what the Dog Days are to baseball people.

Some teams compensate by injecting new players into the clubhouse (read: Dodgers, Braves, Giants, etc.).  They hope for renewed energy and buoyed spirits with the additions.  Other teams do whatever they can to work around injuries or loss of personnel as they try to keep their heads above water (read: it’s not nice to point fingers).

When I was younger, this was simply the time of year when pennant races took shape.  When children pass the time looking for images in the clouds while contemplating nature and immortality. The structure-less days of summer blended into one another and Sirius began to rise with the sun.

Now I find myself in the lobby of a hotel in Milwaukee doing whatever I can to remember my room number.  When the bellman asked me the other day, I realized I had no idea.  I’m guessing I’d have a better chance of explaining why the Babylonians found Pi to be so irrational.

After the Astros homestand that begins Monday night, the team will head out for a stretch of five series in five different cities – with no more than 72 hours to settle in any one town.  Here’s the upcoming travel schedule:  ChicagoHoustonSt. LouisNew YorkHouston.

In mid-August.  During the Dog Days.

Talk about a punishing schedule!

Last week, in Milwaukee, Brownie returned to the hotel in the middle of the day.  He got off the elevator on his floor and started looking for his room.  The floors at this particular hotel are circular.  As he walked, Bill noticed that just about every door had a “do not disturb” sign hanging from the handle.  Finally, he found one without a sign.  He tried his key.  Not his room.

He kept walking around and found another door with out a sign.  He tried his key again.

Viola!  Home sweet home!

If only.



Among the many things baseball gives us, are the fascinating ways in which to examine the game.  One fun way is through numbers.  We find great discrepancies, odd parallels and inexplicable rarities.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the career stats for the Astros starting lineup on Sunday:

  • J. Altuve             619 AB            180 H                          7 HR
  • M. Gonzalez       142 AB              37 H                          1 HR
  • B. Wallace          534 AB            135 H                        11 HR
  • J. Maxwell          401 AB              89 H                        21 HR
  • S. Moore             283 AB              64 H                        12 HR
  • S. Pearce            547 AB            129 H                        12 HR
  • B. Bogusevic      479 AB            113 H                        10 HR
  • C. Corporan        189 AB              41 H                          2 HR

         TOTALS             3194 AB            788 H                        76 HR

We know the Astros are in the throes of a rebuilding project.  The youth movement is well underway, to be sure.  As a result, we saw a most unusual contrast in experience on Sunday.  Check out the career numbers for the Braves’ cleanup hitter, Chipper Jones:

Chipper Jones            8837 AB           2691 H                    464 HR

So Chipper has taken more than 5600 at bat more than the entire Astros lineup, collected over 1900 more hits and swatted more than six times more homers.

I’d say the difference is stunning, but that might be an understatement.



I stumbled across an jaw-dropping observation the other day.  I’m not even sure why I was reading this article.  It opened my eyes to a surprising fact, however.

So let me pose you this question: since May 15th, who do you think has led the American League in these four offensive categories (HR, RBIs, SLG% and OBP)?

Anyway, it’s not an obvious answer.  At least it wasn’t for me.  Maybe it’ll jump out at you, but think about it for a minute before you read the article.

If you happen to guess correctly before reading the piece, you’re invited to follow me on twitter: @daveraymond4