Just a short blog this time; mainly to thank all the many people for their kind thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of my brother-in-law. He had fought the good fight against cancer for more than 3-1/2 years, and he died following an RV trip. He loved being out on the road, so we all felt like he went out “in the saddle” as he liked to say. My sister will have some difficult moments in the days ahead, but she knows that her family is there for all the support she might need. The priest in his homily at the funeral services said something most appropriate, and something that I will carry with me for the rest of my days, not only for my brother-in-law, but for all the people that have had an impact on my life. He said we cry at funerals because we have lost someone dear to us. Rather, he advised, we should smile because that person “happened”, and in the process, made all of us richer for it.
Today’s CHECK IT OUT is in honor of my brother-in-law, who loved doo-wop music. You cannot beat “Blue Moon” by the Marcels or “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters. They were two of his favorites.
A baseball season is such a roller coaster of emotions, it is hard for the fans not to get too excited one way or another as a season progresses. The Rockies are one of the best offenses in the National League—the Major Leagues, for that matter—but it doesn’t mean there won’t be slumps through the course of 162 games. Did the ballclub miss out on some winnable opportunities on this recent homestand? Without question. But look at the standings, and you can see that with the exception, perhaps, of the St. Louis Cardinals, all the other teams are experiencing, or have gone through, the same kind of stretch that currently plagues the Rockies.
The eternal mantra for any MLB team is to keep the down cycles from becoming too long, too deep. I refer back to my early days as a big league broadcaster in Cleveland where “baseball lifer”, John Goryl, gave me some sage advice. He was the Indians’ third base coach at the time, and he told me to remember 4-3. No, not a groundball out to the second baseman, but rather a formula to follow to be a successful team. John said if a team goes 4-3 every 7 games, they will be a playoff team, or at least a serious contender. That doesn’t seem like much, but when it is spread out over an entire season, a team wins 92-93 games.
As the Rockies prepare to play their 35th game tonight here in Saint Louis, their record stands at 19-15. A win tonight and they are right on track with the 4-3 formula. It will be a large challenge this weekend against the Cardinals, but my point is that, even with some recent struggles, they can be contenders if they continue to play by following the 4-3 plan.
One other bit of math for you. Treat a baseball season like a football game. The first quarter (40 games) is the feeling-out process to get some idea what kind of team they might be. By halftime (80 games), there is a better sense of what to expect and what adjustments might be necessary. Come time for the 4th quarter (120 games), the team makes its final push to get the victory, or in the case of baseball, a spot in the postseason. We’re nearing the end of the first quarter, and the Rockies are doing all right at the moment.
As for our CHECK IT OUT, how about making certain to do something for Mom on her big day this Sunday. So much of my love for baseball came from my mother, and although I will get to see her this weekend through the difficult situation of the passing of one of my brothers-in-law, it will be wonderful to tell her in person how much she has meant to me. If you are still blessed to have your mother in your life, make sure you let her know how much of a superstar she has been.
Jerry and I talked about it during last night’s broadcast from Los Angeles, but it bears repeating. When I first began broadcasting MLB games in 1985, the Cleveland Indians were not a very good team. By the middle of June, they were already 20 games below .500, on the way to a record of 60-102. Needless to say, I had never experienced before anything like that, whether as an athlete or a broadcaster. One of my colleagues in Cleveland was Herb Score, a tremendous left-handed pitcher, who saw his career derailed when he took a line drive to his face, although Herb said a shoulder injury was the ultimate cause. He broadcast Indians games for 34 seasons, describing more than 2,500 losses during that time. In fact, between 1964 and 1994, the Indians finished above .500 only 6 times.
In that 1985 season, I sought advice from Herb as to how a baseball broadcaster can still be effective when a team is on its way to an ignominious season. He told me a baseball play-by-play man should always remember three things:
1) Even the worst MLB team is likely to win 50-60 games, so a broadcaster can come to the ballpark with the hope that this game would be one of those wins. If the team lost, hopes would remain because those 50-60 wins were still going to happen, and now the odds have improved.
2) More often than not, some play will take place—whether from the team you are covering or the opposition—that will make you say WOW!
3) Many times, something will take place that you have never seen before in a game.
I have made that my philosophy in my coverage of baseball ever since; something that helped during last season’s tough results for the Rockies. It was also brought home to me over the past several games on this trip. The Rockies were issued 4 walks in one inning without scoring a run. Eric Young hit doubles in consecutive at-bats, only to be thrown out at third, later in the inning. The Rockies collected 19 hits in last night’s game at Dodger Stadium, the most in one game in L-A in the team’s history. Finally, Scott Schumaker, an infielder-outfielder by trade, pitched the 9th inning for the Dodgers. I’ve been privileged to cover more than 4,000 games in the big leagues, and unbelievably, the elements I just mentioned all were firsts for me. That’s just a small reason why baseball is such a beautiful game for me.
Two CHECK IT OUTS in this edition. It will be fun to watch how Nolan Arenado adapts to the big leagues. He’s just 22, but it is evident that he has the talent and the passion for the game. Now we get to see if he can handle the pressure that goes with the expectations for him. It should be fascinating. At the other end of the age spectrum, check out the latest album from Tom Jones. Now 71, his latest release, SPIRIT IN THE ROOM, is a testament to his staying power as an entertainer. For a performer that first made the spotlight because of his sexuality nearly 50 years ago, he still is a powerful singer. In particular, enjoy his rendition of the old Blind Willie Jefferson tune SOUL OF A MAN.