Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Interview with Rangers Broadcaster and Ford Frick Award Winner, Eric Nadel 7/27/14

Hey baseball fans!

It's Hall of Fame induction weekend! Congratulations to Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre for being inducted into Cooperstown. Oh wait, I forgot to congratulate the winner of this year's Ford C. Frick Award, Texas Rangers broadcaster, Eric Nadel (no relation)! The reason I'm mentioning the veteran Rangers announcer is that I just interviewed him live at Yankee Stadium in his radio booth in a recent Yankees vs. Rangers game, after Eric invited me to join him! I recorded the interview on my audio recorder, so the interview is up on YouTube. But before I give you the link, let me tell you a little bit about Eric.

Eric Nadel grew up in Brooklyn, NY and graduated from Brown University in 1972, where he practiced in the booth by broadcasting college hockey and football games. He has been a Rangers broadcaster for the last 36 years and has worked with other legendary broadcasters like Mark Holtz and John Miller and learned a lot about the game from them. Eric was elected into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 and became the 15th member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2012. Nadel has won the Texas Sportscaster of the Year Award seven times and has announced all of the Rangers' trips to the playoffs, including their World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. A speaker of Spanish, he has made many trips to Cuba to study baseball there. Nadel has also won the Associated Press award for best play-by-play in Texas twice. I was very honored to interview such a great broadcaster and hope he receives even more awards in the future.

Now that you are more familiar with Eric Nadel, click here to listen to the interview. By the way, while I was in the Rangers' broadcasting booth, I got to meet some of the announcers for the Yankees, such as radio announcers John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, and television announcers for the YES Network, Michael Kay, Paul O'Neill, and John Flaherty. I also met Jesus Suarez Valmaña, the number one baseball broadcaster in Cuba and a good friend of Nadel.

(Left: Paul O'Neill) (Right: John Flaherty)

(Left: Michael Kay) (Right: Jesus Suarez Valmaña, Suzyn Waldman, Eric Nadel, and John Sterling)

Thanks for listening to my interview with Eric Nadel. And a huge thanks again to Eric for inviting me up to the booth!!  I hope you enjoyed the interview and check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An Interview with the Penguin: Ron Cey 7/26/14

Hey baseball fans!

Who's ready to read an interview with former Dodgers' All Star third baseman, Ron Cey? I hope you are, but before you get the chance to read about a member of the 1981 World Series-winning Dodgers, let me tell you a little bit about Cey.

Ronald Charles Cey (pronounced like "say") played in the MLB from 1971-1987 with the Dodgers, Cubs, and A's. The six-time All Star from 1974-1979 was an excellent third baseman, finishing his career with 316 career home runs. Nicknamed the "Penguin" in college because of the way he walked, Cey was a fan favorite in LA and led the Dodgers to four World Series (1974, 1977, 1978, 1981). He finally got his World Series ring in 1981, hitting .350 in the Series against the Yankees, with a homer and six RBIs. This performance earned the Penguin co-World Series MVP honors, along with Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager. He currently works for the Dodgers organization.

Now that you know a basic summary of his career, here is an interview with Dodgers' great, Ron Cey.

Matt: You were part of the fraternity Phi Delta Theta when you were a student at Washington State University. Do you remember any cool stories from the frat house?
Ron: There's lots of funny stories that I could share, but the frat house was all about bonding with the other members.

Matt: You were part of an infield with Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, and Davey Lopes for eight and a half years during your career. Did you become very close with them?
Ron: We were all signed by the Dodgers and were all part of Tommy Lasorda's team in the minors. We formed one of the most successful and long-lasting infields in baseball history so I would say yes, we did get close.

Matt: You played in four World Series in your career, three of them against the Yankees. Which one was the most fun to play in?
Ron: Probably 1978, because we should have won that one against New York. Even though we lost, it was still a fun World Series.

Matt: Do you think any rules should be changed in the MLB today?
Ron: I'm in favor of the new rules regarding instant replay and I think that no other rules need to be changed.

Matt: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Ron: I like the outdoors and, when I have time, I like working in the yard.

Matt: If you could’ve faced any pitcher in MLB history, who would it be and why?
Ron: I would have liked to face all the great Hall of Fame pitchers, but I think it would have been really fun and exciting to face Cy Young, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson. I have no idea if the outcome of those matchups would have been good for me or not, but I think it still would have been fun.


Well, that's the interview. I hope you enjoyed reading it and thanks to Ron for answering my questions.  And a special shout-out to Nikki Warner, the Director of Communications at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, for arranging it. Thanks for reading this post and check back in a few days for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Terrific Tom After Tom Terrific 7/23/14

Hey baseball fans!

There are four people who will be officially elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27th, 2014 who once were part of the Atlanta Braves franchise. Their names are Bobby Cox, Joe Torre (yes, he was a player and a manager for them), Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. But today, I just want to focus on Glavine.

Thomas Michael Glavine played for the Braves and Mets from 1987-2008. In his 22 years of outstanding pitching, the ten-time All Star won 305 games with an ERA of 3.54. He led the league in wins five times, three of those times being consecutive, and won the NL Cy Young Award in 1991 and 1998.

He helped the Braves win 11 straight division titles and also helped his teams in the postseason, going 14-16 with a low 3.30 ERA during the playoffs. Perhaps his best playoff series performance was in the '95 World Series, when his Braves took on the Indians. Glavine won two games and only gave up a little more than one run every nine innings. The Braves would end up winning that World Series, giving Tom his only ring.

Glavine, Maddux, and fellow pitcher John Smoltz were part of an elite starting rotation for Atlanta during the 1990s that was one of the best of all time, but that rotation wouldn't have had the same success without the always calm Tom Glavine. Anyway, thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Friday, July 18, 2014

The "All-Small Hall" Team Part Four (The Finale) 7/18/14

Hey baseball fans!

This is my last post about the "All-Small Hall" team! If you don't know what the "All-Small Hall" team is, click here for the first post of this series that has an excellent explanation, click here for the second part of the series and click here for the third part. Anyway, it's time to discuss who will represent the outfield in my ASHT. So, let's get this show on the road.

Left Fielder: Rickey Henderson
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 180 pounds
Why? The Man of Steal sure was given the correct nickname; he has the most steals of all time at 1,406 and he also holds the record for most career runs scored. He was always a threat on the base paths, despite his size and he never let anything stop him from being the best. He even had 3,055 career hits. He was just a monster all over the field, whether in the outfield or speeding across the bases. By the way, here's the live interview I did of Rickey last year at the Hall of Fame Classic.
Honorable Mention: Stan Musial

Center Fielder: Willie Mays
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 180 pounds
Why? A lot of people would probably not expect the Say Hey Kid to be on this list because a lot of people expect him to be fairly tall. However, he was probably the overall best ballplayer in baseball history who is under six feet tall and one of the best of all time irrespective of his size. He is one of four players with 500+ home runs (660) and 3,000+ hits (3,283) and he even batted over .300 lifetime (.302). He was the quintessential five-tool ballplayer because he could hit, hit for power, run, field, and throw. You really can't ask for much else.
Honorable Mention: Kirby Puckett

Right Fielder: Willie Keeler
Height: 5'4''
Weight: 140 pounds
Why? Easily the shortest player on the "All-Small Hall" team, Keeler was a master with the bat. "Wee Willie," as he was nicknamed, really knew how to "hit 'em where they ain't"and collected 2,932 hits during his career in the 1890s and early 1900s. His lifetime batting average was a whopping .341, which just so happens to be 14th on the all time list. And he basically never struck out (only 136 K's over 8,591 at bats).
Honorable Mention: Mel Ott

Sadly, we have arrived at the end of the posts about the "All-Small Hall" team. However, soon, I will be announcing who is on my "All-Tall Hall" team, so expect those posts. Anyway, thanks for reading this series. I hope you enjoyed it and check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The "All-Small Hall" Team Part Three 7/13/14

Hey baseball fans!

It's time for the third installment of the series in which I talk about who is on my "All-Small Hall" team! In case you missed the first two posts of this series, click here for part one and click here for part two. Anyway, let's get on with part three, shall we? So, who will represent the ASHT on the left side of the infield? Read on to find out.

Shortstop: Honus Wagner
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 200 pounds
Why? The Flying Dutchman was probably the best National League pure hitter in the early 20th century. He batted .328 lifetime, had 3,420 career hits, won eight batting titles, and he even collected 1,733 career RBIs. Those numbers are so gigantic that Wagner had to be named to the "All-Small Hall" team.
Honorable Mention: Ozzie Smith

Third Baseman: George Brett
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 185 pounds
Why? One of the best contact hitters in the '70s and early '80s, Brett definitely made a name for himself as he helped the Royals become one of the best teams in the American League. His 3,154 career hits puts him at 16th on the all time hits list and the 13-time All Star batted .305 lifetime. Not bad for someone who is known for having too much pine tar on his bat.
Honorable Mention: Brooks Robinson

I hope you are enjoying this series and thanks for reading this post. The final part of the "All-Small Hall" team series is coming soon, so check back in a few days for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The "All-Small Hall" Team Part Two 7/10/14

Hey baseball fans!

Today, I'm going to continue where I left off in my last post and talk more about the "All-Small Hall" team. In the last post, I talked about my pitcher and catcher, but now, it's time to talk about the right side of the infield, the first baseman and second baseman.

First Baseman: Lou Gehrig
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 200 pounds
Why? Well, he was one of the greatest hitters that the game has ever seen. So, how could he not be on the ASHT? His 2,130 consecutive games played was a record that stood for more than 55 years! But you can't forget his 493 career home runs, his lifetime batting average of .340, and his 1,995 career RBIs. He was, simply, one of the best.
Honorable Mention: Jimmie Foxx

Second Baseman: Joe Morgan
Height: 5'7''
Weight: 160 pounds
Why? Although Rod Carew could have been at this spot, I decided to give the job to Morgan because he was well known for being small in stature and yet he accomplished so much. He was the NL MVP in the back-to-back years that the Reds won the Fall Classic (1975, 1976) and he was part of the NL squad in ten All Star Games. Overall, Morgan was an excellent second baseman, whether it was hitting in the clutch or fielding amazingly.
Honorable Mentions: Rod Carew and Jackie Robinson

Part Two of the "All-Small Hall" team has been completed! I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading it. Two more parts of this series are coming soon, so check back in a few days for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Introduction to the "All-Small Hall" Team 7/6/14

Hey baseball fans!

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to tell you about my "All-Small Hall" team. I know what you're thinking: what in the world is the "All-Small Hall" team? Well, my ASHT consists of players who were small in stature, but very big in terms of their performance. My restrictions on the players on the "All-Small Hall" team are as follows:

1. They have to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. They have to be at most six feet tall and/or weigh less than 185 pounds.

Now that you know what exactly the "All-Small Hall" team is, let me introduce you to the ASHT's starting pitcher and catcher.

Pitcher: Eddie Plank
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 175 pounds
Why? There are not a lot of pitchers who qualified to be on the "All-Small Hall" team, but out of the people who did, Plank barely pushed ahead of Pud Galvin to take the starting job. Gettysburg Eddie won 326 career games (and lost only 194) over his 17-year career in the early 1900s. His career ERA of 2.35 may seem like the stuff of legends, and in fact Plank's career was quite legendary.
Honorable Mention: Pud Galvin (FYI, here's my previous blog post on Galvin.)

Catcher: Yogi Berra
Height: 5'7''
Weight: 185 pounds
Why? Berra may have been small at first glance, but his personality proved otherwise. The always-talkative Lawrence Peter Berra had a great career with the Yankees (mainly) and Mets from 1946-1965. The 18-time All Star, 10-time World Series champ (a record) and three-time AL MVP hit 358 home runs and drove in 1,430 runs during a career that is always mentioned in conversations about the greatest catchers in baseball history. (By the way, here's my interview with Yogi.)
Honorable Mention: Roy Campanella 

So, this is the end of the first post about my "All-Small Hall" team. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoy this series. Three more posts about the ASHT are coming, so check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

An Interview with Former Major Leaguer, Billy Sample 7/3/14

Hey baseball fans!

I have another interesting interview for you today. This time, I interviewed former MLB'er Billy Sample. Billy played in the majors from 1978-1986, mainly for the Rangers, but also spent time on the Yankees and Braves. He had a solid .272 lifetime average and, as you will see below, played with some amazing teammates. After his playing days were over, Billy became a broadcaster for various MLB teams, and he has also contributed to various media outlets. Now, let's get right to the interview.

Matt: Who are some of the toughest MLB hitters and pitchers that you played against?
Billy: Seems to me, without checking the numbers, that my teams had trouble with George Brett and Paul Molitor. Additionally, did Harold Baines ever make an out in a clutch situation? I played against him in Rookie Ball and Instructional Ball in the minors and a number of years in the majors, and it was beyond uncanny, just how clutch he was; we all have our moments in the sun, but he seemed to bask in the sunshine. Not sure why Jack Morris is not in the Hall of Fame, sportswriters will point out to his high earned run average (3.90), which I think is so overrated. He only pitched against a DH lineup, unlike a number of the recent pitchers going into the hall, he averaged seven innings per start, which means he didn't leave the game to long relievers trying to get to the closer, and he was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, oh, and he was on three World Series winners.

Matt: What is your fondest memory as a player? 
Billy: Playing in the post season or winning a World Series would have been a fond memory, but I didn't experience either of those, so the career was relatively unfulfilled. I had one walk-off homer, in which we were trailing at the time of the connection, with two outs and a 3-2 count, against a good pitcher in Don Aase, but aside from that, there were just a lot of smaller elations. I made a few diving catches, and some of them I wasn't quite sure I could make the play, but I made it look natural :-) There is a YouTube of some my highlights. 

Matt: What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career? 
Billy: Most of the funny stuff was off the field and you're too young to know most of it:-) Not sure if this is funny, but being a former infielder, I'd often take pre-game outfield and infield, and in one game in Atlanta, manager Chuck Tanner made a number of double-switches and I ended up at second base. I don't remember if I even had an infielder's glove, and umpire Jerry Crawford was laughing at me, though I was dead serious. Sure enough a double play grounder was hit to shortstop Andres Thomas and I ran to the bag to take the feed, Andres gave me such a look of disdain, as if I was making a mockery of the game, and he took the force-out himself, and threw to first to complete the double play. Thank goodness, I probably would have thrown the ball into the seats.

Matt: During your career, you played with some of the greatest players of the time like Fergie Jenkins, Bobby Bonds, Charlie Hough, Dave Stewart, Bruce Sutter, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro and Ron Guidry. Besides God-given talent, what are some of the other traits that these guys had?  [Note from Matt: Here's my interviews with Niekro, Henderson, Guidry and Jenkins]
Billy: Fergie had tremendous control, only pitcher with three thousand or more strikeouts and fewer than a thousand walks, and was a great teammate. I used to stand in and bat against Charlie's knuckleball in the cage, thinking that it might help me against Niekro's knuckleball, but it didn't help. I was a teammate with Phil however, when he picked up career victory number 300 in Toronto in which he threw only one knuckleball and that was the last pitch of the game. Dave Stewart didn't become the dominant pitcher he became until he mastered the split-finger. He always had good velocity, but didn't have anything off-speed, and would get hit hard. Rickey was going to Arizona State on a football scholarship, but the baseball scout and Rickey's mother wanted him to play baseball, so they manipulated him towards baseball. His football leg strength enabled him to take leads and steal bases in a manner that many of the rest of us couldn't. Bruce Sutter, as a lot of baseball people, will crush your hand in a handshake, he might even hurt your hand in a fist-bump:-) Ron Guidry plays the drums and had a drum set in the basement of Yankee Stadium, I was invited for a couple of sessions, though I looked rather inept trying to use my feet and hands at the same time on the drums. And Dave Winfield is one of the smartest, eclectic people I have met. I teased him about using words at a negotiating meeting between management and our union, in which I had to run home and grab a dictionary to research the connotations of certain words.

Matt: You've been a successful broadcaster for a long time now. What's the most memorable event that you've ever broadcast? If you could've broadcast any event in baseball history, what would it be and why? 
Billy: I had the middle three innings on Angels radio when Kenny Rogers of Texas threw a perfect game against the Angels, in fact, I have seen four perfect games; one of them as a player when Mike Witt threw one against us (Texas) on the last day of the 1984 season. I saw Mike that off-season and he said, he thought either Buddy Bell or I might have pinch-hit late in the contest. That was a nice compliment, I hit Mike fairly well, but he wasn't the kind of pitcher that players were running into the batter's box to face. Over my twenty year span of broadcasting, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the greats, Pete Van Wieren, Dave Niehaus, Skip Caray, Bob Carpenter, Gary Thorne, Dave Van Horne, Ernie Harwell, Jim Hunter, Brian McRae, Russ Langer, Tim McCarver and many others, and it has been a treat. 

Matt: Do you have any tips for aspiring (a) MLB players and (b) broadcasters? 
Billy: Tips for players? Not much is a substitute for hard work. Scouts are looking for potential major league skills and talents, major league bat, speed, arm, glove, power, and yet, if you don't have an excess of those attributes, have a large portion of something that can't be measured ... heart. I would pay to watch Dustin Pedroia play, and I'm not sure if he measured high on any of the charts, but he has won an MVP and a couple of World Series ... Tips for broadcasters, well, I didn't come by it the traditional way, but practice and practice describing what's in a scene. Almost everyone I've spoken with has taken a tape recorder to a game, sat in the bleachers and called the game. If one can do that proficiently, then it'll be even easier when press box notes are available.

Well, anyway, that's the interview. Thanks so much to Billy Sample for his really great answers, and a shout-out to Marc Smilow (dad of fellow MLB Pro Blogger Haley Smilow, age 13) who set up the interview. And come back again real soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I Didn't Know That Mites Could Play Baseball 7/2/14

Hey baseball fans!

The Chicago White Sox were not the best team in the 1950s, but they did have Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio. Then again, the ChiSox had another Hall of Fame middle infielder: Nellie Fox! In case you don't know who he is, let me explain.

Jacob Nelson "Nellie" Fox was an awesome second baseman for the Athletics, Sox, and Astros from 1947-1965. In fact, he was so awesome that he won the 1959 MVP Award and led the Sox out of mediocrity to the World Series! Although the Go-Go White Sox lost that Fall Classic to the Dodgers, "Mighty Mite" (as he was nicknamed because of his small stature, yet amazing hitting) was still loved in Chicago and I can totally understand why. The twelve-time All Star collected 2,663 career base hits and batted .288 lifetime. He led the league in hits four times, at bats five times, and plate appearances five consecutive times. He also won three Gold Gloves and paired up with Luis Aparicio to form one of the best middle infield combinations that baseball has ever seen.

Fun fact about Nellie: he holds the record for the most consecutive years of leading the league in singles. The record is seven years, from 1954-1960. Anyway, thanks for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and check back in a few days for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."