Often times, specifically this time of year, between mid-to-late February and mid-to-late April with a possibility of early May, depending on how the playoffs shake out, I’m the busiest I’ll be all year.
I’m away from home more times than not this time of year, whether it’s at my day-job or my night-job as a broadcaster, this time of year is always more hectic than any other time of year, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’d rather be busy anyway, it keeps my mind and hands busy, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.
It’s so hard to believe that I’m a little over half way to my ninth year as a broadcaster, honestly it seems like just yesterday I was broadcasting my first game.
I guess the old saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” is true. Except for me, I’m not just having fun, I’m living my dream and embracing the chaos one pitch at a time.
For as long as I can remember, Don Sutton has been a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team. I can clearly recall standing in front of TV as a little kid and listening to Don, along with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, and later, Skip’s son Chip, call the action.
The trio of Skip, Pete, and Don have now been reunited in Heaven and I’m sure that they will be calling the Braves’ games from the vantage point of Heaven, the greatest vantage point of them all. Not only was Don Sutton a great broadcaster, he was also a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.
A 1998 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark said “Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his last commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame, I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary and his family.”
Sutton, a Clio, Alabama native, began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he played from 1966-1980, and again in 1988. From 1981-82 Sutton was traded from the Dodgers to the Houston Astros, from Houston he left and went to Milwaukee to join the Brewers club from 1982-84, from Milwaukee he went out to California to join the Oakland Athletics where he stayed for less than a year in 1985. Later in 1985 he moved across California and joined the Los Angeles/California Angels with whom he stayed until the end of the 1987 season. In 1988, Don returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
During his career, he won 324 games as a pitcher and earned a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following his playing days, he joined the Atlanta Braves broadcast team where he served for all but two years from 1989-2018. He spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Washington Nationals’ broadcast team.
Tuesday afternoon, Don’s son Daron released the following statement on social media, “Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night (Monday night). He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful, Rest in Peace.”
The Braves subsequently released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Don Sutton. A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice…But despite all (his) success, Don never lost his generous character or humble personality.”
I would have to agree, every time I ever heard the voice of Don Sutton over the TV or radio, I always learned something new about the game. His knowledge for the game of baseball is what I credit for my obsession with the sport.
While sharing his unmatched wisdom, he would often find just enough room to squeeze in one of his corny jokes about either the game the night before or a personal experience with his family in which he found great humor. I could go on and on for hours about the memories that I have and will carry with me for the rest of my time here on Earth that include Don Sutton, but I don’t want to keep you here all day.
Even when he was on the mound, Don wanted to be a broadcaster, specifically with the Braves. In 1976, when the Dodgers were in town playing the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Sutton, in his usual casual-but-humorous style told Pete Van Wieren: “Someday Pete, we’re going to work together.” Little did he know he had just predicted the future.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t wrap this up with Don’s signature sign-off call, “That’ll do it here in Atlanta, for my broadcast partners, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, so long and Go Braves.”
It’s hard to believe that in just over a month, I will begin my eighth season as a baseball broadcaster. Honestly, it seems like just the other day, I was standing against the of the home dugout at Bazemore Field when I got the opportunity to broadcast my first game, but we’ll dig back into the vault and pull that out later.
In these eight seasons, I’ve been on hand for 315 games, had you asked me eight years ago if I would be fortunate enough to still be living out my dream 315 games later, I would’ve probably told you, “This is probably just a one time deal.”
But here I am, eight years later and I haven’t been kicked out of the press box yet. And I couldn’t think of a better school to serve as a broadcaster for. I’ve been a member of this program in some capacity, for nine years.
With every passing season, every passing game, every passing minute and second, this program becomes more and more etched into my heart.
When I look back on the previous 315 games of my career, I realize just how blessed I am to live out my dream as a broadcaster. But not just any broadcaster, but the “Voice” of Wetumpka High School Baseball. Over the course of my time as a broadcaster, I’ve seen highs and I’ve seen lows, but I’ll always be thankful for everything that has come my way.
No matter where this industry takes me, I’ll always be proud to say that it all started at Bazemore Field in the small town of Wetumpka, Alabama.
Here’s to the next 315 games of my career. 315 more games worth of memories. I’ll be back home in a little over a month.
Known for his unhittable floating knuckleball that seemed to approach the plate like a balloon, Philip Henry “Phil” Niekro was a trailblazer, an icon, a legend, a Hall of Famer and so much more.
But most of all, he was a genuinely good soul. While most people will remember him for his daunting knuckleball and his ability to strikeout some of the best hitters the game of baseball has ever seen, I will remember him for his kind, generous heart. They just don’t make them like Phil anymore.
Niekro was born in Blaine, Ohio, and grew up in Lansing, Ohio. He attended Bridgeport High School In Bridgeport, Ohio, and was a boyhood friend of basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek.
The baseball field on which he played at Bridgeport High School’s at Perkins Field athletic complex was renamed “The Niekro Diamond” in 2008 after both Phil and his brother Joe Niekro, whom was also a Major League pitcher.
Their father was a coal miner who pitched semipro baseball and had learned how to throw a knuckleball from another coal miner. He later taught his sons how to pitch in the backyard when they were kids.
During his 24 big league seasons, Phil Niekro rode his knuckleball to 5,404 innings pitched – the most of any pitcher who started his career in live ball era. Unlike most pitchers, Phil was more than simply durable.
His 318 wins and 3,342 strikeouts are a testament to a pitcher who was often untouchable. By the time he turned 40, Niekro had already won 121 games, the most wins by anyone that age in baseball history.
During his career Niekro, who became known as “Knucksie” due to the dancing movements of his famous pitch, appeared in 864 games, gave up 5,044 hits, 2,337 runs, in 5,404 innings pitched. Totaled 318 wins and 274 losses, starting 716 games, had an ERA of 3.35, pitched 245 complete games, 45 shutouts, earned 29 saves, surrendered 2,012 earned runs, 1,819 walks, and 3,342 strikeouts.
He spent time with the Milwaukee Braves (1964-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-83, 87), New York Yankees (1984-85), Cleveland Indians (1986-87), and Toronto Blue Jays (1987).
He was also a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, the 1980 Roberto Clemente Award winner, led the National League in wins twice, pitched a no-hitter on August 5, 1973, had his number 35 retired by the Braves, is a member of the Braves Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1997, alongside Nellie Fox, Tommy LaSorda, and Willie Wells.
He died of cancer at age 81.
Rest well Knucksie, I’ll see you again on the other side. Thank you for not only your contributions to the Atlanta Braves organization, but also for your contributions to Major League Baseball, your name will live on forever in the book of baseball lore.
There have been many great voices that have echoed over the airwaves of radios and through the televisions to the living rooms of sports fans over the years.
Many great calls, sighs of relief, and painstakingly heartbreaking sounds of defeat.
Even though many of those great voices have since passed on to their eternal lives, sports fans everywhere still hear the voices of those legendary broadcasters and forever identify those voices with certain teams or schools.
For me, those remarkably renowned voices belong to none other than Skip and Chip Caray. This father-son duo will always stand the test of time when it comes to Atlanta Braves baseball.
Sadly, Skip Caray’s voice is no longer present with us here on Earth, but make no mistake, he is definitely giving God a play-by-play of Braves game, whether home or away.
But Chip is still with us, and he calls all Braves games. While his voice is great, it can’t compare to that of the late Skip Caray.
There’s just something about Skip’s voice that conjures up memories of years gone by inside my mind. So many of the most famous calls were described vividly by the word wizard that was Skip Caray.
One of my favorite Skip Caray calls came when the Braves won the 1995 World Series Championship at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when Skip so elegantly described the final out.
“The wind, and the pitch here it is, swung, fly ball deep left-center, Grissom on the run…..YES! YES! YES! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship! Listen to this crowd!!! A mob scene on the field!!!!”
What a great call. It echoes through my mind even though I wasn’t alive in 1995. I can just imagine what it must’ve been like to hear his voice describe the last out of the 1995 World Series.
What great men, what great personalities, what great voices, what great memories. Thank you, Skip and Chip Caray for so many great calls together.
Last night, it was announced that the Coronavirus had a confirmed case in Elmore County, Alabama, which is the county I live in.
But that’s not all that was announced. In between middle school baseball games last night, one of our coaches told me that all Alabama public schools had been forced to cancel school and athletics until April 6 after Wednesday.
When he told me, I immediately responded with, “What about the area games that we have to play, because playoffs start during the second week of April?” “Does this mean that nobody will go to the playoffs?”
The coach responded “We’ll see what happens man, we appreciate what you have done in the past and continue to do for this program.” I then gave him a fist bump and assured him that I would be back as soon as possible and in 2021.
This comes on the heels of the following cancellations/postponements: NHL canceled their season Thursday, NBA canceled their season on Thursday after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for COVID-19, MLB canceled remaining spring training games and delayed opening day by at least two weeks as a precaution to the virus, NASCAR announced Thursday that no fans will be allowed in attendance for tomorrow’s race, NCAA canceled all basketball conference tournaments and March Madness, as well as delayed baseball and softball for two weeks, which is scheduled to resume on March 30.
That’s not all but that’s all that I felt like listing.
Because of this virus, I have been robbed of the remaining home games until April 6th.
With that being said, no I do not have the coronavirus, so I’m not to blame.
Y’all be safe out there, wash your hands, stop buying all the toilet paper in stock and hope that sports will be back to normal sooner rather than later.
2019 was a rough year to be a sports broadcaster and journalist, I can’t remember a more deadly year surrounding one industry.
Sure, there have been more deadly years in the past, but I can’t remember when they were.
Maybe it’s because I am still in shock at the amount of sports broadcasters and journalists whom were welcomed into heaven over the past 365 days.
2019 started out pretty smooth, and then on May 25, 2019, things took a turn for the worst when then-Auburn Baseball, Basketball, and Football Voice, Rod Bramblett, and his wife Paula were killed by a teenage driver who was under the influence at the time of the crash and topped out well over the speed limit.
Rod was just 53, while Paula was 52.
On December 24, 2019, ESPN’s Edward “Ed” Aschoff passed away after a brief battle with pneumonia at the young age of 34.
On December 28, 2019, Louisiana Sports Journalist, Carley McCord, the daughter-in-law of LSU OC, Steve Ensminger, was killed in a plane crash in Lafayette, Louisiana while on her way to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, to watch the Tigers in the College Football Playoffs Semifinals against Oklahoma.
McCord was just 30-years-old.
While 2019 was a trying year for sports journalists and broadcasters like myself, I hope 2020 takes it lighter on this industry too many people with bright futures in this industry were lost in 2019.
Pictures: Daily Mail, Saturday Tradition and The Wrap).
We all have that one person that we just can’t stand to hear talk. We also have those people who just won’t shut up during sporting events.
CBS’ Gary Danielson is one of them, according to a report made public by Saturday Down South, the Southeastern Conference will part ways with Danielson and CBS after the 2023 season.
Believe it or not, it used to be worse than it has been recently. How? Well, when you put Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson together in a booth together and let them call games together, you’ll understand what I’m saying.
Thankfully, Lundquist retired on December 10, 2016 after the Army-Navy game. They replaced Verne with ESPN’s Brad Nessler, which I thought would be better than Gary and Verne, but all it did was make Gary talk even more.
Thankfully, the days of hearing Gary Danielson will come to an end soon.
I don’t often write pieces about myself, simply I try to keep things focused on sports, with an occasional twist in the middle. But today, I feel like writing about how a microphone that I bought from Cracker Barrel when I was eight-years-old, led to me being able live the dream that I’m living today. Almost my entire life, I’ve known that I wanted to be a broadcaster, but it didn’t begin to take shape until 15. When I was eight years old, my family and I were headed to Spanish Fort, Alabama to visit with my grandparents, as my grandad was in his last few months of life and we stopped by the Evergreen Cracker Barrel where I purchased a plastic microphone as we were leaving. My mom said “You don’t need that, it’s a waste of money.” But to me, it wasn’t a waste of money, so I convinced my mom to let me get it. As we rode down the road, I was talking into it constantly, I kept talking into it when we arrived at my grandparents’ house in Spanish Fort. I used it constantly after that, at that point just to prove to my mom that it wasn’t a ‘waste of money’. I picked up old media guides from various sporting events and began to practice, which was always several hours. Multiple times I was told to be quiet because somebody was watching TV, but I knew if I stopped, I would never reach my dream. So I continued to practice with the Cracker Barrel microphone for years until it broke. Then, I was given my first real microphone several years later and my brother had an electric guitar amp that he didn’t use much, so when he wasn’t using it, I would sneak it into my room and use it for hours. I’m often asked “How do you sound so much different when you’re not behind a microphone,” and “How does your voice get so deep on the microphone?” I’ve been asked this millions of times over the seven years that i’ve been a broadcaster, and I often reply with “One time, I went to Cracker Barrel when I was eight.” I know people are often left wondering what Cracker Barrel and broadcasting have to do with each other but it’s all about that plastic microphone from Cracker Barrel in 2006. If you want to be a broadcaster, go to Cracker Barrel and convince your mom to let you get a plastic microphone, they make dreams come true.