Posts Tagged ‘Dave Raymond’

Astros Release Broadcasters Raymond and Dolan

October 5, 2012

Larry Dierker & Dave Raymond, SABR Meeting, 2009.

As you probably know by now, the Houston Astros have announced that radio game broadcasters Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan will not be back to continue their media duties with the club in 2013. After seven seasons as the “back street boys” to the forever-on-his-way-to-retirement Hall of Famer Milo Hamilton, the guys have been let go for all the usual reasons that flow from the explanatory blanket that always reads as “we’ve decided to go in a new direction.”

“New direction” covers everything, but it always begins with “we didn’t hire these guys; let’s go find our own.” If the replacements fail to turn out to be Hall of Fame quality, at least, we won’t have to live with the fact that one or both of the guys we just terminated were pretty darn good, even if we didn’t hire them.

I don’t envy what Raymond and Dolan had to encounter over the past seven years: Milo Hamilton is a treasure, all right, but he was always this fading into the distance figure, sort of like that ancient Jimmy Durante act in which the old actor keeps walking away in the dark, but always stopping to turn and wave goodbye again from the next receding spotlight down the path. – And his verbal shout “GOODBYE!” back to Houston fans never grew any quieter, even as Milo faded further into the distance each lesser dutiful year in the act of supposedly turning the show over to Dave and Brett.

Didn’t happen. Probably never was going to happen. And now that it has, the two younger men are left holding the bag of having to say all the right things they need to say to help them blur over their disappointments and find other jobs in broadcasting somewhere else as Milo takes the “no comment” route in protection of his own hope for one more spotlight goodbye tour with the Astros next season.

It’s just how the world turns. And always has. As it is, we seldom see justice or equity in real-time. When they do occur, they sometimes arrive way beyond the precipitating moment. Other times, they just may not happen at all. Not in this lifetime, at least.

Good luck to both Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan. Although I never got to meet Brett Dolan, I did get to meet Dave Raymond through SABR and I was most impressed by his intelligence, his humor, and his love of baseball and its history. Our highlight SABR memory with Dave Raymond will always be the time he interviewed both Hall of Famer Monty Irvin and former Astros icon Larry Dierker on the same afternoon. What a great time we all had as Raymond led these baseball greats smoothly through a narrative review of how things used to be.

Class lands on its feet. Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan are going to be fine. We Houstonians are just going to miss them. Until their terminations, anyway, many of us still embraced the idea that our town was capable of raising our own Hall of Famers – and that class and character are not qualities that must always be imported to Houston. Even though Raymond and Dolan hailed from California and Iowa originally, they had been here long enough to have become real Houstonians, anyway. We jut gave them the opportunities they needed, but with all the aforementioned floor-traction problems.

Maybe next time.

Seems Like Old Times

June 25, 2012

That’s Harold Arlin behind the Pirates broadcast mike at Forbes Field in 1972. Arlin did the first radio baseball game broadcast over KDKA in Pittsburgh on August 5, 1921. To Arlin’s right is Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Prince, who entertained Arlin that early 70s night on his sentimental short-stint return  for the evening.

Seems like old times. Every time I fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to tide me through lunch, a part of my brain gets the idea that I will be back on the sandlot in no time for Round Two of our All Summer, All Day, Everyday Baseball Sandlot Slugfest. I can even pick up the chatter of the morning’s early ramblings from “Eagle Field” at the Pecan Park intersection of Japonica @ Myrtle. The voices of my friends and their cries for justice and equity on our self-governed game calls in the morning segment are as clear today as they were sixty plus years ago. Then I take a step or two away from the kitchen table and the reality of things lands with hard certainty. There won’t be any new sandlot games for me this afternoon. Or any other day soon. I’ll have to get my baseball fix as per always these days watching the Astros, Skeeters, and our ever-loving closest thing to sandlot Houston Babies vintage base ball club play. And I’m fine with that settlement for as long as I can be near the sound of a baseball popping either leather – or flying off its impact of its collision with a wooden bat on its way to some fenced-in distant horizon.

It’s funny how the sounds of the game so dominate my most primal memories of how baseball came into my life. And, for me, like for many of you, it came into my life on the sonorous sounds of radio baseball game broadcasts from the 1940s and 1950s. In fairness to the wonderful media people we enjoy in Houston, I think many things have happened to take away the descriptive poetry and character that some of those early radio broadcasters both had and used.

For one thing, many of them worked alone, whereas, today, all broadcasters work as members of teams over the air. Solitude invites the poetic expression; team work invites interaction with your partner. Take the simple example of the high pop fly. Ours here is handled by the third base man:

Red Barber Type Might Say: “Irvin swings hard … and there’s a very high pop fly to the left side … apparently floating up into the Robin’s egg blue sky and headed for the stratosphere near third base … Cox dances onto the balance wheel … looking straight up in pure hunger for the Law of Gravity to make its latest ruling … and here comes the descent … and Cox snuggles the long distance popper into his glove for the second out in the top of the sixth. …. and he flips it over to Reese for a celebratory trip around the Dodger infield.”

2012 Type Mike Might Say: “Irvin swings … and there’s a high pop to the left side … Cox settles under it. … and he … takes it for the out. What do you think of that one, Pat? That one was really up there, wasn’t it?”

2012 Partner Pat Says: “Yep. … It sure was, Mike. …. It reminds me of the ball I almost caught in Omaha once.”

2012 Mike Says: “Actually, Pat, that ball went far enough to remind me how far the fans can also stretch their baseball ticket dollars if they want to take advantage of the club’s new Second Half Mini Season Ticket Package. …”

I’m being a little unfair. In Houston, we have some of the finest broadcasters in the nation calling Astros games over both radio and television. Bill Brown and Jim DeShaies, with considerable help from the “columns” that Greg Lucas writes within the body of each game he works are nothing less than the best at what they each do. Brown has no superior when it comes to the art of mindful description that never looses touch with the fact that viewers do not need a telecaster to describe for them what they can already see for themselves. Instead of over-polishing the already shining apple, Bill Brown interjects historical reference that helps keep the game from stumbling over its own quiet visual inertia. He keeps the score and the game situation intact – and he brings out the best in his creative, articulate, and very funny partner,  jim Deshaies. As a partner who brings two loaves of fresh bread to the broadcast breakfast table, nobody does it  better than “JD, the Baker of Baseball Perspective.”

On the Houston radio side, my favorite guy is Dave Raymond, the only Stanford Tree in the Houston Baseball Broadcast. Raymond is bright, an excellent communicator, a poet in his own right, and the kind of guy who would have been a great radio broadcaster in any era. Until the near future local broadcasting air clears, we can only hope that Dave Raymond will be a long time member of the Houston media contingent.

Seems like we’ve got a few reminders in our midst of how blessed we are in Houston to have so many really excellent broadcast people serving our needs for information, drama, and entertainment about and from – the game of baseball.

Seems like old times? All I have to do is think of the latest Jim DeShaies over-the-air story to be taken there.

For example, on the Astros last trip to Los Angeles, several members of pitcher Bud Norris family were there to watch him pitch against the Dodgers.At one point in the game, Norris came to bat and lifted a lazy can-of-corn fly ball out to left field. It wasn’t much of swing or play, but it was enough to bring Bud’s sister leaping to her feet and smiling and applauding all the while.

Noting the picture of Bud’s sister’s inexplicable actions on-screen, broadcaster Bill Brown expressed his wonder over the reasons for her joy.

Jim DeShaies quickly added, “Maybe she just had ‘fly out to left’ in the family pool.”

Just like old times, that kind of line is still funny today.

SABR At The Ballpark Scripts Perfect Day

May 20, 2012

After the meeting in the board room at the ballpark’s Union Station, our view of the game from behind the Astros bullpen in right center field at Minute Maid Park. was good enough. I just had the misfortune of being the only aisle seat out for a line of fans who all suffered from the dual afflictions of unquenchable thirsts and unrelenting bladders.

When it gets down to the really important stuff, who could have asked for anything more?  We of the Larry Dierker SABR chapter pretty much had it all our way yesterday at the May 2012 meeting: a day at the ballpark with family and friends; a meeting that placed us directly in touch with the vision of Jeff Luhnow, the new Astros General Manager; some walk-off out-of-the-park status of change comments by Astros radio broadcaster Dave Raymond; and a beautiful from-the-heart and generationally connected presentation of an incredible West End Park photo from 1921 as shown by Billy Behler of LaGrange, Texas, the great-grandson of Bill Buscha, a pitcher for the 1921 Houston Buffs; and an exciting game in  which the scraping young Astros played exactly as Dave Raymond described them, coming back for an 0-4 deficit to homer they way past the big goats on the hill, the Texas angers, by a final score of 6-5.. All of that joy and the quiet satisfaction of walking outside after the game to be duly reminded by our cityscape, Thank God,  that we live in Houston, not Dallas – regardless of what all those “Hamilton & Co.” blue and re jerseys we saw on the inside suggested. The double play ending of the game was worth the price of admission in self, with Astros closer Meyers running down Ranger shortstop Andrus at second to end the monkey business at Astros 6 – Rangers 5.

There must have been more than 50 members in attendance. Thanks again to chapter leader Bob Dorrill the program was strong, attractive, and nothing but easy fun. Each member also went home with a new Nolan Ryan Bobble Head figurine. And most competed for prizes in the monthly trivia contest.

This photo of Dave Raymond is from an earlier MMP event, but the SABR radio air king was at the top of his game again yesterday, calling all the right shots on how and why the 2012 Astros are playing so much better than the 2011 club. The team then went out and did just about everything Raymond claimed were their capabilities. When it comes to the ripple of future personnel settlements, put me squarely on the “KEEP RAYMOND – AND MAKE HIM THE MAIN RADIO AIR GUY” side.

That’s me (L) with Billy Behler and the beautiful 1921 panorama of Opening Day at West End Park in Houston between the Houston Buffaloes and the Galveston Sand Crabs.

Someone asked yesterday for the names of notable Buffs from the 1921 team picture. – To that request, I say, please go to Baseball Reference.Com immediately and check that question, and any others like it, for yourself. The 1921 club that included Behler’s great-grandfather, pitcher Bill Buscha, also included a 21-year-old first baseman named Sunny Jim Bottomley and a 24-year-old outfielder named Ray Blades. Both men went on to outstanding careers with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bill “The Bulldog” Buscha (far right) in photo with army buddies during WWi.

Bill Buscha’s young career was pretty much over, even at the time the 1921 glorious West End Park panorama photo was taken. A short time earlier, as verified by former Buffs General Manager Fred Ankenman in a Chronicle story written years later around the time of Buscha’s death from accidental drowning, the 1921 Buffs were playing an exhibition spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With Buscha pitching, Jack Fournier of the Cardinals had reached third base with one out and Johnny Levan was batting. Levan then lashed a wicked liner through the box that bounced off Buscha’s head, directly back to the catcher for an out. The Buffs catcher then threw the ball quickly to third, doubling off Fournier before he could return to the bag after the catch,

Papers at the time kidded that it should really have been recorded as a triple play since pitcher Buscha was also rendered “out” on the play, but the long-term results were not really funny. Buscha suffered visual, balance, and performance problems after the injury and was soon out of baseball.

No matter what. Bill Buscha was still there in baseball long enough to make a great-grandson proud of him nearly a century later, proving once again, that the wake of baseball rumbles forever down the ages. And yesterday, we were all a part of this particular shake. Who among those at West End that day in 1921 could have known that the day would be seen and celebrated again – just a few downtown blocks away – on May 19, 2012?

Thank you, Billy Behler, for bringing Bill Buscha of the Buffs back into the light of day!

Jeff Luhnow, General Manger, Houston Astros

Jeff Luhnow was our principal speaker and – what an infectiously focused man he turns out to be. Bright and intellectually ranging, but down to earth, connected, and pragmatic, the man has travelled through several careers before he found himself in baseball, and he has drawn upon each  experience  to help him improve at what seems to be his overriding ambition: to get the best results possible from the best decisions available to the organization. Luhnow is not the “Money-ball” stats-only guy that some have unjustly labeled him. He’s more of an “everything can teach us something” fellow, even if we do prioritize the importance of certain information sources over others. We learn from our successes and we learn from our failures. The trick is to grow from these in ways that force us to learn and take responsibility for the lessons of each policy, plan, contract, hire, or goal we put in motion.

I don’t know if the man plays chess, but, if he does, he’s got to be a force. It’s going to be as much fun to watch how the club makes decisions now as it will be to see the results on the field. All I can say for certain after Saturday is – it’s not going to be dull.

At the game, we had to share space with all of those famous Rangers fans who had descended upon us from the Dallas area. At least, I hope they were from Dallas. I would be most embarrassed to consider that Houston’s bandwagon faction would stoop so low as to adopt the Rangers now – and just because the Astros are going through a rebuilding phase.

Like it or not, you could already see from the first two games this weekend that the Astros-Rangers rivalry is going to heat up after this season. Playing against each other for best upside position in the same division is going to mean a lot more to fans than a dad gum meaningless silver boot prize ever could or will. That’s my take, at any rate.

“ROOT. ROOT. ROOT.” … but for whom? – Even the Mike McCroskey section was stacked with Rangers fans.

Closer Meyers gets pinch hitter Gentry on a fly ball to retire a Rangers threat in the 8th. In the 9th, Meyers would run down and tag Andrus to end the game.

Houston, Our Houston, Our Most Beloved Houston.
May 19, 2012.

At the end of the day, still pumped by the spirited way in which the Astros came fighting back to take a 6-5 victory in Game Two of the Rangers Series, it was just nice to hit the streets outside and see that beautiful home-is-here face of the old Gulf Building staring back at me from the base of all his now much taller modern brothers. That’s the same way he looked after Buff games sixty years or so ago. The Gulf just didn’t have quite so much company in his area back then.Nevertheless, the Gulf and Esperson buildings will always be the heart of this city for some of us.

Thanks, Houston, for a beautiful baseball day and night. As always, we press forward with the dream: Our big day will come. We simply must remain steadfast and patient as always.