Inside China Basin and San Francisco 49ers Extra: Exclusive Podcasts for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers

Catch It! Exclusive podcasts for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers sports fans

Irabu Provided Electric Night in Rochester

Posted on July 29th, 2011 by TheSportsVirus

Upon hearing the news of the Hideki Irabu’s death today by suicide, I was sad that he felt  life wasn’t worth living anymore. And, I thought back to his arrival in the United States 14 years ago, and a unique spectacle in a minor league town.

The summer of 1997 in Rochester, NY provided enough thrills for me to call it my favorite baseball season as a minor league broadcaster.

I was there to call the first game in Frontier Field history. What a beautiful new ballpark, filled with passionate fans.

I witnessed one of the longest homers I’ve ever seen as Tim Laker of the Red Wings hit one over the left field scoreboard.

I stayed up late (with a few others) to broadcast a game that started at 10:30 pm after a long rain delay and ended at around 1:30 am in grand fashion. With the score tied in the 9th inning that night, the Toledo Mud Hens scored five runs in the top half of the frame. The Red Wings answered with six runs in the bottom of the 9th to win it.

It was a championship season that included a spectacular catch by P.J. Forbes in the 9th inning of the clinching game for the Red Wings.

There’s no doubt that it was a magical year.

But, there was one game that always stood out to me because of the fan reaction. “The Irabu Game.” Hideki Irabu made June 30, 1997 a special night at Frontier Field. As soon as the announcement was made that Irabu would be making his Triple-A debut as the starting pitcher for the Columbus Clippers (the Yankees International League affliliate) in Rochester, the local hype began.

Irabu was scheduled to make his major league debut with the Yankees in 11 days. He came to town lugging massive expectations after signing a $12.8 million dollar deal with New York upon arriving from Japan.

Frontier Field was packed with more fans (13,485) than I thought the place could hold. The atmosphere was electric. As Lisa Olson wrote in the New York Daily News, “Standing-room-only seats sold out hours before game time, vendors hawked Irabu Juice billed as an exotic blend of freshly brewed green teas, herbs and fruit concentrate and a sushi bar set up camp next to the hot-dog stand.”

When Irabu took the mound there was a buzz unlike any that I had ever experienced in baseball. As he warmed up I saw a lot of fans donning Yankees caps and jerseys. I wondered how many of these fans would be rooting for the Red Wings. I had my answer right away in the first inning. When the Red Wings knocked a few base hits, the crowd immediately exploded. I remember a thunderous roar when Aaron Ledesma drilled a single to center. I felt goose bumps in that inning, which featured three stolen bases.

In five innings, Irabu allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits. He settled down before he reached his 90-pitch limit, at one point striking out three straight Red Wings. That gave the Yankees fans a reason to cheer and be optimistic.

It was a great night for everyone in attendance, but it sent Irabu on his way to a mediocre career. He had a special major league debut with New York when he struck out four of the first six Tigers that he faced. However, he never fulfilled his expectations, finishing with a 34-35 record and a 5.15 ERA with the Yankees, Expos and Rangers.

Irabu is gone, but he’ll never be forgotten, in Japan, New York and even Rochester.

Share

Ron Darling: The Pitcher’s Mindset

Posted on July 9th, 2011 by TheSportsVirus

This summer, The SportsVirus Joe Castellano is exploring the mindset of current and former major league
players. Here you will find out the keys to success, whether it’s a player who has stayed at one position his whole career or one who has the ability to become an expert at more than one spot. In Part Eight we hear from Ron Darling, who had a 13-year career during which he was selected to the All Start team, won a Gold Glove and helped the Mets with the World Series in 1986. He started three games in that Series against the Red Sox and had a 1.53 ERA.  Currently he serves as a television analyst for the Mets and Turner Sports.

Listen to Interview with Ron Darling

ALSO AVAILABLE ON ITUNES: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/thesportsvirus/id382724152
QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS? EMAIL US AT: thesportsvirus@gmail.com

Share

My Brush With Dick Williams

Posted on July 8th, 2011 by TheSportsVirus

When hearing about the passing of Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams today I closed my eyes and drifted back in my memory bank to 1984. It was an exciting time in my life. I had just graduated from college and was breaking into the sports television business. I got my start as a “gofer” or as we commonly called it, “runner” for ABC Sports. My first ever assignment was to find Tim McCarver’s lost luggage at San Diego airport. I graduated to working as a graphics assistant on the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles covering basketball. Eventually I was hired to be a part of the production crew for the 1984 National League Championship Series in San Diego as the Padres hosted the Chicago Cubs.

It was the first postseason series ever for the Padres since the franchise’s beginning in 1969 and the first appearance by the Cubs in postseason play since the 1945 World Series.

Chicago won the first two games of the best of five series at Wrigley Field and they were looking to wrap up the series at Jack Murphy Stadium. Game 1 turned out so bad for San Diego that they lost 13-0 with winning pitcher Rick Sutcliffe hitting a homer.

But, the Padres made an amazing comeback to win three straight games and reach the World Series. In Game 4, Steve Garvey capped a five-RBI game by belting a two-run, game-winning home run just over the glove of Cubs right fielder Henry Cotto.

In Game 5, the Cubs led 3-0 early, only to lose 6-3. The Padres took advantage of a crucial error by Chicago first baseman Leon Durham.

Due to a strike by major league umpires, the first four games were played using local and collegiate umpires, with major league umpires returning for the final game. One of those umpires was part of my lasting memory.

My job with ABC was to cue the home plate umpire to inform him that  we were back from commercial and ready to start the next inning. What a thrilling position for a 22-year old baseball nut like me! I was stationed at the far right end of the Padres dugout and I witnessed all of the highs and lows of pressurized playoff baseball.

The job was simple. Listen to the producer, Dennis Lewin, on a headset and point at the umpire. Near the end of the pitcher’s warmup tosses the umpire had a set routine and would look over at me. Once I pointed his way he acknowledged me and the game would resume. Except, in between innings of one game, Williams got into a heated argument with the home plate umpire. As the commercial ended, Lewin directed me to cue the ump. I tried to get his attention, but was having no luck at all. As the argument continued, Lewin became anxious. He wanted to know why the inning wasn’t about to start. He raised his voice and implored me to tell the umpire that we were ready to go. With my future career in network television apparently in jeopardy, I threw off my headset and ran towards the Padres on deck circle where Williams was furious with the home plate umpire and was screaming at him about a play from the previous inning. I walked up to them and said, “Excuse me, but the commercial is over and we are ready to start the inning.” Thinking back on it now, it wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to do. Why didn’t I just tell Lewin we had to wait? But, I was eager to please my boss. And when Williams turned his attention to me it wasn’t pretty. “What are you doing here?!” he yelled. “Get the hell out of the way!” I ran back to my headset and explained that the inning might be delayed a little bit.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to interview Williams at the Winter Meetings in Nashville after the announcement that he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He had fond memories of the 1984 Padres. For a fleeting moment, an umpiring question crossed my mind. Thankfully, I decided against it.

Rest in peace Dick Williams.

Barry Bloom from mlb.com has a really good story about his dealings with Williams at: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110708&content_id=21579600&vkey=perspectives&c_id=mlb&tcid=tw_article_21579600

Check it out.

Share

Navigation

Sponsors

Copyright © 2010 Inside China Basin and San Francisco 49ers Extra: Exclusive Podcasts for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. Design by JENNALEX Design powered by WordPress.