By Mick Gillispie / Smokies Radio Network
Wednesday was a fun day for me because I got to catch up with an old Southern League colleague who is now in the big leagues, Joe Block. Joe was with the Jacksonville Suns when I first got into the Southern League in 2005, and now he’s on the broadcast team for the Milwaukee Brewers. In this business you cheer for guys you worked alongside in the minors and you are proud of their accomplishments, because one day you want to be there too.
I can remember getting into this league and knowing how good the other broadcasters were. Tom Hart, my predecessor in Tennessee was probably the best and the most polished on the air. Jim Tocco was the first voice of the Montgomery Biscuits and did an outstanding job, and we’ve also used him to fill in for me on the Smokies Radio Network over the past few years. Joe did a great job in Jacksonville, the largest market in the league. He’s been knocked down a few times in this business but has always gotten back up and has done things the right way. He hosted the famous “Dodger Talk” postgame show for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, and this season will be his first teaming up with Bob Uecker on the Brewers Radio Network. Yesterday was the first chance I’ve had to speak with Joe since he got the job, and it was a very enjoyable visit.
Speaking of Bob Uecker, it was a pleasure meeting him yesterday before our game. I grew up watching him on television, and loved him in his commercials or on “Mr. Belvedere.” He was also hysterical as the broadcaster in the “Major League” movies, and I’m sure that many younger fans only know him in that role as “Harry Doyle.” Since Len Kasper used to work in Milwaukee, they knew each other pretty well and Bob kept us laughing the entire game. I sat just on the other side of the window from him, so I’d peek in every now and then and it was just a lot of fun to see a Hall of Fame broadcaster go to work. He’s got a legendary personality and I’m glad to say I’ve met him.
During the broadcast we were joined by Carrie Muskat who does a great job covering the Cubs for MLB.com. She has been very supportive of our broadcasts from the start, and does a great job of making it easy for our fans to listen in. She’s been on the Cubs beat for many years, and wrote a great book about Ryne Sandberg and other Cub greats: Banks to Sandberg to Grace. If you want to know what’s going on with the Cubs, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter for the latest info. Yesterday she and Len talked about former Smokies outfielder Brett Jackson, who will begin the season in Triple-A Iowa. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said yesterday that Jackson would be there to start the season because he needs more at-bats and can play everyday.
There have been some long days because of the early morning media sessions and the radio show I do from here that is broadcast back at my home of Tuscaloosa, Ala. I was the last car to leave the ballpark the other night, but that’s quite alright with me. I told the story yesterday about my Dad who worked in construction around Baltimore. Every Sunday night was miserable for him because he’d be thinking about the work he had to do on Monday morning. I felt his pain, because at the time that’s how I felt about school! He operated a bulldozer, that was his profession, although I know he didn’t always enjoy it. When I think about my long days here I am reminded of how he used to feel, but I know that I’m enjoying every minute of my time here.
Before I go I wanted to share a couple of funny stories from my time out here. I gave Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times a hard time earlier this week because of his fresh haircut, although I’ve had a haircut adventure of my own out here as well. On Monday we weren’t doing a broadcast so I had the day off and I decided to get a haircut. I went to a high-end salon across the street from the hotel but it was the kind of place that’s booked with appointments for days, so I was out of luck there. However a girl behind the desk there said with a sheepish green there was a place where I could get a haircut for ten dollars, and that sounded good to me. This place was next to a tobacco shop on the other side of Macy’s. I got an appointment as soon as I walked in and sat down. While I’m waiting in the chair for the stylist to come cut my hair I had a moment of clarity that I didn’t want to have. I realized that this place was not a professional hair salon, it was a hair salon SCHOOL. The girl that cut my hair was not a professional, and I wanted to get out of the chair so badly but ended up staying. Throughout the course of the haircut I realized that she had a long way to go in her profession, and probably applied herself at her trade like I applied myself at mathematics when I was in college. I walked out of there looking hideous. The sideburns weren’t even, there were random patches everywhere of some hair and then not as much hair, just all over the place. It reminded me of when I was a kid, my grandmother gave me a haircut that didn’t look to great and all the kids made fun of me at school. I never let her cut my hair again.
Long story short, I went to the mall and found the nicest salon I could find. A nice lady helped me out and fixed the haircut to where I finally looked respectable and presentable.
The second story deals with my first game on the air this spring. Len and I called the first Cubs spring training game of the year against the Oakland A’s. During the postgame show we have two segments. Len and I do the first, then he leaves and I close out the broadcast in the second segment. Len was walking out of the booth and told me “great job,” for all the day’s work. That’s like a kiss of death in broadcasting, because I still had work left to do. I had my good friend Jon Laaser, who calls games for the San Francisco Giants Double-A Affiliate Richmond Flying Squirrels, in the booth.
While the bump music is bringing me back in from break, a giant bee flew in the window and into our booth at HoHoKam Park. This freaked me out, because I’m not sure whether or not I’m allergic to bees and I didn’t want to find out by getting stung on the air. I am allergic to some things, and I usually carry an Epipen to protect me in case I do have a bad allergic reaction to something, but that day it was back at the hotel so I was out of luck. As I did the last segment, I kept trying to kill it or find a way to keep it out of the booth. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very good segment and I was glad to get it over with. Laaser said it was funny to him because at the game in Scottsdale, there was a 45 minute delay at the Giants game that day because of some bees. Here I am getting torn up by this little guy and they had a 45 minute delay at Scottsdale Stadium. That’s the worst a broadcast has gone all year, and it’s only because of a bee. I really haven’t seen a bee since, maybe those guys were just excited for the start of baseball season in the desert.
Those are my stories for today, make sure you listen in this afternoon as Len and I have the call against the Diamondbacks at 4:05 p.m. ET / 3:05 p.m. CT.