One of the highlights of the season every season is to see Toledo radio broadcaster, Jim Weber. Weber is in his 36th season as voice of the Mud Hens. Remarkably, he still has as much enthusiasm for his job as he has ever had. I first met the “Webman” back in the ’90s when I was with Syracuse. He and I bonded over our mutual love of the gaudy Hawaiian shirts we both used to wear. Mercifully, we’ve both toned down our wardrobes. Weber is making his 36th trip to McCoy this week and vividly remembers his first encounter with PawSox owner, Ben Mondor. “Ben, at the time was just trying to save the team. I don’t think even he thought that things would turn out so successfully. One day I was down in his old office. In it, there was a shower stall that probably hadn’t been used in 30 or 40 years. He pulled open the curtain and asked me what I liked to drink. I told him ‘ I don’t mind having a rum and coke every now and then,’ He reached in and pulled out a half gallon of Bacardi’s Rum. He handed it to me and told me to go have some fun.” Weber laughs at the memory. “I’ll never forget that. Here I am on the road trying to haul a half gallon around. I’m not sure what happened to it. I think I shared it with some of the team.”
No need to wonder any longer about what my most embarassing moment of the season will be. Happened on Monday afternoon. The annual team picture was scheduled to be taken at 3:45 p.m. Wet field conditions postponed it until 4:20 p.m. In my mind, I thought it was 4:45, so anyway, I’m flitting around the ballpark, doing my thing and at 4:30 I decide that I’ll go out there and be early! Imagine my horror when I walk onto the field at McCoy and everyone, including Mr. Mondor, is posed and ready to be shot. I have to run across the field much to the delight of the assembled PawSox players and staff. Now, I am not fast and no one was going to confuse me with Usain Bolt. I start booking as fast as I can on my knee that was arthroscopically repaired in March and it had to be ugly. I can hear laughter, jeers, barbs and insults. Luckily, the photographer, Dave hadn’t started snapping yet. Just glad I made it in time. Almost as embarassing as when I didn’t recognize Josh Reddick last winter at the Boston Baseball Writers dinner. Sincerely, being included in the annual team photo is always a special treat. Unfortunately, in this age of video, I’m sure that the footage of me plodding across the turf is going to surface somewhere. My fault for being late. It goes to prove the theory that I’ve always had…They never will wait for the radio guy, so the radio guy can never be late.
As much as I hate the Yankees, I have to concede I was touched by the deaths this past week of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. Torey Lovullo played a while in the Yankees organization and shared these stories with me the other day as we spoke of the passing of the Yankees owner and legendary public address announcer. When he first joined the Yankees, he was approached by an elderly gentleman. “I’m thinking to myself, who’s this guy and what does he want with me?” Turns out it was Sheppard and he wanted to make sure he had the proper pronunciation of Toreys’ Italian surname. The regal Sheppard said hello to the young ballplayer and in that familiar stately voice, asked “Lovullo…is it pronounced like ‘jello’?” Torey smiled and nodded in agreement. His encounter with “Big Stein” wasn’t as friendly. It wasn’t even face to face. “Steinbrenner was a great boss if you were in his circle. If you were on his bad side…forget it.” Lovullo remembered a day that George noticed him. “There was a pitching change. I’ve always had a bad back. I’ve since had back surgery. Anyway, I was down on one knee. It looked like I was genuflecting, just to stretch my back out. From the owners box, Steinbrenner made a mental note and later passed word onto Torey that “Yankees players act in a certain way. Kneeling down on the field for any reason makes the New York Yankees look like a tired team. The Yankees are not a tired baseball team.” Message received. Torey said he never did it again. “Hey, I was amazed he even knew who I was, let alone my name!”
I am calling for a moratorium on all trivia contests held in the ballpark. In the old days, it was fun to test your knowledge. Now, every one has a phone or a blackberry or something with internet access, so answers are just a click away. If you’re going to play, be legit. Don’t look it up. I know that’s not possible. Everyone needs to get that free haircut or 6 pack of soda. Just kind of seems that it has lost its’ original intent. Ah, the good old days!