Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Treat

I think this is an annual treat on the Tigers Spring Training broadcasts....Al Kaline sat in the booth with Dan & Jim on Tuesday for the first 4 innings or so.

I did not know this was to happen; I caught most of the game on Monday and did not recall them mentioning this ahead of time, but it is easy to miss a sentence or two in a baseball broadcast. I'll be paying better attention this time next year, and I'll Be Prepared. For Realz. Cuz I sure punted it today.

The above is my only Al Kaline card, I think. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to trying to acquire his '74 Record Breaker card from '75, but I have been banking up trade items to publicize eventually. I'm not that into the '87 mini from last year; I've never been a fan of the wood paneled cards, nor the gimmick mini sets, so I'm not chasing the rest of that set either. I am doing the '72s this year because I like colorful cards, and I know the Night Owl will get Ultra•Pro to make us nice binder pages to display them eventually. The backs are so hard to read I might make them double fronted pages with 2 cards per slot.

I have also been lukewarm on reprint cards of past stars. The Kaline is another one that thawed me, after the '11 Kimball Champions I guess. What baseball fan dislikes any kind of Babe Ruth card? But do I really want a card of every Hall of Famer in every Topps style ever designed? No, not really. I'll just keep random examples I like. And how long until a player has more post-retirment cards than active career cards? I'm sure that already happened to some. I pulled a sweet Carlton Fisk retro recently that I do look forward to Googling and babbling.

I don't really plan on chasing any other Kaline cards either (I know they'll fall out of packs whether I want them or not), although I root for the Tigers now and have tremendous respect for Kaline. Currently he plays an important not-just-a-figurehead role in the Tigers organization. Last year he was sent to the Double-A affiliate in Erie, PA, to evaluate top Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos and help in the coaching process of converting him from playing Third Base to the Outfield. The result was the promotion of Avisail Garcia to The Show instead, based on Al's visit. Both are still prime prospects for the Tigers, though I wouldn't be surprised to see one of them traded away by early summer if the Tigers bullpen needs shoring up. The Tigers are under tremendous pressure to erase memories of being swept in the World Series last fall, and there is only one possible way to do that. Just Win, Baby. Now!

I moved to Michigan in the winter of 1977, 2 full seasons after Kaline retired. I wasn't a Tigers fan before that, and the Tigers were a very unlikely selection to see on Kubek & Garagiola's Game of the Week in the mid-70s. And that was pretty much the only game in town for Baseball on the TV back then.

Not long after I was all settled in the Mitten State, I discovered Tigers TV Broadcasts with Al Kaline and George Kell. They were on a local broadcast station. As in over-the-air. For Free. All you needed was any ole TV set and probably a pair of rabbit ears antenna. I sure miss those days. Sure, a baseball game wasn't on your TV for free every single time your team played. But the occasional games were marked with some buzz around town all day long - "Hey, the Tigs are on TV today....whatcha doing later?"

George and Al were both so smooth I can barely recall who did play-by-play and who was the Story Guy (you know, the job called the "Color Analyst"). The Story Guy gets to say "Back in those days" a lot on a baseball broadcast, and it seemed to be a common lead phrase for Kaline. I got to hear him say it several times today. But really I know Kell (RIP) was the smoother one and he handled play-by-play. Kaline was a very enjoyable broadcaster though.

[Even though that is an image from a 'baseball card' from the 1983 Story of Al Kaline set by some minor publisher, I'm not posting this to get that set. That single card above I would like, yes. I like broadcaster cards and will type about them another time. But I doubt singles from that player-specific set float around much.]

They called games in an era quite different from the Baseball on the TV landscape today, where I always think we could be eventually headed towards a pay-for-each-game model if we want to watch one on TV. I would be partially OK with that if it included a pick your own camera angle menu, and a live mic placed just behind the Home Plate umpire, but I doubt that will ever happen.

At least now, all the cable subscribers in the country are helping prop up ball player's salaries through the mandatory inclusion of sports channels in expensive cable packages, whether the subscriber watches sports or not. Houston, I predict turbulence ahead. Seems all those subscribers heard about this thing called the Internet...

But not really for me. I mostly listen to Baseball on the Radio, courtesy of the mobile Internet usually. If I want to see Baseball on the TV, I reach for my baseball card binders. And I discovered one helluva great TV looking card today, but it needs a perfect presentation on the web for y'all to enjoy. A quick phone-camera shot wouldn't do it justice.

I wish I could tell you more of what Kaline discussed on the broadcast. Plenty of stories from Back In Those Days (no, not one of my goofy Frankenset titles. Yet.), and a delicate discussion of the Tigers final roster moves, considering that Kaline gives input to Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski on those moves. I think they are down to 30 players as I type.

Kaline did mention that it used to be a sign of dis-respect to the pitcher if the batter took such a huge swing at the plate that the batter fell down, and tensions in that particular game would rise a little bit. I wasn't clear on whether this happened in the Tigers<>Braves game today, but I think so. Now it is just shrugged off by everyone as a failed attempt at a huge rip. That was an interesting story.

The Amazing Al also told the story of a pitcher who would do his warm-ups and for the final pitch would deliberately throw a heater wildly up into the foul ball screen, just to keep the batter thinking about what could happen on each pitch. I missed the name; I was working adjacent to a school playground and the recess shrieking was extra loud right then.

And I missed many other bits of the broadcast unfortunately, and if you have read along this far, I hope to help someone who has the otherwise wonderful MLB At Bat App '13 on their iPhone app. I will write up a little bit more on it but I was waiting till Opening Day for that - such a great app.

Why did I screw up such a great day for catching some Baseball on the Radio? Yesterday morning I was perusing the general MLB headlines (see, I told y'all I knew there was a techie solution for that) over a cup of coffee, and I set the phone down in the truck before closing the app. And then several hours later I learned the hard way a slight flaw in the At Bat App - it won't put the phone to sleep if there are x minutes of inactivity, like other apps do. And since MLB action seems to be a 24/7 proposition with possible score changes and headline articles to read, it is constantly pinging the cell towers for more MLB data nuggets. The app user must have constant brand-new baseball info. The app user must have constant brand-new baseball info. The app user ....

So when I picked up my phone to catch what turned out to be one of the best broadcasts all spring, it was nearly out of juice in the battery. And I couldn't afford to just sit in the truck and listen to the game. Some jobs I could have slid my schedule around for that one, but not yesterday's.

Sunk on loving some baseball broadcast action by my love of baseball news. Thanks MLB app designer. That's baseball of course. You win some, you lose some. And there's always next year.

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