Which Major League Baseball team was the best in history? Who would win a series between the 1974 A’s and the 1992 Braves? Would Catfish Hunter strikeout David Justice with the game on the line?
Figuring it out would mean comparing eras in a way to account for the changes in the game and fairly make a case for one team. Is it possible? It is now.
Welcome to The Throwback League, pitting 48 of the game’s best teams from 1974-2006.
48 of the game’s best teams from 1974-2006 in a simulated March Madness style tournament. It’s the brain child of former Major League radio and television play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin. The TTL is a fantasy tournament called by Lewin in podcast form. All the play-by-play, the pomp and circumstance are there for you on demand.
I had to learn more, so Lewin was kind enough to answer some of my questions and shed some light on his baby, The Throwback League.
Andy Masur: Where did the idea for The Throwback League come from??
Josh Lewin: This was actually something I incubated 10-12 years ago… but I never had the bandwidth to actually sit down and do a demo — too much actual traditional play by play between the MLB on FOX, Chargers, and back then, Texas Rangers TV. Now that I’m trying to stay a little closer to home and cut down on travel, this was the perfect time to crank it up. And I realized quickly that it plays better in podcast form than anywhere else.
AM: How were each of the teams chosen?
JL: The 32 World Series winners between 1974-2006 were automatic and seeded 1-8. The rest of the field is what I deemed to be the best of the 16 World Series losers from that time, seeded 9-12. It’s fun playing God!
AM: How difficult is it to muster up energy and excitement for games, calling contests that you obviously can’t be at?
JL: Surprisingly, not difficult at all. I love baseball and love speaking into a microphone. I mean, when I was a kid, I announced to an audience of zero into my old cassette recorder. I played ball in my backyard diving for catches I threw to myself. It was exciting then, and still exciting now.
AM: So, where do you call the games, in a studio in front of a computer?
JL: I have a little home office in Solana Beach that’s become my own personal ballpark-for-one. Can’t tell you how amazing it is to be sitting at my desk, looking at the ocean, a scoresheet in one hand, a microphone in the other, a dog on my lap. No rain delays, no sponsors parading in and out of the booth. Just occasionally my wife, to take the dog for a walk and give my lap a break.
AM: Ok, so a game starts, how are you following along and what do you integrate into your “broadcast” as far as stories and such? Elements?
JL: So, the WhatIfSports.com algorithm spits out the entire play by play — every play of every game. I do my research before each game on the players just like I’d normally do… fill out my scorecard… and the it’s me and my imagination just off to the races. A game from ’91 may feature a fan in a Cosby sweater catching a foul ball. The lineups from 1980 may have “Cars” by Gary Numan playing on the PA in the background. I’m going for, I guess what you’d call verisimilitude. Let’s take the fans back to the years in question, from the pop culture to the on-deck antics of David Eckstein.
AM: How does this test your skills as a play-by-play announcer?
JL: It challenges you to get as creative as possible, and to remember to give the count even when you can’t see a scoreboard! After all, radio is the theater of the mind, right? I think that’s the ultimate joy of this whole exercise as a broadcaster. You literally have to close your eyes and imagine.
I love knowing that there are people stuck in traffic without access to a live baseball broadcast and can access this anytime. The evergreen nature of podcasts in general make this the perfect platform. That, and everyone loves brackets. Starting this up just as we’re approaching March Madness is an accidentally genius move.
AM: Is this a difficult sell on the younger generation of fans, considering many are too young to remember the teams that are involved?
JL: My kids are 21 and 25 and I have them in mind with this project. They’re baseball fans, so I figure they and the rest of whatever we’re calling that generation can benefit from learning recent history in a fun, accessible way. But my friends are mostly my age; 40 or 50. And that’s the group this should really resonate with. I want people to say to themselves, “wow, Otis Nixon! I haven’t thought of him in years. Roy White! I remember how Phil Rizzuto would talk about him on WPIX TV games.” It’s like opening up an old pack of baseball cards and having them actually speak to you. That’s why it been fun to involve some of these actual players as mid-inning guests, to talk about their memories of these teams.
AM: How is this a better than the daily grind of doing play-by-play for a team?
JL: I still have play by play in my life thanks to UCLA and of all things, Madden Football – I’ve recently stepped into the world of eSports to do EA Sports’ coverage of the Madden video game tournaments and I love it. I’m not ready to fully pivot away from play by play — hell, 25 years of Major League baseball, 12 years with the Chargers and the NFL — I’d never close the door to more play by play work if it’s the right fit, geographically and otherwise.
I realized a couple years ago, the coast to coast ping pong from a West Coast home to an East Coast full-season baseball package was untenable. Did that for years, but now it’s time to enjoy where I live a little bit! The Red Sox 50-game package last year was perfect. Just enough meat on the bone, but not having to relocate for six or seven months.
With that package no longer there, I’m blessed to have found a way through podcasting to keep my love of baseball and love of play-by-play alive. It’s almost like I created my own universe. “How can I still do baseball play by play but not spend all that time away from home?” And I really think podcasting is the new path in our industry; content-wise and revenue-wise. Before too long, every team in every sport will have a Team TV Voice, a Team Radio Voice and a Team Podcaster. I’ve been there/done that regarding the first two silos. Maybe my next adventure will be sliding into that last one. But for now, The Throwback League is perfect. I hope baseball fans enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoy producing it!
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.