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!
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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