(Cincinnati) January 1, 2016 – In a bold and unexpected move, the Cincinnati Reds have named broadcast veteran and Cincinnati native Mark Elliott as Managing Director of the Reds on Radio. Elliott, at one time the butt of all Mark Sebastian’s jokes on Q102, takes over the radio broadcasts for a team in transition. With no actual experience in sports broadcasting, Elliott plans an announcement soon naming the replacement for Reds play-by-play announcer Franchester “Marty” Brenemann, who unexpectedly retired after hearing of Elliott’s new position.
It could happen.. yeah, sure it could happen. About the same time pigs fly over the Flying Pig Marathon. But there are three true statements in the paragraph above –
1) I was the butt of all Mark Sebastian’s jokes. (If you grew up listening to Q102, can you ever forget him playing Stairway to Heaven every night for about 5 years?)
2) Franchester is Marty’s B’s actual first name and
3) I am a broadcast veteran with no experience in sports radio.
But I am a huge fan of baseball, especially on the radio. Radio and baseball have made perfect partners since the radio was invented. And baseball is enjoyed on the radio by more listeners than any other sport. So what would I do if I ran the Reds on Radio? Let’s begin
Radio is an audio medium. We need to hear every aspect of the game, from balls hitting gloves to umpires calling balls and strikes and players “gently disagreeing”. So I would put a microphone on everything that moves – players, umps, managers – and many things that don’t – bases, outfield walls, home plate. Yes, you would have to hire a lot of people to manage and mix these sounds (and delay them to avoid the inevitable utterance of “Ah Fudge!”). Why not a mic on the bullpen phone? The managers have to talk between innings to the TV broadcasters, why not make Brian Price talk to us on the air when he makes a dumb pitching move? I love the sounds in the ballpark and with the technology today, you can bring those sounds right into the broadcast.
SIRI is the Umpire
I love the K Zone or whatever baseball TV calls that box they show around home plate that demonstrates that the ump was right .. or wrong.. about a call. Incorporate that on the air. Let the K Zone call balls and strikes live on the radio at the same time the ump makes the call (using the SIRI voice, or just have John Hirshbeck record a bunch of ball and strike calls and use that). Would it get irritating? Maybe, but it would add a dimension to the radio broadcast that hasn’t been there before.
Speaking of technology, baseball is missing the big chance to convert to 100% non-human umpiring. RFID chips in gloves, balls, bases, shoes, foul poles, outfield walls.. it couldn’t be that hard to write the program that lets the computer make EVERY call on the field. The nerds (like me) would love it. (Google RFID chips)
Don’t Turn On the Guest Microphone While The Game Is On
I love to hear Hal McCoy tell stories, and find out what John Fay knows from the baseball beat of the Enquirer. But not during game action.
“It’s The Skyline Chili Fifth Third Bank Call to the Bullpen On the Cincinnati Bell Hudepohl Beer Reds Radio Network Sponsored by Grippo’s Potato Chips!” Really?
Cut back on all the commercial sponsorships. Two minutes of ads during each inning break (or pitcher change) is fine, but the repeated short advertisements during game action can get annoying.
“Good evening and welcome to Reds Baseball… I’m …”
No one subject that I’ve broached this year has caused more concern and controversy than talking about Marty Brennaman. He’s a world class baseball and sports broadcaster that deserves the awards and accolade he has been given. And to some extents, he has earned the right go out on his own terms. But as you have read on this blog and others, many people think Marty is past his prime. And at the ripe young age of 73 he probably won’t be retiring soon. (Baseball announcers seem to defy age. Bob Uecker is still going strong at 81 and Vin Scully is just now thinking of completely retiring at age 87.) But what if Marty did decide to call it quits? How do you replace a legend?
For the Reds, it is probably Brennaman redux, Marty’s son Thom. At age 51 with extensive experience in network baseball and football broadcasting, Thom seems like a natural and easy choice – he’s the next guy up for the job. It is the boring predictable choice the Reds will probably make. And it is wrong.
Why not shake things up? Get people’s attention? As the new Reds on Radio head, I’m going looking for a new play-by-play announcer that might excite and entertain the audience at a level not heard before.
I would choose an experienced sports broadcaster that grew up in the area (so a born Reds fan). Someone who is at that point in his (or her) career that this becomes the “cherry on top” of their resume. Someone who would enjoy the all consuming 8 month baseball season and then be able to chill for 4 months doing whatever they want wherever they want. And someone who will be an audience draw when they are announced. And you have to find someone who would not be intimidated by replacing a legend.
My suggestion – Dan Patrick
Born Daniel Patrick Pugh in Zanesville, Dan grew up in Mason, Ohio, a lifelong Bengals and Reds fan. He attended Mason High School and the University of Dayton as a broadcasting major. Dan had a number of radio and TV jobs (including CNN) before landing at ESPN in 1989. He went on to become the face of the network’s anchor Sportscenter program for almost 20 years. In 2007, he quit ESPN (Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated called it “one of the top 5 biggest career mistakes in entertainment history” causing a major rift between the two formerly close friends).
The Dan Patrick Show is now heard on hundreds of radio stations around the country and seen on the NBC Sports Network. He hosts Sunday Night Football Pregame on NBC and a sports version of Jeopardy on an online TV channel. Sure, he’s successful and wealthy, but who wouldn’t want to move back to your hometown and be the voice of your favorite team?
He’s a great storyteller – he knows everyone in the sports world – he’s the ultimate homer while being able to criticize the team when necessary. He would bring national attention to the team and the radio broadcasts. And it would probably be easier to sell commercials appealing to somewhat younger Reds fans (how many times can we hear Marty touting the charms of a rehab hospital?)
And who do you pair him with? It does make sense to use a former player as color commentator. How about another Cincinnati native, former Red, World Series champion, Hall of Famer and someone with broadcasting experience? Yep, wouldn’t Barry Larkin fit that role really well?
Dan Patrick and Barry Larkin behind the microphone for the Reds on Radio. That’s my choice.