Several Cups of Joe with Joe

November 29, Phoenix – Shortly after the World Series wrapped up, I had the honor of spending an afternoon with Joe Garagiola. We spoke about baseball, broadcasting, history, family, faith and friendships. I even pulled out a recorder to capture some of the thoughts of the man we have welcomed into our living room for many years, only this time we got to visit his. They are unedited, so forgive the beginnings and ends, here are the first two parts of the four part conversation:Joe_g_and_vin

Download joe_garagiola_interview_1.WMA

Joe_garagiolagerald_ford_1 Download joe_garagiola_interview_2.WMA

Joe went into the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster in 1991, here’s hoping legendary and classy Blue Jays voice Tom Cheek gets his call as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence this time around. Cheek passed away in 2005 and was taken from all of us far too soon. Tom_cheekTom was best known to Canada’s baseball faithful as the man who had a streak of 4,306 consecutive games called. To me, he was a friend, a colleague and a mentor..and one incredible game caller. Let’s celebrate Tom in Cooperstown in the not so distant future.

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Bye Bye to a Killer “B”

November 26, Phoenix – Here’s hoping you and your’s had a blessed holiday this past week. In the world of baseball and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, there is no doubt that most find themselves thankful for the career of Craig Biggio, a player that played the game the right way.

Craid_biggio_5Here are some thoughts I recently compiled on the blue-collar ball player:

In a season and a decade that has been defined by the home run, isn’t it refreshing that in 2007 baseball celebrated two players that were recognized for their loyalty, skill and endurance. The Dbacks won the NL West, the Rockies the pennant and the Red Sox won it all, but this year also belonged to Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. The Baseball Hall of Fame honors two living legends that played the game the right way and did so for one organization. Here’s hoping five years from now there is a spot for another 3,000 hit, blue-collar overachiever that wore just one uniform his entire career.

Craig Biggio’s recently wrapped up career makes him all but a lock to unlock the doors of the hall, but for many who play this game he was in long before 3,000 based on his versatility and success at three separate positions. He was an All Star as a catcher and a second baseman, while starting nearly 400 games behind the plate and nearly 2000 in the middle of the infield. Late in his career he also put the team first and moved to the outfield where he started for two full seasons. But if Craig had his way his position would have been starting tailback for Syracuse.

Craig_biggio_3“Football is really what I wanted to do and that was my true love and passion. I just loved running the ball,” Biggio shared with me, “My brother told me not to spend all of my time studying like he did and I heeded that advice a bit too much. When it came time to go to any Division 1 school that I wanted to go to, I just couldn’t get in and reality set in real quick. I realized that I kind of messed things up and I had to go play baseball. Hindsight is definitely 20/20 and things definitely worked out, but my true passion and love is football and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Many pitchers the last two decades regret that he didn’t mature in the classroom until he was a baseball player at Seton Hall. His parents helped a bit as well as they took away his pride and joy, a 1969 Mustang, until he proved himself academically. After a 3.5 GPA his first semester he was driving again and his destination was the big leagues, where he continued his education by breaking in with a clubhouse full of veterans with the 1989 Houston Astros.

“Those days to me were the most precious day that I ever had. When I broke in I was 22 and the next guy closest in age to me was 32. So I had an opportunity to be around guys like Buddy Bell, Nolan Ryan, Larry Anderson and Billy Doran and to see how these guys go about their business was incredible. They worked hard day in and day out and they were always available for the media whether the result was good or bad. To me those were the most valuable days that I have ever had.”

Buddy_bellBut it was Bell that provided as much guidance and insight as any other in that locker room. It is the way Biggio leads his teammates in Houston.

“Buddy made it clear that you are held accountable. It doesn’t matter who you are whether you are the big fish or the littlest fish on the team, you play the game the right way and if you don’t then somebody is going to say something to you. It taught me how to go about my business. If you don’t do the right thing and you don’t stand up then we’ll make sure that you are there to do that.”

Doing the right thing in the workplace was always a trade mark of the grizzled veteran, but having the same impact at home was always the challenge as long as he wore a baseball uniform. His wife Patty and three children are the hall of famers as far as Craig is concerned.

Craig_biggio_6“They’ve been the best. It’s hard. It’s rough on my boys and my daughter. You feel like you are never there and you aren’t there to help them with the little daily things that most dads get to do and that’s the hardest thing. They pay the biggest price and you can’t put a price tag on that. You can’t go back in years and back in time and start all their activities and memories over again. My wife and my kids have been nothing but the best in allowing me to go out here and do what I’ve got to do.”

But his family certainly can make memories together making an impact in the community around them. Biggio serves as the national spokesperson for The Sunshine Kids Foundation which adds support and quality of life to children with cancer and their families. For the man who has been hit by more pitches than anyone in the history of the game, being hit by the realities of cancer left a much bigger mark.
    
Craig_biggio_2“I got introduced to cancer at a young age when a good friend on my paper route lost their son at the age of 10 years old. I was fourteen at the time and I learned what it really does to a family. From then on I knew that if I ever had a chance to make an impact or do anything that cancer would be the way to go. This was a perfect fit and they are one of the reasons why I stayed in Houston. Just as much as I’ve had an impact of their lives, they’ve had more of an impact on mine. I understand how lucky we are to do what we do and how fortunate we all are to help them out if only a little bit.”

So as we celebrate Tony and Cal, will we be celebrating a similar career in 2012?

Craig_biggio_4“It is something that as an active player you just go out there and play, but for people to mention you and the Hall of Fame in the same breath is very humbling to me. I don’t look at myself as that type of player. So you love the game and you play the game, and if people think that in five years from now then that would be the ultimate. I just try to play the game the right way, be a positive role model and leave my legacy behind. I know that I am very appreciative of getting to play the greatest game in the world.”

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Joe_garagiola_1I recently had a chance to spend some time in conversation with Hall of Fame broadcaster and baseball ambassador Joe Garagiola. I will share those audio clips with you over the next few days. It was memorable and special to say the least.

Quality Nerves

September 28, Denver – Sitting in Starbucks on 16th Street, the talk for the last two hours has been about the Rockies and their huge weekend series with the Dbacks.Starbucks I couldn’t help but stop and give thanks that we all have the opportunity to be involved in these games this weekend, as watchers, talkers, writers or players. In my previous seven years as a full time game-caller, the latest that I had ever broadcasted a game for a first place team was April 15…that’s right, the end of the tax season not the baseball season. Consider me honored to be talking meaningful, exciting baseball with you for at least three more days. What a ride!

Kirk_gibson_1Next…here are a few conversations that I have had with folks that will be very busy this weekend…Troy Tulowitzki, Kirk Gibson and Trevor Hoffman:

Download troy_tuluwitzki_interview.WMA

Download kirk_gibson_interview.WMA

Troy_tulowitki Download trevor_hoffman_interview.WMA

Trevor_hoffmanFinally a thought in defense of the quality start. Arizona has 83 quality starts this season and in those games they are 57-26, or a .686 winning percentage. In their non-quality starts, their record is 32-44, or a .421 winning percentage. I know it is not the end all-be all number, but one can’t say it has no meaning or impact at all.

Have fun this weekend…I know I will!

The Proud Family

August 9, Phoenix – An amazing defensive play that awakened the team offensively and the game winning rbi not long after. Just in a day’s work for Orlando Hudson, one of three of four team mvp’s on a team that needs all 25 in uniform to win each series.

Here’s a recent conversation I had with Orlando…

Download orlando_hudson_interview.WMA

Orlando_hudson_5

Bleacher Creature

July 22, In the air between Chicago and Phoenix – Yusmeiro Petit has been amazingly effective in his five starts this year. It is not the stuff that flukes are made of because he simply hits his spots and keeps the opposing hitter’s weight shifting back and forth in the batters box. Yusmeiro_petit_1_1Teams have scouting reports on Petit by now and it’s not making a difference. On the same day the a man named Pettitte got 21 runs of support, a man named Petit was backed by three runs and needed only one.

Here’s part of a conversation I had the other day with blue-collar backstop Jason Kendall. Since 2000, Kendall has started 1,073 games behind the plate, number two on that list is Jorge Posada, who is more than 100 starts behind Jason on the list.

Carlton_fisk_1_1Daron: Do you think about the catching record of 2,226 games held by Carlton Fisk?

Jason: No, I don’t think so. I just love playing the game, I love catching and I love being in the middle of it. As soon as I start loving it is probably the day that I get out, which is the same thing that I probably told you about ten years ago.

Daron: I think what impresses a lot of people about you is that you play every day, in a catcher’s world you truly do.

Jason: Rest in the off-season. This is our job and this is what we get paid to do, we get paid to play a game and not too many people can say that. I definitely enjoy what I do and when I stop is when I get out. I respect the game more than anything and I feel I need to be out there every day to help the team in some aspect. I enjoy and love it and like I said earlier, the off-season is when you get to rest.

Jason_kendall_1Daron: Have you always prided yourself in your role in the pitcher/catcher relationship?

Jason: Yeah and there’s no doubt that I get that from my dad (Fred Kendall). It’s kind of like your dad did in that era when he taught you and when it was a game. You see, I was fortunate to have a father that played in the big leagues for so long and you take a lot of pride in that. That is your first priority, to get your pitcher through as many innings as possible and let the bullpen take over and try to get a "W".

Fred_kendall_1Daron: How often did dad take you to work?

Jason: He took me to work a lot, but as far as what I can remember, it’s kind of shaky because I was six when he got out. I definitely remember going to the ballpark and going to watch him and listening to his name over the loud speaker. Then I’d go back and play tennis ball, or whatever, with my brother, but it was definitely fun to have a father in the big leagues.

Daron: Everyone always talks about Fred Kendall, but what about Patty (mom)?

Jason: Yeah I was very fortunate to have a good family growing up and they took care of me. The family life is hard in baseball because you are traveling so much. An example is that I just left the west coast because of baseball where my family just was and I left behind four kids. That’s the hardest part about it. You have to have a good woman, I have one and my mom was one and I’m very fortunate in that aspect.

Jason_kendall_6Daron: What do you remember about a 1993 series in the South Atlantic League in which you played on one team and your dad managed the other?

Jason: It was a good experience and it was fun. I remember that in 93’ we got in a fight and at the time I wasn’t making any money. So the umpires came out there and discussed with the managers who was going to get thrown out and my dad said, "What about their catcher? You should throw their catcher out, he was the one who tackled the hitter when he was charging the mound." He was trying to get me kicked out of the game because I was wearing them out. That’s the kind of gamer that my dad was and he showed it right there, but I was wondering if he would have paid my fine.

Jim_leyland_1Daron: Did you enjoy breaking in with so many seasoned veterans with Pittsburgh in 1996?

Jason: Yeah, I broke in with another rookie catcher, Keith Osik, and it was one of those things where you definitely learn. I mean you learn how to call a game, but that really takes a while, it mayber took me six or seven years to really learn how to call a game. I started to figure out how to watch hands and watch feet and learned that hitters are always making adjustments. I remember at one point catching Denny Neagle, Danny Darwin and Zane Smith. There were some true veterans there. I remember one time Leyland asking me to go to the mound and talk to Darwin, who was 40 years old and I just said ‘no’. Then I finally walked out there and Danny told me to get out of there, but that he would throw whatever I put down. I definitely learned from the guys back then, but it’s the type of game where I still learn today.

Daron: What has the move to the Cubs been like?

Wrigley_fieldJason: Every big league player that plays this game has wanted to come here and play for the Cubs. It has always been my favorite place to play, this history, the fans and the pinstripes. It’s just one of those things that I really appreciate, not only do I get to play in the majors, but I get to now do it in this park in front of these fans.

See you soon. Have a great week.

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