Monthly Archives: June 2011

There Should Be No Screaming in Baseball…

By Bob Socci

Maybe it was more than mere coincidence the night Yankee Stadium’s speakers were silenced.

Last month, as New York tried to rally during an eventual 5-4 loss to Boston, the climactic innings were played without audio advertising pitches, music to rev up the fans and formal announcement of each batter. According to the New York Daily News, the public address system automatically shut down after one of the ballpark’s water pumps registered a low-pressure reading.

The fact that it was Friday the 13th of May must have struck some as eerily cosmic – an untimely ballpark malfunction representing more than a stroke of bad luck.

But for others, including some players, the unusual shutdown was a blessing. For them, hearing fans left to their own devices – namely passion for the home team and awareness of the game situation, knowing when to clap and what to chant – was music to the ears.

On Friday, May 13, the public address system malfunctioned at Yankee Stadium, where longtime fans still hear the echoes of the late Bob Sheppard.


“I thought it was pretty cool, actually, for the last three innings,” Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez told reporters.

“(The fans) made up for that (muted audio),” added Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Upon experiencing that organic Bronx beat – of the fans, by the fans – the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wondered why ballparks can’t regularly take time out for quiet time. Cafardo proposed a two-inning moratorium on electronic stimuli at the stadium.

Realistically, no one’s going to the pull the plug on what team marketers and, frankly, many paying customers value as in-game entertainment. Not even for just an inning or two. Bells and whistles, as well as a myriad of other sound effects and musical clips, are now part of the fan experience.

Nonetheless, what Cafardo wrote calls to mind a conclusion I reached long ago, while frequenting dozens of ballparks across the country – from minors to majors. It’s based, essentially, on the wholly unoriginal idea of less being more.

What I’d like to see – hear, actually – in those places where ballgames are treated somewhat like tractor pulls or monster trucks is a little less volume.

It’s not so much the tunes that get to me. Let the music play, I say. More often, it’s the sound and fury from the pipes of the rare stadium voice who mistakes our leisurely night at the ballpark for his Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.

Society could use more civil tones. And so could baseball.

That’s why, if ever designated czar of the game – after first ending the habitual fidgeting with batting gloves that grips today’s hitters (please see previous post Baseball Addition by Subtraction) – I would decree:

2. There Should Be No Screaming in Baseball…

…unless, that is, you’re arguing with an umpire. And since I’ve yet to see a public address announcer or stadium emcee charge onto the field doing his best Bobby Cox or Lou Piniella impersonation, it’s time in some parks to dial it down a bit.

On any given outing to a ballgame, you can be treated to a beautiful arrangement. It’s the voices of vendors heard above the murmur of a grandstand; dugout chatter and bleacher banter; and the hubbub of a crowd taking cues from clutch hits and rally-ending strikeouts.

But in some places, particularly at the game’s grassroots, the minor leagues, electronic intrusion creates an assault on the senses. They’re where you’re liable to hear special effects, like the sound of shattering glass, on every foul ball out of play and/or an over-amplified and amped-up announcer shouting for the sake of shouting.

Years ago, The (insert sponsor) Pizza Scream was a widespread promotion. The premise was simple enough. During a designated between-innings break, fans were invited to scream for a free pie. Whoever was judged to make the most noise received an in-seat delivery. At least in that case, it was the fans doing all the screaming.

There are times, however, when the in-game, on-field host – filling a role created fairly recently – gets a bit carried away. For instance, at one International League stadium, the M.C. is a talented guy with plenty of timbre. He just happens to go overboard from the bed of a four-wheeler that circles the warning track and launches t-shirts into the crowd.

“Make some noise!” he repeatedly seems to be yelling from the top of his lungs. In moderation, his message would be clear. Over-modulation makes it just plain loud.

One of the great appeals of going to a ballgame is the idea of relaxing in your seat, washing down a dog slathered in mustard with a cold beverage and enjoying good conversation. You shouldn’t have to shout to be heard by the person in the next seat, as if bellied-up to the bar of a loud nightclub.

I’m totally into the idea of pumping up a crowd, trying to energize fans during a rally or entertain them when there’s a lull in the action. And, absolutely, a hometown hitter walking up to a clutch at-bat should be identified with a little extra oomph on each ensuing syllable of his name.

For that matter, creative use of music and videos definitely enlivens in-game presentation. There aren’t many ideas in sports marketing more ingenious than the Rally Monkey. I mean, except for Giants fans, who didn’t love seeing the Angels answer the monkey’s call to come back and win the 2002 World Series? The Rally Monkey was (is) so cool, one can almost forgive the Halos for perpetrating Thunder Sticks on the public that same postseason.

The one and only Rally Monkey.


It’s understood that one can’t possibly expect other venues to sound like Fenway Park when Sherm Feller welcomed “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” or old Yankee Stadium when Bob Sheppard enunciated every syllable of Alvaro Espinoza with impeccable elocution.

And, granted, in most places announcers strike a perfect balance between Rex Barney (the late pitcher-turned-P.A.-man in Baltimore whose elongated “Thank Yooouuu!” punctuated announcements) and Michael Buffer (you know, the “Let’s get ready to rumble!!” ring announcer).

It’s not that I’m strictly advocating what some consider stodgy and stale over what’s hip and hop. And unless I really do get to reign over the game someday, all I can hope for is that those proud to be loud take the words of a longtime baseball man to heart.

For 35 years, Bob Brown was public relations director for the Baltimore Orioles. Later, in the mid-90s, he went on to a consult for a group of Maryland-based minor league clubs, including the Delmarva Shorebirds.

Once, speaking on the subject of what really draws fans to the ballpark, Brown offered a gentle reminder.

“The next time the club goes on the road,” he suggested, “open the gates, invite people to buy tickets to hear music and announcements, and see who shows up.”

The Durham Bulls Athletic Park (photo courtesy of durhambulls.com)

Click here to hear how at some ballparks, the announcer screams for fans to scream for t-shirts!

Click here to compare how at other stadiums, including the home of the hugely successful Durham Bulls, only the fans do the yelling!

On deck: Root, Root, Root for the Home Team…

Bob calls Norfolk Tides games, in addition to his roles as the radio voice of Navy football and a freelance television broadcaster. To view and listen to samples of his work, please visit www.bobsocci.com.

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Baseball Addition by Subtraction

By Bob Socci

Thirty-five years ago, in what was widely viewed as an act of defiance, baseball’s commissioner created quite a stir by sitting through a World Series game sans an overcoat.

The Big Red Machine was beating the Yankees on a frigid Sunday evening at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium, for the second of four wins during its sweep of ‘76, and the late Bowie Kuhn was on the hot seat.

For the first time ever, Major League Baseball was staging a World Series weekend game at night, thus avoiding direct competition with the NFL for afternoon viewers. Critics were convinced that Kuhn sold out to television.

Mike Hargrove earned the nickname "The Human Rain Delay" with the deliberate mannerisms he displayed during his 6,693 major league plate appearances (photo courtesy of espn.com).


Ostensibly, the commissioner deemed it in the best interests of baseball to eschew an extra layer, as is if to boldly suggest to viewers nationwide that a 40-degree chill in mid-October was perfectly suited – topcoat or not – for a ballgame.

Of course, today such controversy might seem silly. We all realize that a main mission of every major sport, college or pro, is to maximize ratings and thereby please the networks and their sponsors. If anything, we in the East simply hope – often in vain – that World Series games end while it’s still p.m.; not the following a.m.

Furthermore, nowadays it’s customary for the Late Fall Classic to stretch into November and be played by men wearing ear muffs attached to their caps. There’s no sense pretending when being practical might keep them warm.

And as Kuhn’s eventual successor, Bud Selig, recently indicated at his annual meeting with Associated Press Sports Editors, baseball’s postseason is about to last longer and extend later.

There’s been talk of playoff expansion for years. USA Today was writing about the possibility as early as the fall of 2003. In April, MLB proposed a rule change to increase the field from eight to ten teams, as soon as 2012.

“I would say we’re moving to expanding the playoffs, but there’s a myriad of details to work out,” Selig told the AP editors in late April. “Ten is a fair number.”

In exchange for this inevitable expansion, and with the integrity of the game at heart, I am seeking a tradeoff of sorts. I’m pleading for contraction; hoping baseball will soon eliminate some of the things that are truly troubling about the way it’s being played in the 21st Century.

As easy it might be to come up with 10 or more, I’ll settle for just a handful. In this case, five is a fair number.

But rather than publishing the items on my wish list all at once, so that Commissioner Selig can pay each due consideration, I’m divulging them one post at a time.

So, mislabel me a purist or traditionalist if you so choose, but here’s the first edict I’d love to see – in the best interests of baseball:

1. A Ban on Velcro

There are a lot of theories, some prompted by actual studies, for speeding up baseball’s pace of play and shortening its average time of game. Naturally, though unscientifically, I’ve come up with a suggestion of my own.

I arrived at it, after a somewhat exhaustive review of thousands of plate appearances, from hundreds of games, in recent years. For time’s sake, the moment has arrived to outlaw Velcro straps on batting gloves.

As much as anyone, I value the rhythms of the game and appreciate the timeless appeal of its timeless nature. I would never quibble with the great Roger Angell, who wrote: “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.”

What’s gotten old, or – to borrow a frequent expression inside the sport – what’s gotten tired is the routine that interrupts the game’s flow before every pitch. Hitter steps out of box; hitter rests the bat handle against his legs or tucks the barrel under his arm; hitter undoes the strap of each batting glove; hitter refastens the strap of each batting glove; hitter returns to box.

Right-handed or lefty; slugger or Punch-and-Judy; it doesn’t matter. Every at-bat, between balls and strikes, such fidgeting has gone from idiosyncrasy to idiocy.

It’s reached the point where Frank Deford recently made the point, during an NPR commentary: “The worst thing that ever happened to baseball was batting gloves — because unlike all the other gloves in the world, which people just put on and forget about, baseball batters seem to be born with a compulsion to monkey around with their batting gloves. Batting gloves, to baseball players, are like texting to teenagers.”

Granted, such finicky behavior spawned one of the sport’s best nicknames – Mike Hargrove really was ‘The Human Rain Delay.’ But, as fascinating as every Nomar Garciaparra at-bat proved to be – from the tug on his gloves to the tap of his toes – too many of today’s batters remind me of my 11-month old every time he reaches for the Velcro straps on his sneakers. Maybe they, like him, just love hearing the ripple of Velcro off and Velcro on.

Just think, if such a ban has the effect both desired and expected, then baseball can begin to better police the use of other implements. Like shin guards and elbow pads.

Resourceful Yankees coach Mick Kelleher has his hands -- and belt -- full as caretaker of gloves and other equipment (photo courtesy of Reuters).


First-base coaches are constantly being weighed down by equipment handed over by almost every batter who reaches base. If enough guys get on, the coach has to form a relay with a bat boy just to get the gear back to the dugout. How can that coach possibly offer a fist bump after an RBI single, when his hands are full with the previous batter’s arm and leg guards?

Perhaps baseball needs legislature to impose hands-free coaching.

Should a batter choose to bat in body armor – thereby gaining an advantage over a pitcher in their battle to control the coveted inside corner – maybe he should be forced to keep wearing it on the bases. So what if it proves bothersome while running.

Heck, for years pitchers have donned cumbersome jackets on the basepaths. Those satins in the seventies had to be worth at least a lost step or two trying to go from first to third.

On a fabric-related topic, just last week I witnessed a first after a Baltimore Orioles farmhand reached second.

Josh Bell, in short sleeves, delivered an RBI double. But once in scoring position, he took time to remove a pair of long black sleeves from his back pockets and pull them up over his elbows.

I had heard of padded sliding shorts, but had never seen what were presumed to be sliding sleeves. Can you picture Pete Rose scraping the dirt on a head-first dive, only after first pausing to cover his hairy forearms with Lycra tubing? Eeshh.

But I digress, getting way ahead of myself. For now, and for the good of the game, let’s simply take it one strap at a time.

On deck: There Should Be No Screaming in Baseball…

Bob calls Norfolk Tides games, in addition to his roles as the radio voice of Navy football and a freelance television broadcaster. To view and listen to samples of his work, please visit www.bobsocci.com.

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