One of the main obstacles Bouton and his co-creators faced in writing the series was the issue of translating ballplayer dialogue to network television in a realistic and/or believable fashion, since Joe Schultz-style epithets were obviously not going to fly on network TV. “You couldn’t say ‘Horseshit,’” Bouton explains. “You could have ‘Horse!’, or maybe ‘Horse-crock!’ There were all sorts of ways they had to neuterize it.” But swearing wasn’t the only aspect of life in the majors that was deemed off-limits; because CBS had scheduled the show to run on Wednesdays during Family Viewing Hour—the FCC had mandated in 1975 that all network shows broadcast in the first hour of prime time must be “family-friendly” in content—CBS’s Standards and Practices department also forbade any spitting, burping, chewing of tobacco, popping of “greenies,” or any other potentially offensive behavior from the show’s characters. “We were not allowed to put any of the grittiness of life in the majors on the screen,” Bouton says. With every network note, Ball Four the sitcom became less and less like Ball Four the book.
If sanitized content was an automatic strike one against Ball Four, then strike two came when the network decided to cast Bouton as the show’s lead. Bouton would portray Jim Barton, an aging pitcher who alienates his teammates on the fictional Washington Americans by writing tell-all pieces for Sports Illustrated. Bouton certainly had the real-life qualifications to play the part, and he’d acquitted himself nicely as the creepy playboy Terry Lennox in Robert Altman’s 1973 production of The Long Goodbye, but sitcom acting was, well, a whole other ballgame. “They probably thought casting me would be inexpensive, because I was not a real actor,” laughs Bouton. “And who knew what a difficult chore that would be?”
In his landmark book from 1965, The American Diamond, Branch Rickey wrote: Baseball does not fit the television screen. Not yet! . . . The shape of the home television screen must be changed in the years to come. The “sports screen” doubtless will be produced by major television manufacturers on a 2 or 2½ to 1 ratio. When the width of the screen is 2½ times the height (in home projection) then you will see the baseball diamond in its full dimension and the interaction of its players and when the full wide screen is used to show a slide at second or to convey the distance an outfielder has to run to make a superb catch, the viewing will be truly exciting. The sports screen will likely take a few years, electronically, but it will come, and when it does, the televising of baseball will be the greatest beneficiary. The sports screen will also change the way baseball is reported and will give the announcers—especially those who are former players—much greater opportunity to explore the situation on the field.
Today, AwesomenessTV and Major League Baseball announced that their new scripted series “Out of My League” will premiere on September 19th on AwesomenessTV. The series features an all-star cast featuring Lauren Elizabeth Luthringshausen (3M fans) and Brian Redmon (654K fans) with Caeli Santa Olalla (16.9M fans) and Ryan Abe (857K fans). Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star center fielder, Joc Pederson (439K fans) also makes a special appearance.
Shot in and around legendary Dodger Stadium, “Out of My League” follows Claire (Luthringshausen), a die-hard Dodgers fan visiting her dad in LA for the summer, and Chase (Redmon), a surfer who knows little about baseball. Claire is doing a good job avoiding distractions while spending her days at the ballpark rooting on her team, until she meets Chase and both of their worlds are turned upside down.
“We produce premium content that engages our Gen Z audience, and partnering with MLB gave us the opportunity to make stories with the themes this audience cares about in the iconic setting of America’s pastime, “said Paul Kelly, Chief Partnerships Officer at AwesomenessTV.
Adds Maury…“Pass the popcorn. The static’s on (again)”
File this one in the “broken record” department: prepare for yet another season of MLB’s blackout policy remaining in place.
The reason for the broken record? This story has been written repeatedly for years. A source at MLB said that for all practical purposes, the matter will likely not be addressed for the upcoming season.
For the uninitiated, the question is, “Why should I be concerned?” That depends on whether you are, or planning to, purchase MLB Extra Innings or subscribe to MLB.TV.
In a nutshell, there are two ways you can be hit with the “blackout blues”. National broadcast partners FOX and ESPN have exclusivity agreements in which no matter where you live, games are blacked out on MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV.
...And about the national blackout policy, any chance that happens soon? In speaking with sources close to the matter, when asked if the possibility it won’t be considered until contracts are renewed with ESPN and FOX, the reply was, “Probably.”
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission took a step that may lead to the elimination of all sports blackouts, of which the N.F.L.’s are the most notable. The commission said it was seeking public comment on eliminating its own rules that have effectively backstopped league policies by prohibiting cable and satellite operators from carrying a game already blacked out by local broadcast stations.
“We’re asking the government to get out of the business of propping up sports blackouts,” said Brian Frederick, executive director of the Sports Fans Coalition, which filed a petition in November to end the F.C.C.’s blackout rule with four other interest groups. “The F.C.C. has had the rule since the 1970s and has never taken a comprehensive look at it.”
This would be awesome, especially for all those poor baseball fans in Nevada.
One old sparky chair comes to mind! Picks up torch and pitchfork (sees Bon Iver won year-ender…throws away in disgust)...
But what if we discover that one of the players in the actual Hall of Fame did something far more abhorrent than using steroids or testosterone? Say, murder. Would the Hall of Fame seriously consider removing that player? I honestly don’t know.
Of course, time plays a role here. Conlin just won the Spink Award. In the display in the Museum, he’s featured. If Conlin were dead, or if he’d won the award 10 years ago, this whole sordid affair might be a three-day story. But now? With Conlin still around? With an extra-big photo of him in the Museum? With Jerry Sandusky still running free?
Right now, everything is so raw. If given a chance, I suppose I would split the difference. I would not rescind Conlin’s Spink Award, but I would hasten to make him less visible in Cooperstown. We’ve got a new winner: Bob Elliott. Maybe it’s as easy as making him the center piece of the exhibit a few months earlier than scheduled.
Or maybe Conlin should simply be defrocked. I don’t have the answer yet. I do anticipate a spirited discussion. Which will be more than welcome.
Even though it’s the off-season for the MLB, the MLB Network is hard at work leveraging social media by curating off-season chatter through their programming — and now they’ve rolled out a brand new social media area inside of their state-of-the-art Studio 3 in New Jersey.
The social area of the studio serves up 108-inch touchscreens for MLB Network talent to interact with fans through Facebook polls, Twitter and email. MLB Network has over 98,000 followers on Twitter and over 350,000 likes on Facebook.
...LR: How will social media be incorporated into the studio? On air?
MB: Fans can be part of the discussion and chime in on all the latest Major League Baseball news and rumors leading up to the 2012 regular season. As it has done throughout 2011, MLB Network will continue to interact with viewers and post questions and display select responses on-air in each studio show – including “Hot Stove,” “Clubhouse Confidential” and “Intentional Talk” this offseason – either on the in-studio touchscreen monitor or on-screen in our social media “ticker.”
We also want to bring fans the best and newest info shared by players and media via social media, so MLB Network on-air personalities will discuss tweets on-air, whether it’s a breaking news story or a photo that a player posted from a recent vacation. During the various Jewel Events on the MLB calendar, like Spring Training, Opening Day, the All-Star Game, Trade Deadline, Postseason and Winter Meetings, we monitor hashtags to stay on top of the most talked about storylines and display tweets and stories reported on Twitter from baseball beat writers.
Lou Piniella, a fan favorite as both player and manager, is deep in negotiations and close to signing a deal to return to the Bombers as an analyst for the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network. He also will likely serve as a spring training instructor.
According to industry sources, Piniella will do a limited number of appearances for YES in the broadcast booth and studio.
Piniella would join YES’ cast of analysts that includes Ken Singleton, John Flaherty, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Al Leiter and play-by-play man Michael Kay.
...Now, sources said, Piniella wants to stay to baseball. It looks like the Yankees are providing that opportunity. This likely means Yankees fans will see Piniella in the YES booth when the Bombers play the Rays in 2012. The Yankees open the season April 6 in Tampa. Piniella should have a role in that telecast.
After leaving Tampa in 2006, Piniella spent a season working for Fox Sports on its major league baseball package.
Lifting from Mountaintop Motel Massacre’s sweet Evelyn here…“Please do not piss off Cardinal fans. They already are.”
Tim McCarver, that biased broadcaster, has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
From here on out, he’ll be referred to as a Hall of Famer.
But I’ll just call him Tim McCarver.
Because in my eyes, he is NOT a Hall of Famer. He is a dumbfounded broadcaster who, for whatever reason, has been on the air way too long.
...He is constantly negative toward the Cardinals and does not have any credibility. I can remember when he referred to former pitcher Donovan Osborne as Donovan “Os-burn.” Even during this past postseason, McCarver said the word strike was made up of five letters. Add all that to his sentence structure — that I’m sure makes English teachers squirm — that’s not excellence.
McCarver was a great ballplayer, I respect him for that. In that genre, he’s still not a Hall of Famer (didn’t have the numbers nor did he stand out), but he was certainly an impacting player for the teams he played on.
Losing out on the award this year is Texas Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel, who is the best descriptive broadcaster there is; McCarver’s former teammate Mike Shannon, who is the most unique broadcaster in the game; and a large number of others who were so much more deserving.
I haven’t been this riveted to a TV show since Roy Thinnes got a severe pinky cramp and had to hide it during a whole The Invaders episode!
The resistance from—I guess you could call it the long-established media, since mainstream applies to the internet these days—seems to be fading. Writers such as Keith Law or Dave Cameron at Fangraphs have BBWAA membership, which is a wonderful, progressive development. But there’s still that challenge of making sabermetrics accessible to the those who are skeptical or intimidated. How do you approach that challenge on the show?
Kenny: “That’s always the challenge in knowing where the line is. I want any baseball fan to be able to tune into the show and have a passing knowledge of statistics to be able to watch the show and enjoy it. So I really take my time and take particular care to explain the methodology and to explain what some of these new analytical tools are and how they are used and why they work.
At the same time, I stress this is not math class, a lot of times I try to say, hey, this is wins above replacement. Try not to get caught up in what goes into the number, just look at what the numbers are telling us. We can look at OPS, we can look at weighted on-base average, let’s see what all the evidence is telling us. I don’t get caught up in one number because there is no magic number. A fan is already looking at the numbers. How do you know someone is a good hitter? He hits .300. He drives in 100 runs. Those are metrics. They’re just not the best possible metrics to analyze production and project future performance. There are other numbers for that and we’re going to teach people what they are and how to use them.”
...Before I let you go, I have to ask since he’s one of my favorite players and his Hall of Fame candidacy is cause of sabermetricians: Does Tim Raines belong in the Hall of Fame?
According to Spencer Fordin of MLB.com, Legendary Pictures announced yesterday that Harrison Ford will play Hall of Fame Dodgers’ executive Branch Rickey in a biopic about Jackie Robinson.
Many prominent actors have been mentioned for the role of Rickey over the years, including Robert Redford this past April, but Ford was apparently their top choice. His work in “Cowboys and Aliens” probably put him over the top.
As for Robinson, he’ll be played by the relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman. The 27-year-old has appeared in television shows such as “Lincoln Heights” and NBC’s “Persons Unknown.”
The film, which is appropriated titled “42,” is being written and directed by Brian Helgeland of “L.A. Confidential” and “Mystic River” renown.
Shia LaBeouf will play Branch Rickey’s son who takes over the movie for no reason.
The Angels have agreed to a new deal with Fox Sports worth at least $3 billion and expected to cover 20 years, two parties familiar with the deal said Thursday. The parties declined to be identified because the deal has yet to be officially announced.
Spokesmen for Fox and the Angels declined to comment.
Moreno last year opted out of a 10-year, $500-million contract with Fox, according to sports media consultant and former NBA TV President Ed Desser.
Desser, testifying Thursday in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy case, said the Angels and Fox agreed at the time to a one-year extension while the parties negotiated a new deal.
The Rangers agreed with Fox last year on a new contract worth an average of $80 million per year. The Angels’ deal is expected to top that in average annual rights fees — the rejected Dodgers’ deal had an average annual rights fee of about $85 million — and include an ownership stake in FSW.
The timing of this with the Pujols signing is curious. I wonder if Arte prodded Fox into upping the rights fees once he had Pujols in the fold. This would be much cooler if Fox was paying for an investment in the team, than Arte taking his windfall and turning around and spending it.
Regional sports networks. Twelve months ago Moreno was complaining about Carl Crawford money (seven years, $142 million.) What changed? He lined up a new local TV deal that could pay him almost twice the current annual rate of $50 million—even with the second-worst ratings in baseball. Sports programming is hot. It provides loads of content and, most importantly, content that is DVR-proof. Most sports programming is consumed live, not time-shifted, and that’s increasingly valuable to advertisers who prefer their ads actually be seen and not zapped. There is a reason the Rangers, who were in bankruptcy a year ago, and the Angels, who kept coming up short on free agents, are now superpowers—they lined up state-of-the-art massive TV deals. Once it was new ballparks that created the hierarchy of spending power in baseball. Now RSNs are the new oil wells. Next up at the TV windfall game: the Dodgers.
Sandy Alderson. The Mets GM had the two best lines of the meetings, first, in response to Reyes whining about not being wooed by the Mets, said, “Maybe I should have sent him a box of chocolates,” and then later, noting two of the three biggest contracts in baseball history (Alex Rodriguez and Pujols) were handed out at the same Dallas hotel, said, “There must be a strain of Legionnaire’s disease here.”
St. Louis fans. They don’t get to watch Pujols chase records and burnish his legacy as a Cardinals icon. But don’t blame the ballclub or even Pujols. Pujols essentially became too good and too expensive for the size of the market—particularly one that hasn’t cashed in yet on the new RSN boom like the Angels and Rangers. St. Louis still has six years left on its local TV deal. They could also start their own RSN, paralleling what the Yankees and Red Sox have done, but St. Louis ranks 24th out of the 30 media markets measured by Neilsen. The Cardinals might not have enough eyeballs for the TV calculus to work.
Hanley Ramirez. He was a problem when he was playing the position he wanted, shortstop. Do the Marlins really believe he will go peacefully to third base? Don’t rule out the possibility of a trade.
Tim McCarver, who has served as a national analyst on networks for three decades and simultaneously shined as part of broadcast teams with four big league clubs, has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
McCarver becomes the second primary television analyst to win the Frick Award, joining Tony Kubek, who received the honor in 2009. McCarver will be honored as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2012, July 20-23, in Cooperstown, New York.
I thought it was just that he looked better next to Ralph Kiner…
As the lone comment sez…“Baseball Wives isn’t embarrassing enough?
Major League Baseball announced today that the MLB Fan Cave in 2012 will start the season with a group of fan contestants, some of whom will be eliminated throughout the season until one winner is crowned before the end of the World Series. Multiple contestants will begin the season in the MLB Fan Cave and watch every single MLB game each day while chronicling their experiences online through videos, blogs and social media. Along the way, they will compete against one another over the course of the baseball season in a series of challenges, with fans online helping decide who gets to stay in the Fan Cave and play host to the baseball stars and celebrities who will visit throughout the season. Entries – which include a series of essay questions and a video submission – are now being accepted at MLBFanCave.com, with a deadline of Friday, January 13.
The MLB Fan Cave will return to the 15,000 square foot location at 4th Street and Broadway in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village that was formerly the home of Tower Records. After hosting a number of holiday-themed events this month, the MLB Fan Cave will shut its doors in January to be redesigned to feature new technology and interactive elements. The MLB Fan Cave is a unique event space and content factory mixing baseball with music, popular culture, media, interactive technology, and art. It also serves as a digital hub for all baseball fans, with a constant flow of online video and conversation via social media.
Well…at least they don’t have to worry about banning flannel. Huh, ohh.
Muscle shirts, ripped jeans and flip-flops—fine for the beach, not so fine for big league press boxes starting next season.
Baseball has become the first major pro league in North America to issue dress guidelines for media members, putting them in writing at the winter meetings.
The no-wear list also includes visible undergarments, excessively short skirts or anything with a team logo.
“This is not in response to any single incident,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said Tuesday.
...The media should dress “in an appropriate and professional manner” with clothing proper for a “business casual work environment” when in locker rooms, dugouts, press boxes and on the field, the new MLB rules say.
Banned are sheer and see-through clothing, tank tops, one-shouldered or strapless shirts or clothing exposing bare midriffs. Also listed in the guidelines are skirts, dresses or shorts cut more than 3-4 inches above the knee.
...At 81, former Marlins manager Jack McKeon has seen dress codes change a lot during more than a half-century in the game. Especially at warm-weather ballparks during the hottest summer months.
“I remember the old days, when even the people in Triple-A would wear a coat and tie,” he said. “Now, it’s casual. Less than casual, really,” he said.
“Today, it can look pretty sloppy,” he said. “But that’s not just baseball. It’s generational.”
When Dick Vitale heard prior to Thanksgiving that Mariano Rivera was headed for vocal cord surgery, he attempted to reach out to baseball’s all-time closer.
Having undergone surgery on his vocal cord in 2007, the college basketball television announcer and Yankees fan wanted to recommend the doctor that operated on him.
“I had Dr. Steven Zeitels in Boston,’’ Vitale told The Post. “He did mine, Steven Tyler, Adele and James Taylor. He is the Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter of his profession.’’
...“Not being a singer, we don’t use our diaphragms when we talk,’’ Vitale said. “They taught me to do exercises and try to learn that you don’t have to scream and yell on the phone. I have learned that the day of the game I have to be low key.
“Of course, I make my living with talking. Mariano makes his living with his arm.”
Steve Phillips and Bobby Valentine were reunited yesterday on the “Evan and Phillips Show” on Mad Dog Radio. It was a reunion of two men that appeared would never mend the fence after a tumultuous six years as the Mets GM/field manager combo. For as much criticism both Phillips and Valentine receive after the fact, they have the second best run in franchise history.
...Many point to Phillips firing Valentine’s coaches in June of 1999 as to when the relationship went sour. It was actually the departure of first baseman John Olerud after that season that rankled Valentine and created the divide the existed for the remainder of their tenure.
In October, I interviewed Bobby Valentine at the Hamptons Film Festival regarding his new movie “Pelotero,” which followed two young Dominican baseball players while they worked to achieve their dream of being signed by a professional club on their 16th birthday. I spent about 20 minutes recording an audio piece for my radio program and chatting with Valentine. He was probably one of the most engaging, honest, and interesting individuals I have met during my time covering baseball. When I mentioned to him that one of my favorite Mets teams was the ’99 squad, we talked a bit about that team. I went on to say that I thought it was a “mistake” to let John Olerud walk and replace him with Todd Zeile, but that from what I understood “Olerud and his family wanted to play in Seattle.” “Who told you that?” Valentine said. When I mentioned it was a fairly popular media talking point he told me the reason that Olerud left was because “some players on the team didn’t like that he brought his wife on road trips.” Valentine went on to add that he tried to intervene and talk to Olerud about the situation and find a way to correct it and ease any concerns, but Phillips wouldn’t allow it. Instead, he elected to sign Todd Zeile, a move that Valentine wasn’t thrilled about. “That’s when things started to go bad with me and Steve. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
I wasn’t pitch-fork ready when I heard that Frank White was not returning to Royals broadcasts in 2012. However, Jeff Passan has made the discussion a little more interesting:
I’m told the Royals fired Frank White because team thought he was too critical. To fire him is bad. To fire him for that is unconscionable.
...The Royals are in a tough spot here. The team/FSKC has every right to go in another direction, and in the past White has been fairly prickly about being denied or removed from similar Royal-for-life-I’m-a-Famous-guy roles. A number of fans are upset about Frank being fired and a few days the Royals are going to take some heat for it. For me, I’m much more concerned about why he was fired.
I agree with Passan—who is a nationally respected baseball writer with KC ties—that firing Frank for being critical of the team is a bad thing. The odd, and scary thing, is that I would have never considered him critical in the first place. I can begrudgingly understand and even warrant that a team would not want a truly critical voice on team broadcasts (although this could also mean more entertaining TV and maybe more money, etc). But if Frank White was too critical what could they possibly want? Can any of us name three negative things the man said? Coupled with the short-sighted decision to dump Fanfest in favor of focusing on out-of-town corporate junketers this summer, we’re looking at a rough winter from Royals leadership.
Are the bad old days of a paranoid ownership returning?
The new series will follow the lives of five wives, ex-wives and girlfriends of professional Baseball players as they struggle to balance relationships, friendships and chaos. The Baseball Wives are: Anna Benson (wife of retired Arizona Diamondbacks’ Pitcher Kris Benson), Tanya Grace (ex-wife of retired Chicago Cubs’ First Baseman Mark Grace), Chantel Kendall (ex-wife of Kansas City Royals’ Jason Kendall), Brook Villone (wife of Ron Villone) and Jordana Lenz (linked to no particular athlete in particular – but I’m sure she has an MLB ex or two somewhere).
Weee…my “Please Sack Plesac” campaign seems to be working! (Congrats, Jay!)
It gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ll be debuting on MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential on Tuesday at 5:30 PM Eastern. For the uninitiated, Clubhouse Confidential is a cutting-edge attempt to put advanced statistics in the television spotlight, using them not only to analyze the day’s big news but to explore some of the perennial controversies which often pit statheads against the mainstream. The show debuted earlier this month — Derek Carty gave an early review — and from the point of its inception, those of us at Baseball Prospectus had reason to hope we’d get into the mix, particularly since host Brian Kenny regularly featured BP alums Joe Sheehan and Keith Law during his days at ESPN; Sheehan has already become a regular guest on the new show. A couple of weeks ago, their producers reached out, and I auditioned last week. Maybe the tie was the key.
I’ll be discussing the top names on the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era ballot for a “Cooperstown Justice” segment, guys like Ron Santo and Gil Hodges who are staples of my annual JAWS review (see here for my full writeup). The spot should run about four minutes, so I’ll have to work on being concise, something that anyone who has waded through my 3,500-word pieces on the topic knows doesn’t come naturally to me.