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Monday, January 21, 2013

Klein: Steve Stone: The Smartest Man In Baseball

“Man, that is some B.S. right there”

Stone’s smarts are on display in the White Sox television booth in season, from where he’s perhaps the best ever at calling what the next batter will or won’t do. His information-based approach to his trade sets him apart from the legion of other ex- jocks who handle microphone duties in many sports, and bespeaks the hours of homework he devotes to it.

...Perceived acrimony between the two led to speculation about a Stone exit after the last campaign. Uh-uh again, Stone avers. “Five days after the season ended I called [White Sox chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf,” he says. “I told him that regardless of what he might hear or read I’d be back for next year. I have a long-term contract with the Sox and I expect to fulfill it. Never intended otherwise. Hawk and I have a professional relationship, and that’s fine. We both want the same thing, which is to make our broadcasts better. I can’t ask for more than that.”

He goes on: “From day one I’ve known what my role is with the Sox. It’s basically Hawk’s booth; I’m second banana. He’s the team’s face and voice. He’s a fan and takes losses hard, and I respect that. His passion is why people love him, or don’t.

“My style is different; I see my role as educational. If I don’t tell people things they don’t know about every game, I’m not doing my job. Baseball has no script so every game is different. You’ve got to deal with what comes—it’s all ad lib. Hawk and I have been together for four years now, but really we’re still getting to know one another. We’ll improve.

“It’s like a marriage,” concludes the ex-pitcher, who, incidentally, is separated from his second wife. “Sometimes it might not go so good but we’re still a team.”

Repoz Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:48 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers

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   1. asinwreck Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:25 AM (#4351671)
I like Steve Stone, but the tags for this article ought to include fellatio.
   2. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:46 AM (#4351674)
No mention of Craig Breslow in the entire article. Odd headline.
   3. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:56 AM (#4351677)
article ought to include fellatio

I was in line at a department store awhile back and the cashier paged someone named Phylicia, but she said fellatio. Talk about a Freudian slip.
   4. Transmission Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:47 AM (#4351695)
I hear a lot about Stone's near-misses on GM jobs, vast wealth, and near-misses on ownerships. And as far as I know, I only hear about this from Stone. Is there any independent verification on any of that?
   5. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:14 AM (#4351706)
article ought to include fellatio

I was in line at a department store awhile back and the cashier paged someone named Phylicia, but she said fellatio. Talk about a Freudian slip.

Did Phylicia answer?
   6. Charles S. is a big fan of Outerbridge Horsey Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:17 AM (#4351712)
There's no bigger fan of Steve Stone than Steve Stone, and he's lost a bit off the old fastball (or in his case the curve) since his heyday in the 90s, but he's still a solid listen if you can stand Hawk. Too bad you can't mute one side of the broadcast.
   7. Esoteric Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4351732)
It really is weird to read Stone describing his relationship with Harrelson in such clinical terms. I mean, he can say what he wants, but it sure SOUNDS like there's a lack of professional bonhomie there.
   8. SteveM. Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:38 PM (#4352007)
Isn't being locked in a booth with Hawk Harrelson for 162 games the worst torture ever devised by man? I heard it was the part cut in Zero Dark Thirty.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:08 PM (#4352151)
Uh-uh again, Stone avers.

As one of the five living human beings who still occasionally uses "aver" it strikes me as odd to use it for "uh-uh".

I'm surprised Stone's wiki page isn't longer. I don't know if he has vast wealth but he was an investor in some successful restaurants in Chicago as early as the 70s-80s, many of which surprisingly got talked about in Cub broadcasts. Of course the restaurant business is at best a rocky path to vast riches so it's possible it all went bust. Add in a nicely paid career on TV and a brief stint as a national baseball broadcaster (ABC's old MNB) and he really should be sitting pretty comfy.

On the ownership stuff, I think he was part of an ownership group that went after the DBacks at one stage but my memory could be wrong. Anyway, I don't recall him or anybody else ever claiming anything more than he was part of a (bidding) ownership group, I don't think he ever claimed to be the front guy or main money man of such a group. And it's not hard to believe. Sure, these days a baseball team might sell for $2 billion but the DBacks sold for "just" $240 M back in 2004 -- you could probably be a part of an "ownership group" for $5-10 M. That's pocket change to guys like Stone and me. :-)
   10. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:15 PM (#4352157)
As to the article, I will say Stone is the most informative color guy I've ever heard. (This is not based on a large sample of color guys listened to very often.) He really is good at assessing pitching strategy and I always thought it was pretty impressive how often he'd say "he can't throw him that pitch again" only to see that pitch thrown again and get hammered. I've related it before but it's my favorite Harry-Stone moment and it encapsulates what made Stone so excellent in his prime:

Harry: "And the catcher is going out to the mound for no good reason. What are they talking about Steve, where to get dinner after the game?"
Stone: "Actually Harry he's telling the pitcher that the batter's peeking back to steal location so he's going to set up on one side of the plate but wants him to throw it to the other side of the plate."

And that's exactly what happened. He was like an actually good Joe Morgan.
   11. Der-K: downgraded to lurker Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:53 PM (#4352183)
Stone's prime was the best color man I've ever heard.
   12. Voodoo Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:49 PM (#4352203)
Stone's prime was the best color man I've ever heard.

As a Cubs fan weaned on Harry/Stone/Ch9 baseball, I don't disagree. But I do wonder -- having caught few of Stone's post Cubs broadcast career -- what is the difference between prime-Stone and post-prime-Stone? What does he do differently now that is worse than what he was doing 20 years ago? To what can these changes be attributed to?
   13. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:38 PM (#4352233)
I haven't heard Stone with Hawk, did hear him a few times with Ed Farmer on the radio. And between Harry and the Sox with Chip. My unfounded speculation about Stone's decline phase.

1. Harry to Chip: Stone was now the big name in the booth, not the second banana. Also Chip was awful and played to Stone's worst habits -- corny humor and being somewhat detached from the game. Harry for his many, many faults was a good foil opposite Stone -- if Stone was going too far afield, Harry could give a mild jibe that kinda meant "hey, I came here to watch some baseball not listen to you" and similarly when Harry was going on too long about his favorite bar Stone could bring it back to the game. I still don't really understand why Harry and Stone worked -- it was like Calvin Trillin working with Chris Farley -- but it was greater than the sum of its parts; Chip and Stone were less than the sum of its parts (and that's with Chip contributing -10 WAR).*

2. The feud with Dusty and the players. This was very silly and, in my opinion, entirely the fault of Dusty and the players being ridiculously thin-skinned about things. Pitchers were upset with Stone for saying correct (and obvious) things like "that wasn't a very good pitch" after somebody hit one 500 feet. The problem wasn't necessarily the feud but that Stone was let go (or quit I forget which) after it and then he seemed to get kinda bitter and play the role of the smart guy who was being picked on (in media interviews in the interim between Cubs and Sox). It's possible that was nothing more than a marketing gimmick -- the radio shows wanted him to be a grouch -- but he seemed to be settling a score as much as providing good analysis. He still seemed to be in that mode in the handful of games I heard with Farmer.

* In fairness, at first I think I liked the Chip-Stone pairing because I didn't really miss Harry's bombastic side. But Chip Caray was just an astoundingly bad pbp guy. Not in that he didn't have the basics down (i.e. he was not as bad as Chris Berman), he just never had anything to say that anybody wanted to hear. He was Mayberry RFD. OK, I haven't seen Mayberry RFD since it was being broadcast, maybe it was actually hilariously funny in a subversive way I didn't understand at the time.
   14. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: January 22, 2013 at 01:39 AM (#4352363)
I only know White Sox Stone and White Sox Stone is a blowhard, but he's a friendly and knowledgeable blowhard. Sorta the anti Michael Kay. I'm Hawk's biggest defender (not now though) and how he works with an increasingly bitter and not-all-there Hawk Harrelson is beyond me. I give him credit for never letting Hawk's rants and love of the mic blow over on the air.

Although there is plenty of smoke about their tense (at best) working relationship they've managed to be cordial to each other on the air and maintain some modicum of professionalism, as much as Hawk will allow these days.
   15. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 22, 2013 at 08:14 AM (#4352384)
Did Phylicia answer?

Yes, she did. I thought I was just hearing things because nobody else in line seemed to be reacting, so I asked my wife and she said, yes, that's what the woman said. Then I realized we were in a Giant Tiger, which is like a low-end Canadian Wal-mart, and figured that probably 95% of their clientele would have only got the joke if the cashier had said "Blow job to cash 4, Phylicia to cash 4".
   16. Zonk is a cagey fellow Posted: January 22, 2013 at 09:08 AM (#4352400)
Personally, I do think some of Stone's slippage has been -- frankly -- out of a bit of bitterness. Back in his heyday - Stone was extraordinarily informative without sort of needing to not-so-subtly clue you in on just how brilliant he was. Maybe Harry had a lot to do with that, I don't know... but I did watch a few Sox broadcasts last year and Stone's really developed this veneer of holier-than-thou bitterness. Maybe it was the feud, maybe it was missing out on GM jobs or ownership chances (and that ship seems to have pretty much sailed)...
   17. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 22, 2013 at 09:21 AM (#4352412)
Then I realized we were in a Giant Tiger

I had a dream like that once.
   18. just plain joe Posted: January 22, 2013 at 10:38 AM (#4352451)
but I did watch a few Sox broadcasts last year and Stone's really developed this veneer of holier-than-thou bitterness.

Stone has always had somewhat of a holier than thou attitude, his "Now kids, this is how you..." was a regular part of his Cubs' broadcasts. I have only seen a couple of his efforts with the Sox and I agree that he does seem bitter. Whether that is the result of having to work with a maroon like Hawk Harrelson or something else, I don't know. In any case, BITD, Stone did excellent work with Harry Caray; especially as Harry started to lose something off his fastball, Stone was able to hold the broadcasts together.
   19. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 22, 2013 at 05:57 PM (#4352937)
You'd think that having to work with a Maroon like Hawk would at least predispose a smart guy like Stone to be open to new ways of baseball thinking. And yet he has stooped to bitterly mocking "stat guys" right along with Hawk. That's the big change in him.

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