Talking Points: 10 Questions with ...

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Chris Wheeler
Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster since 1977

1. Do you need spring training to get into shape, too? If so, do you have specific things you try to focus on at the start of the season in terms of how you do your job?
I wouldn't say I need spring training to do my job but I sure love being in Clearwater, Fla., when it's cold at home. This is my 39th spring training and it's still the best time of the year. I try to get to know the new players every year, and it's easier in Florida in the relaxed atmosphere. I also spend some time with the younger players so if they are called up during the season, then we know each other.

2. How much game preparation do you do for a game once the season begins?

I normally get to the ballpark four to five hours early at home and three hours on the road when I take the team bus. I do a managers show with Charlie Manuel on radio and he likes to do it before batting practice. And I like to get there ahead of time when I have him alone and he we can talk about many subjects. Some of the information is confidential. And much of it can use during the telecast.

3. How has a broadcaster's job changed in the past 10 years?
I think we have to be more aware of not only informing but also entertaining the viewer. There is a lot of competition out there for viewers. Of course it's a lot easier when you have a team that has been going to the World Series the last few years. But we have to remember that there are new fans out there every night who want to learn the game. I think it's our job to educate and entertain and sometimes that can be a real challenge.

4. What do you consider to be your biggest strength as a broadcaster?
I think I am a good communicator. I've been told by people in the game that I see the field like a manager, coach or player. I never played the game professionally but I did play it through American Legion. I have great respect for the men who make a very difficult game seem easy. I try to learn something every day and impart it to the viewer. I still have a love and respect of the game and it fascinates me. It's hard to believe how many times you'll hear us say, "I've never seen that before." And that's after watching thousands of baseball games.

5. What's been your proudest moment on the air with the Phillies?
The telecast we did last April from Washington after Harry Kalas died. We had about 1:45 from the time we learned about his death until we were on the air. I remember sitting in front of that camera and thinking how a huge number of grieving fans were going to take their cue from Tom McCarthy, Gary Matthews and me. It was an enormous responsibility and we pulled it off. I know that from the reaction I received that we helped fans get through a very difficult day. I've never felt more drained after a game.

6. Your most embarassing moment?
I've been pretty lucky not to have a signature buffoon moment on the air. I will mess up some words as we all do and then try not to laugh. For example, one of my all timers came last year when we were in St. Pete doing a Phillies-Rays game. They were playing some "oldies" between innings, so I came on and wanted to show my knowledge that the song “Rock Around the Clock” was made popular by Bill Hailey from Chester, Pa. Unbeknownst to me until after the game, I said rock around the #(#*, then quickly said clock. Didn't know I did it. The next night Tom asked me about a song that was being played. I told him I was out of the song identification business for a while.

7. Some ballparks might be considered more hitter- or pitcher-friendly than others. Are there ballparks that are more broadcaster-friendly than others? Why?
It's always nice to be close to home plate. The newer parks have placed us further away so they can use the space for suites. Arizona is a great location.  I love doing a game from Dodger Stadium. San Francisco has the best new ballpark (other than our’s) and the view from that booth is amazing. We are on the roof in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington and that can make for some depth perception problems but you get used to it. We have a tremendous location at Citizens Bank Park. Visiting broadcasters rave about the facilities and look forward to doing a game in Philadelphia. We also have an amazing view of Center City from our location.

8. If you have an inning off on the road and can listen to another team's broadcast crew, who do you like to listen to? Why?
I really don't have an out and out favorite. I have the MLB TV package and watch a lot of games at home. I like guys to tell me something I don't know and make me laugh. Just the kind of telecast we try to do. I also listen to games on the radio via XM Satellite radio and hear a lot of the radio guys. TV and radio broadcasting require a different approach.

9. What sport do you think is the hardest to broadcast on radio? Why?
I have to think it's hockey. The game is so fast and I don't know how those guys pronounce the names.

10. What's the best call you've ever heard a sports broadcaster other than you make?
I'm a little prejudiced so I'll say it was Harry's call of the final out of the 2008 World Series. There was so much drama since we had to wait 48 hours to play the final three innings. I can't ever remember being that nervous. The thought we were one strike away from a world championship was something I still can't describe. When Eric Hinske chased that Brad Lidge slider and Harry said, “The Phillies are the world champions of baseball.” Wow, it didn't get any better than that moment.

Greg Brown
Pittsburgh Pirates play-by-play man since 1994

1. Some players complete workout routines or play winter ball. What do you in the off-season to stay in game shape? And do you actually try physical conditioning, or try anything for your voice?
I don’t have a program to keep my voice in shape. I do try to work out on a regular basis to try and stay in decent physical shape. After a long, grueling summer of broadcasting 162 games, the off-season provides a much-needed respite and time off away from the game. This is most beneficial, in my opinion, and allows us to get re-charged and ready for the following season. I’m also not able to keep up with all the newspapers and periodicals that pile up during the summer and the off-season gives me the chance to get back and read over those materials.

2. What's changed the most about how you go about your job from when you joined the team?
The biggest change over the years has been the proliferation of content available on the internet. The amount of information that can be accessed at one’s fingertips is astonishing and almost overwhelming!  Sixteen years ago, we didn’t have laptop computers provided for us and had to gather info from newspapers and magazines and by talking directly to players and people around the game. Today, there simply is not enough time in the day to read all the material that is now available on a computer.

3. What do you need to most achieve or learn coming out of spring training to be ready for the start of the season?
Spring training is a chance to get to know some of the new players but I don’t necessarily separate it from the regular season. For the most part, I prepare for a spring training game in much the same manner as I do a regular season game. The spring also gives us a chance to introduce ourselves to some minor leaguers who might be joining the club at some point during the summer.

4. When you're behind the microphone, what do you do best?
I have always believed that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the listener. I wouldn’t be able to say what I do best behind the microphone. I like to think I’m a pretty competent broadcaster and that I call a pretty solid game.

5. What was your best moment on the air with the Pirates?
One of my favorite moments as a Pirates broadcaster was calling the John Wehner homerun on television at the last game ever at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. To have a Pittsburgh native hit a late home run that gave the Pirates the lead was truly unbelievable!  It was an unforgettable moment.

6. Your worst?
My worst moment was trying to do the first telecast following the 9-11 attacks.  It was all I had to gather my thoughts and stay focused on a game that I felt, at the time, was so meaningless considering the scope of that recent tragedy.

7. Does the length of he season provide challenges in terms of maintaining your voice, and do you have any routine in terms of vocal health or health in general during a long season with so much travel?
In my first few seasons behind the microphone, I would lose my voice for a one or two day stretch at least once a season. For some reason, I haven’t had any trouble over the past five or six years. I really haven’t done much differently than my earlier years however, it’s possible I’ve simply learned, through experience, to pace myself better so that I am able to stay stronger through the rigors of a long season.  I also think I’m a little smarter in terms of staying healthy throughout the season.

8. What's the best place in the National League to work? Why?
My favorite locations in the National League are Miller Park in Milwaukee and Petco Park in San Diego. Both have very comfortable press boxes with outstanding sightlines and excellent, convenient press room food!

9. What's the place you least like visiting? Why?
I like every city in the League. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit these great areas of our country. However, my least favorite city is New York. I’m not much for the chaos of that city. The new ballpark is a whole lot better than the old Shea Stadium but it still has quite a few faults, including the fact that the radio booth sits just a few feet above the last row of seats in the third deck. When fans in that last row decide to get up and stretch or leave their locations, they block our view of the field! Wrigley Field might be my least favorite ballpark. It’s press box is antiquated and quite tiny as two broadcasters can barely squeeze into the booths.

10. Who were your biggest broadcasting influences? Why?
I was a big fan of listening to baseball broadcasters as I grew up. My favorites were the Pirates broadcasters, Milo Hamilton and Lanny Frattare. I also listened to Harry Kalas, Andy Musser and Richie Ashburn with the Phillies and Chuck Thompson with the Orioles. Milo probably influenced me the most as a youngster. As a huge Pirates fan, I loved his enthusiasm and couldn’t wait to try and tune into the Bucco broadcasts. Later, as I was attempting to get into the business, I was fortunate enough to work with Penguins broadcaster Mike Lange who spent two seasons doing Pirates telecasts on cable and he gave me my first big break. I also worked with Van Miller during Buffalo Bills broadcasts in the early 90’s and he, along with Pete Weber, the voice of the AAA Buffalo Bisons baseball team, taught me to have fun during the games. Lanny, also a major influence, convinced me to get experience in the minor leagues, to work enthusiastically every game in the major leagues and to try to be precise and accurate with facts. I believe Lanny played a major role in convincing the Pirates to hire me back in 1994. I’ll always feel a great deal of gratitude to him and Mike Lange.