Who is the only announcer in minor league baseball to have a character on “The Simpsons” named for him?
That’s right, it’s yours truly.
If you’ve ever noticed “Dan’s Favorite Links” on the right side of this page, one of the three things listed is “Ken Levine’s blog.”
Ken is an Emmy Award winning screenwriter, director, and producer who has written for such shows at M*A*S*H*, Cheers, Frazier, and The Simpsons. He has also been a play-by-play announcer for the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres, and he is currently one of the hosts of “Dodger Talk” after every LA Dodgers game on 790 KABC in Los Angeles.
Not a bad resume huh?
But I’m sure the job he is most proud of is spending the summer of 1988 as my broadcasting partner with the Syracuse Chiefs.
Hollywood screenwriters were on strike that summer, so Ken lugged his wife and two kids to Syracuse to pursue his love of broadcasting baseball games.
Remarkably, Debby didn’t divorce him.
We had a ton of laughs that summer — unfortunately, the ones we had on the air were only heard by the person running the show back at the station (it had such a weak signal that we were convinced it was powered by a hamster on a treadmill).
That became one of our running gags as each night we welcomed listeners in distant locations like Borneo.
I made a lifelong friend and I will always be grateful to Ken for writing me into an episode of the “The Simpsons.”
It’s from the second season and called “Dancin’ Homer.” The plot involves Homer Simpson having one too many beers at the local minor league baseball game and making a fool of himself by dancing on the dugout. However, his dance fires up the crowd and inspires the Springfield Isotopes to snap a long losing streak. Homer is then offered a job as team mascot and eventually makes it to the big leagues.
In any case, Springfield’s broadcaster in the episode is named Dan Hoard (my buddy Ken provides the voice) and this was his best line:
“Here comes Springfield slugger Big Bill McCloskey to the plate. As soon as he pops up we’ll get right to the post-game show.”
If you would like more nuggets about the episode, here is a portion of the script from Ken’s blog.
And here is all sorts of stuff about the episode from wikipedia.
The episode gets played several times a year in syndication. Whenever it does, I hear from several people who ask, “did I just hear your name on The Simpsons?”
Now you know the answer.
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Wanna see John Smoltz pitch at McCoy Stadium?
Then circle Friday, June 5th on your PawSox schedule.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Last night, Smoltz made his first appearance for Double-A Portland and told reporters after the game that he expects to pitch 5-innings for Class-A Greenville on Sunday before joining the PawSox for 2 starts.
If he stays on a normal 5-day schedule, that would put him on the mound at McCoy against Louisville on June 5th.
The PawSox do not have a game on June 10th, so if he stays with Pawtucket, his second start would be on June 11th at Syracuse when the PawSox are scheduled to play a doubleheader. (I wonder if he’ll want to join Hyder and me for the world’s best chicken wings at the famed “Change of Pace” restaurant).
If all goes well, his first start for Boston would be on June 16th at Fenway against the Florida Marlins.
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Everybody at Slugger Field on Tuesday was still talking about Clay Buchholz’s near-perfect game from the night before.
Buchholz retired the first 24 batters before allowing a leadoff single in the 9th inning to Louisville’s Danny Richar.
I asked catcher Dusty Brown if he had ever been behind the plate in a game like that and he told me that he and Buchholz had teamed up on a similar effort in Double-A in 2007.
He then laughed and added ,”Buchholz shook me off that time too.”
In Monday’s masterpiece, Brown called for a changeup on the first pitch of the 9th inning, but Buchholz elected to throw a fastball to Richar who slapped it the opposite way for a clean base hit.
In 2007 with Portland, Buchholz took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against Bowie, shook off Brown, and then gave up a single to the immortal Paco Figueroa.
Clay did exactly what Brown told him to do AFTER he allowed the 9th inning hit a couple of days ago. Once the perfect game was gone, manager Ron Johnson had closer Fernando Cabrera start warming up in the bullpen and directed Dusty to go to the mound to kill some time.
Brown says he told Buchholz that, “I want you to finish this game — don’t let RJ take you out. You deserve to go the distance.”
Buchholz got the next three batters on 10 pitches to complete the 1-hit shutout.
By the way, it was great to hear from Dusty’s mom Lisa via e-mail during the broadcast on Tuesday night. She’s excited about becomming a first-time grandmother this summer as Dusty and his wife are expecting a son in mid-July. His mom tells me the due date is 6 days after her 50th birthday.
Sounds like the ultimate birthday gift.
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If Buchholz had tossed a perfect game on Monday, Travis Denker would have been remembered for making a tremendous defensive play to save it. In the 7th inning, the PawSox second baseman ranged to his right to field a bouncer up the middle and made a great throw to first to nip the speedy Norris Hopper.
Denker spent some time with the San Francisco Giants last year and I asked him how Buchholz compares to Tim Lincecum, who won the National League Cy Young Award last year at Clay’s current age of 24.
“Buchholz is right there with Lincecum,” Denker told me. “He’s a freak.”
In this case, that’s a compliment.
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Tuesday was another tough night for 24-year-old lefty Kris Johnson, who allowed 7 runs (5 earned) in 2.2 IP in a 7-5 loss at Louisville.
After pitching 10 scoreless innings to begin the season, KJ is 1-6 in his last 7 starts with a 10.08 ERA.
He actually appeared to have pretty good stuff last night, but too threw too many pitches in bad locations.
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We’ll report to work bright and early on Wednesday for an 11:05 start against the Bats. Charlie Zink and Matt Maloney are the starters. I’ll hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 10:50. I should be on my 4th or 5th cup of coffee by then.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.