It was the home opener in Syracuse on Wednesday, and before the PawSox and Chiefs were rained out, Syracuse’s Executive Vice President Anthony “Tex” Simone – a member of the International League Hall of Fame – was featured prominently in the pre-game ceremonies.
I was a senior at Syracuse University when Tex hired me to be the Chiefs radio broadcaster about a month before graduation (that black-and-white picture of me with lots of hair hangs in the press box at Alliance Bank Stadium). It was an incredible opportunity for a 21-year-old kid and I’ll always be grateful to Tex and his son John (now the team’s General Manager) for giving me my first big break.
I’m also grateful that they didn’t fire me after my first broadcast.
Since I was the youngest announcer in the league at the time, I was determined to prove that I was ready for the opportunity. So before our opening game, I did more prep work than any announcer in history.
You name it – I knew it. There was no stat or biographical tidbit too obscure for me to have researched and memorized. Unfortunately, by the time my first broadcast arrived, my brain was so overloaded with minutia that I had a hard time spitting anything out.
For example, our Opening Day pitcher was Tom Filer and since he was given that assignment, I attempted to refer to him as the “ace of the pitching staff” at the top of the broadcast. Unfortunately, I garbled that phrase and called Tom the “ass of the pitching staff.”
I was just getting started.
A few innings later when Tom started to tire, I noticed that reliever Don Gordon was starting to warm up in the bullpen. I could have used those words or said that he was throwing in the bullpen. Instead, I combined the two expressions and told my listeners that reliever Don Gordon was “throwing up in the bullpen.”
I had to clarify to make sure that nobody thought poor Don was sick.
I was pretty frazzled by the time that left-handed reliever Gibson Alba began getting ready to pitch in the late innings. In my research about Alba, I had discovered that he was capable of pitching with either hand. The best word to describe him was obviously “ambidextrous,” but after my earlier stumbles, I figured that too many syllables would be risky. Instead, I brilliantly told my radio audience that Gibson Alba was a “two-handed pitcher.”
At least I distinguished Alba from former major league standout Jim Abbott.
Eventually the jitters went away and I was the Chiefs’ primary radio announcer for eight years before becoming a TV sports anchor. That led to other opportunities including the chance to broadcast some major league games for the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, and Toronto Blue Jays.
I owe it all to Tex Simone.
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One of my broadcasting partners in Syracuse was former Chiefs pitcher Steve Grilli, who pitched at the big league level with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. Steve remains a good friend and has a tie to the PawSox because he was the losing pitcher for the Rochester Red Wings in the longest game in baseball history, played at McCoy Stadium 30 years ago.
Additionally, he is the father of former Tigers, Rockies, Marlins, Rangers, and White Sox pitcher Jason Grilli, who is currently pitching for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs after missing last season with an injury.
But none of those things are Steve Grilli’s true claim to fame: He is the owner of the Change of Pace sports bar in Syracuse that serves the world’s finest chicken wings.
Trust me, I grew up near Buffalo where wings were supposedly invented and next to my man Steve Hyder, I’ve probably eaten more wings that anyone on earth.
That includes a heaping portion after the PawSox rainout on Wednesday. If you’re ever in Syracuse, make a pilgrimage to the Pace. It’s located near Alliance Bank Stadium at 1802 Grant Boulevard.
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38-year-old Carlos Delgado announced his retirement on Wednesday. As it turned out, his playing career ended in a Pawtucket Red Sox uniform as he struck out in his last at-bat on August 15th, 2010 at McCoy Stadium.
Delgado was trying to battle back from a hip injury when he joined the PawSox last August, but he was never able to get healthy and only appeared in five games, going 3-for-13 (.231).
Carlos was a 2-time All-Star who finished his major league career with a line of .280/.383/.546 and belted 473 home runs to rank 30th all-time.
Is he a Hall of Famer? I asked Delgado that question last August.
“If you ask me, I’ll say yes, but I don’t get to vote,” Delgado said. “I guess we’re going to have to wait a few years for that. It’s completely out of my hands, but it would be an honor – I’m not going to lie to you. If I get that call it would be a phenomenal honor and privilege.”
You can read my full entry on Carlos Delgado here.
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The PawSox will play their first doubleheader of the season on Thursday as they face the Chiefs in Syracuse at 2:00. Kyle Weiland will start the opener for Pawtucket, and Matt Fox will pitch in game two.
I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 1:45 on the PawSox radio network, pawsox.com, and 920WHJJ.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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