By Tony Schiavone
I’m not sure where I heard this before, but I was once told never to work with kids or animals when on the air. Neither will accommodate.
Such was the case on June 17, 2012—Father’s Day—when my grandson, Jackson joined me on the air for the finale of the Columbus series at Coolray Field.
But first, a little background information.
We are a baseball family. It has been my passion all my life; a passion that has been handed down to two of my four sons, Matt and Chris. I’m proud to say Matt is an associate producer with the MLB Network. Chris is an aspiring baseball announcer and is one of the most rabid students of the game.
Jackson is Chris’ youngest and has been handed down the baseball bug. Not, yet three years old, he loves the game. He loves to chop, throw, hit, run the bases and slide into home. His favorite player is Tyler Pastornicky. Every time we play ball at the house, he pretends he’s Tyler. “Passer-Mickey” is what he calls him. This is homage to his two favorites in the entertainment world, Tyler and Mickey Mouse.
And that takes us back to Fathers’ Day.
Chris brought Jackson into the broadcast booth and I thought it would be a lark to put the youngest Schiavone on the air. He sat to my left with a big Braves batting helmet covering his head and much of his face. At first, Jackson, as is the case with most kids, would not talk. But then I noticed his mouth moving during my play by play; he wanted to tell me something.
So, during the broadcast, seizing the moment, I grabbed a spare mic. Here’s how it went:
Papa Tony: “What? What did you say?”
Jackson (pointing to the scoreboard): “Did, the elephant pooped up there?”
Papa Tony: “Yeah, I see it up there.”
Jackson: “The elephant pooped up there!”
Papa Tony: “Yes, it sure did.”
What else could I do? I had to agree with my grandson. So as far as we are concerned, the elephant did poop up there. Needless to say, that line has become a catch phrase within the Schiavone family.
Now, any time I have no comeback to my wife, or kids, I say—you guessed it–the elephant pooped up there.
The G-Braves went on to lose that day, and lost 13 more in a row after that game for a grand total of 15 straight. Jackson may have been on to something with his line.
When you are in the midst of a 15 game losing streak, you will try anything. So during the recent eight game death march, err, road trip to upstate New York, I had the brilliant idea to sing during a game.
The idea was hatched on my memories of Dizzy Dean. During his years as a baseball broadcaster he used to sing “The Wabash Cannonball” during games. I guess he did this when the game got boring or out of hand.
From the great Atlantic ocean to the wide Pacific shore
To the green old flowing mountains by the south belt by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine hear that lonesome hobo’s call
We’re riding though to Dixie on the Wabash Cannonball
Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar
As she glides along the woodland by the hills and by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine hear the lonesome hobo’s call
We’re traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball
Our manager Dave Brundage was in favor of me singing. His agreement was based on two reasons. First, he wanted to try anything to break what had now become a monumental losing streak; and secondly, he was in for anything to make me sound silly (even more than usual).
So on Saturday, June 30th, during the second inning. I cranked out the tune. It was during Ernesto Mejia’s at bat. He didn’t get a hit. We didn’t win. So much for the song.
So now we look a miserable month in the “rear view mirror.” The G-Braves were 5-and-25 in June. Not sure if there has ever been a worse record in a single month in the long run of Minor League Baseball, but it’s got to be close.
But like they always say in Triple-A…if you don’t like your team, wait a month, you’ll get another one.
By Tony Schiavone
Travel in the International League means many things; but for a middle-aged announcer with an increasing waist line, it means food.
I have been asked many times about the “best” restaurants in the various cities around the league. My usual answer is: “I don’t know.” The reason? Well, we are not in the major leagues, so we don’t have the time or the funds to travel all over the city to eat. However, there are a few places I have been to that are noteworthy, and have become pretty famous in their own right.
So, to help you with your travels, I present The Top 10 Gwinnett Braves-On-The-Road Restaurants in the International League:
10. Carmellas Pizza Grill, Fort Mill, SC: They used to have one of these on Carmel Road in Charlotte, and it was great. However, it closed. So the only one I could find is about two miles from Knights’ Stadium in the middle-of-nowhere in Fort Mill. The pizza is loaded and is as good as you will find. The service is great and the prices are worth noting. Deals include a large pie with four beers. Not bad, and plenty of TV’s to watch sports as well.
9. Satisfaction, Durham, NC: A pretty good sports bar with a surprisingly large list of chicken wing flavors. It is also walking (staggering) distance from our hotel in Durham. It’s located in historic Brightleaf Square in downtown, which is an old tobacco warehouse. But everything in downtown Durham is a former tobacco warehouse, I think.
8. Packo’s at the Park, Toledo, OH: Tony Packo’s was made famous by Jamie Farr as Corp. Klinger on M*A*S*H. This location is right next to Fifth-Third Field, so that’s an immediate plus. It’s Hungarian food, so you will get some unique flavors. The M*O*A*D hot dog packs quite a punch. Paprika dumplings are odd, but tasty. And the famous chili will burn holes in parts of your body that will surprise you.
7. Weber Grill, Indianapolis, IN: Yes, this is named after the famous Weber Grill that many have in their backyard. It is a little too fancy for a minor league budget, but it’s worth a try.
6. Anchor Bar, Buffalo, NY: The self-proclaimed originator of the “Buffalo Wing” is also a pretty cool sports bar. My first trip there was more like a pilgrimage for the ultimate wing. But guess what? They taste just like a Buffalo Wing! Go figure.
5. McCoy Stadium Press Box, Pawtucket, RI: Any announcer or writer or otherwise press box bum (and there are plenty of those) will tell you the food they provide for us in Pawtucket is nothing less than spectacular–as far as press box food goes. One day last season they served ground turkey burgers, as well as Chorizo with onions and green peppers. Wow! Not only is it an awesome ballpark, it’s worth the trip just to eat.
4. Rocky’s, Rochester, NY: An old school Italian restaurant about three blocks from Frontier Field. If you’ll notice the picture on the corresponding website or atop this article. It looks like the place Michael Corleone killed Sollozzo in “The Godfather.” There specialty is tripe in marinara sauce. That’s right, the inside of a cow’s belly in red sauce. If that ain’t Old World Italian, then “forgetaboutit.”
3. Modern Diner, Pawtucket, RI: This old diner is on the National Register of Historic Places. To me, it’s kind of like a northern Waffle House, but hey, I love the Waffle House. Anyway, it’s a pretty cool place to eat breakfast. The linguica omelet is pretty tasty.
2. Coney Island Lunch, Scranton, PA: It’s the oldest restaurant in downtown Scranton and features the Texas Wiener. That’s right, a Texas Wiener in Pennsylvania. Plenty of old baseball pictures on the wall make this an interesting place to eat. The food is very good.
1. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Rochester, NY: Where can you get the very best bowl of collard greens? Would you believe upstate New York? Yes, it’s true. These collards are cooked in turkey neck…A use for turkey necks!! Who knew? Four of us ate there on a recent trip and got the family Bar-B-Que dinner serving four to six people. It had collards, mac and cheese, cornbread, tomato and cucumber salad, chicken, ribs, brisket and pork. Yikes!
I would love to hear any great eats suggestions you may have for the cities we frequently visit…
…My belly’s waiting.
By Tony Schiavone
Sure, I realize we’ve played only three teams so far this season, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about 2012.
As with any Braves teams, major or minor, it starts and ends with pitching. And we’ve got plenty of it. The G-Braves bullpen of Jose Lugo, Buddy Carlyle, Cory Gearrin, Dusty Hughes, Jaye Chapman, Adam Russell, Jason Rice, Ben Swaggerty and Anthony Varvaro have a combined record of 5-2 with five saves and an ERA of 1.76.
Simple math will tell you the bullpen has either won or saved 10 of the G-Braves 12 wins as of April 23.
But let’s be honest. This is Triple-A baseball, and as the old adage goes, “If you really like your team now, wait about two months, you’ll get another one.” So we sit and wait for call-ups, options or injuries in Atlanta to take their toll on the Gwinnett staff.
Most Atlanta beat writers feel when Tim Hudson comes off the DL, that Randall Delgado will be optioned to Triple-A. If that is true, what does that mean for the current staff? It’s an exciting, but troubling question all in one.
The next few weeks will be important not only for the careers for Hudson and Delgado, but for the fortunes of two Braves teams as well.
On the other hand, the offense has been spotty at best. This 12-and-6 starts can best be described as “bookends” offensively. We lost two of the first three games of the season in Durham with a limited supply of runs; and we’ve lost two of three to Charlotte, again with not many runs to brag about. But in the middle of the “bookends” there has been plenty of offense.
So we should approach our fourth Braves season in Gwinnett County with optimism. After all, the previous three seasons have seen winning records each year and one playoff appearance. And all indications that even without a Tommy Hanson, Cristhian Martinez, Kris Medlin, Mike Minor, Jonny Venters or Craig Kimbrel; this maybe the best pitching staff we have seen.