The not-so-all-American game of baseball
Although as a player Ken has experienced three All-Star games (1977, 1979, 1981), he had the unique opportunity to broadcast the 1998 game in Denver for Major League Baseball International.
I tagged along on the excursion, sucked into the city’s energy as it pumped out baseball adrenaline. Every nook and cranny was filled with souvenirs, activities and keyed-up baseball fans in full celebration mode, clearly thrilled to be in such close proximity to their favorite Major Leaguers, and to taste the flavor of Denver.
I met Derek Jeter for the first time during the enormous outside/inside All-Star gala sponsored the evening before by the Colorado Rockies and Major League Baseball. Quite impressive that gala (and Derek, who had brought along his sister).
Being the host of an All-Star game gives a city a chance to strut its stuff, so you can envision how many bells and whistles were included that night … an evening to celebrate Major League Baseball’s finest and most popular players and their families, and a chance for the host team to throw the party of the year.
“It’s not only about the game,” says Ken. “Cities want to put on a good show. They want people to come back.”
On game day, working in the booth alongside Gary Thorne (now a Baltimore Orioles play-by-play announcer), Ken’s challenge was to deliver the All-Star game to listeners in more than 200 countries around the world, most of whom are not familiar with the sport.
“We had to explain things well,” said Ken. “We couldn’t take for granted that people knew what we were talking about. When doing regular games, we know that fans are more aware of what’s going on.”
E-mails flowed in during the telecast for Gary and Ken to address as they announced the 69th All-Star Game from Denver’s Coors Field.
“We received a lot of questions about strategy,” remembers Ken. “Such as, ‘Why does a player sometimes bunt and sometimes not?'” The duo would address questions on-air as thoroughly as they could in between plays, to explain the American game to foreigners in New Zealand, Australia, China and around the world.
Ken had the special opportunity to further announce for MLB International, a championship game in 1997 between the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins; the World Series the same year between the Marlins and the Cleveland Indians; and in 1998 the World Series between the Yankees and the San Diego Padres (which the Yanks of course won in four consecutive games).
Since Minor and Major League players come from far and wide (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, to name a few) and baseball’s popularity continues to grow around the globe, the role of Major League Baseball International (formed in 1989) focuses on worldwide growth of the sport through broadcasting, special events, sponsorship, licensing, etc. They have offices in New York, London, Sydney and Tokyo.
“It was a very rewarding experience,” said Ken, “to know that people around the world were enjoying and learning the game.”