“When it’s your turn, when it’s your year, you’re going to win and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that for the new(er) generation of Royals baseball fans, this is one of the quotes that Denny Matthews, play-by-play announcer since the Royal's inception, could be remembered for. I can't tell you the goose bumps it gives me just to read it because Denny's voice is in my ear – he’s always been a part of my baseball life – and considering the turnaround in baseball, in many ways, he’s part of my baseball bedrock. This quote is certainly memorable for that ride in 2014 to the Series, but for me, when I think of Denny Matthews, I think..."He had a notion..."
This is one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for years. I had the opportunity to meet Denny after his HoF induction during a special event in 2007. He signed my copy (which was the 2006 revised edition, I've actually read the 2014 update) and dished about his induction weekend. It was very memorable and I'm glad I was there.
What needs to be said about the stories in this book is that it was written originally during some very painful years in Royals baseball history, basically not a lot of good things were happening at the park. In short, we stunk. This book, therefore, highlights the glory years more than anything – it’s about the late 70's and the '85 team. It hits on some other players and coaches briefly, like Bo Jackson and Sweeney, etc...but, mostly, it's those Hal McRae, Frank White, George Brett years that gives the retellings life.
In fact, Denny mentions that he stopped hanging out with players sometime in the 80's and that's where all the really good, fun recalling happened - when he talked about all those players with their big on-field presence and their antics after the show. Some of those stories had me in stitches - Lou Piniella, John Maberry, Amis Otis and Brett Saberhagen in particular.
In between the laughs is some Denny baseball wisdom which, surprisingly, I seemed to highlight more than anything. Matthews isn’t an overly charismatic announcer – he has a great voice and there is most definitely cheer in his style, but he’s someone who knows what a 162 game season is like and he kind of exudes that feeling that crazy things happen in baseball and you can’t know what’s going to happen until it’s over in his broadcast. He's pretty unexcitable. He gives credit where’s its due, is frank about the downside without being negative, and is all around a class-act. All of this was true in his book too. You won’t find dirt in here, just the good stuff – it’s a feel good read that you can pick up and put down and not miss a beat.
The style is a little choppy so it’s difficult to get lost in, but the funny thing is that it reads like a radio show – you get the feeling that he could have inserted anything in the book as an antidote during a particularly grueling pitching battle or batter that steps out of the box after every pitch. A ball game only has about 18 minutes of action, that’s a lot of air time that these guys have to fill. With that, I’m going to end on a chuckle that had little to do with actual baseball, but funny all the same. From Denny, about year two (1971?) in his career:
“We have commercial drop-ins during each game that you slip in between pitches or batters, or whenever possible. Ed Shepard, our producer-engineer, handed me the card that said “Guy’s Food drop-in". Everybody in Kansas City knew about Guy’s Foods. The card was in front of me, I was thinking about how they were a good sponsor, so I wanted to really pump them up. I started thinking about the holiday weekend, everybody out picnicking, boating, whatever. So I said, “For those of you planning a holiday picnic, we sure hope you take along plenty of those good Guy’s potato chips.” Fitzy was wasting time on the mound. I obviously had more time to fill, so I thought I would give Guy’s another plug. And the next line out of my mouth was “And when you’re in the store, be sure to grab Guy’s nuts.” I thought my career was over right then and there. I looked over at Buddy Blattner, and he looked like somebody had shot him.”
A good book for the shelf of a fan.