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Travel-Day Treat: Q&A With Giants' Broadcaster Dave Flemming, Part 1

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I think the title speaks for itself, so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here he is, painting verbal pictures of the day's proceedings, I give you... David B. Flemming.

El Lefty Malo: When did you know you wanted to be a broadcaster? Did you provide voice-overs at home for televised games with the sound turned down?

broadcaster_sf_flemming.jpgDave Flemming: The seeds of my broadcast career were planted at KZSU 90.1 FM at Stanford. I walked into the basement of the station in the fall of my freshman year and in some ways never walked out. I spent a lot of time in college discovering what a cool thing this is.

I really don't think it even occurred to me as a kid that anyone could have the job that I do. I grew up in the shadows of Washington D.C. among lawyers and politicians and lots of serious people.  Now I watch ballgames for a living.  So no, I didn't do any mock broadcasts. I didn't even narrate my games of RBI baseball on the Nintendo.  I was too busy as a 12 year-old trying to develop my positions on key policy issues. Thank goodness I grew up.

ELM: Let me guess: Model UN? Did you always have a knack for public speaking or performance?

mrrogers.jpgDF: Actually no Model UN. But I have never been afraid of public speaking. I was the geeky kid in 5th grade winning quiz shows on local public-access TV. When my high school classmates voted me to give the speech on class day, instead of just giving the standard "go forth and do great things" lecture, I decided it was a great idea to dress up as Mr. Rogers, enter with the music, and go through the whole sweater and shoes routine in front of everyone. It did get a laugh, thinking back on it.

ELM: The game the fans see, even those who watch obsessively, must be different than the one a beat writer or broadcaster sees because of your access to privileged information: Who's nursing an injury, who's feuding in the clubhouse, and so forth. What was the biggest difference in your perspective on the game once you became a big-league broadcaster? 

DF: I think one of the discouraging things you discover with so much access is how many players who are so gifted do not do everything they can to ensure success. The big leaguers who stick are almost universally dedicated to maximizing their natural ability and their opportunity. But many others have the talent but not the work ethic, which is hard to understand with so much on the line.

I'll give a quick example.  I was sitting on the couch several years ago in the visitors clubhouse at Dodger Stadium with a player who had made a poor throw from the outfield a couple days prior. This was a young player who was not playing everyday and was understandably rusty throwing in game action. A coach came over and sat down next to us and very gently said he'd love to pick a day and come early to the park and work on those kind of throws.

This young player, not an established big leaguer by any means, took one look at the coach, stood up, and said, "Come on, we don't need to work on that. I'm good." and walked away. Needless to say that player did not last long.

ELM: I always choke up when I hear Russ Hodges scream, "The Giants win the pennant!" Is there any moment in baseball broadcast history that gives you chills?

DF: Russ's call is a pretty good one! I love Jack Buck's call of Ozzie's home run against the Dodgers. I was such a huge Ozzie fan as a little kid. The back flips were hard to resist! I remember what it was like to be 11 years old when I hear that call.

Very cool moment at Dodgers Stadium -- I know you thought that was not possible -- last year or the year before. It was Vin Scully Day and the sellout crowd gave Vin a nearly endless standing ovation when he came onto the field to say a few words.

A side note: it is almost impossible to overstate how huge Vin is in that city.  I think he seriously might be more popular than Magic Johnson or Lasorda or anyone ever in that city.

Anyway, Vin steps to the mic and was clearly moved and says only, "Please just know that you have given me far more than anything I could ever have given you." And he walked away. That gave me chills.

ELM: Any lesser-known broadcasters whom Giants fans should check out on the out-of-town Gameday audio?

DF: I love the technology available now that allows us access to so many games and so many broadcasts. I think it is the best thing the sport of baseball has done in the last 15 years.

I like the Reds overall. I am friends with him so I am biased, but I think Dave Raymond of the Astros does a great job. I enjoy the Red Sox on radio and TV. Joe Castiglione has a different sound, but he loves the Sox and knows a ton about the game. He and Dave O'Brien together are really good. Mets TV is tremendous...Gary Cohen is so good, and I like Keith Hernandez and Darling, too.

John Rooney and Mike Shannon of the Cardinals, Shannon because I smile when I hear him and Rooney for excellent play by play. Eric Nadel of the Rangers does not have the classic baseball radio sound but is really good on the nuances of the game and is a fun listen, I think.

ELM: I get the feeling you're open to sabermetric ideas and stats. Name one or two concepts you'd like to introduce to a wider audience.

DF: One thing that gets severely undervalued is the idea of positional value. I do not think enough emphasis is placed on how much of an advantage the Giants get, for instance, when they have a center fielder and a catcher produce offensively like Torres and Posey did last year. Andres was underappreciated for sure. I don't think that is a particularly sabermetric concept but I think it deserves more attention.

I still think the value of an out, or avoiding one, is not properly appreciated on many broadcasts. Not entirely related, but my personal peeve is the enduring idea that AT&T Park is some all-time extreme pitchers park. Yes, it is a good place to pitch. Yes, it is cold and foggy sometimes. Yes, Aubrey Huff is allowed to bitch a couple times a year when he hits the top of the right center field wall.

But everyone who takes the time to dig deep and do some math tells us it's a pretty fair park. For a certain type of hitter I think it is a great place. Torres might be a good example on the current club. So why do we keep hearing from all corners that a premier free-agent hitter will never sign in San Francisco? I think we as the Giants have done a terrible job of debunking this perception, and we have to do better.

Coming in Part 2: A little Latos intolerance, broadcasting tricks of the trade, and Woody's Shed.

(Flemming photo courtesy of; Mr. Rogers photo courtesy of flickr user glindsay65; Vin Scully sign photo courtesy of flickr user pvsbond.)

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