MLB Network (and Joe Magrane) Praise PostJanuary 8, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 6 Comments
The MLB Network has been pretty popular in the baseball card blogosphere. In fact, it seems like I’m just about the only blogger who hasn’t yet written a post praising it. So now I will…
I’m a much bigger fan of baseball than any other sports. There’s only so much talk about football and basketball on ESPN that I can tolerate. So a channel that focuses on baseball 24×7, 365 days a year is a very welcome addition. Since it debuted one week ago, it has already become my new “default” TV channel – the channel that I have on when nothing else worthwhile is on (which is about 90% of the time).
Watching the Don Larsen perfect game from the 1956 World Series was fun, but it became less interesting after seeing it 3 or 4 times. Here are some of the other things that I’ve been liking about the MLB Network:
- The 2008 World Series games. It has been awesome to relive the excitement of the Rays first World Series appearance. And it’s much less nerve-racking for me than it was in October, now that I already know the outcome. It would be nice to see some World Series games from other years too, or even playoff games. I imagine that fans of other teams besides the Rays and Phillies would appreciate some variety.
- The Ken Burns Baseball documentary is truly some of the best television programming that was ever produced. I remember watching all 9 “innings” (18 hours) on PBS in the fall of 1994. It helped me and many other fans survive the heartbreak of not having a World Series that year. Anyway, I hadn’t seen any of it since then. The first “inning” was broadcast on Tuesday night. I DVR’d it and I watched parts of it the last two nights. I’ve watched about the three-fourths of it now, and it’s even better than I remembered. It is amazing to watch and learn about the birth and spread of the game in the 1800s. I highly recommend watching all of the documentary if you haven’t seen it before, or even if you have. It’s something that every baseball fan will immensely appreciate and enjoy. The next 8 “innings” will be broadcast each Tuesday night on MLB Network.
- The nightly “Hot Stove” show has been very enjoyable and informative too. The roster of analysts is impressive. I’m surprised by how well-spoken and knowledgeable Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams is. I like Al Leiter too, and I also enjoyed him when he was broadcasting on the YES Network. And of course, I love Joe Magrane, who was the Rays TV analyst for their first 11 seasons. Harold Reynolds is usually pretty clueless, and it’s been fun to watch Williams and Magrane lay the verbal smackdown on him multiple times. I just wish that they had been the announcers during the ALDS series between the Rays and White Sox, instead of Reynolds.
I will definitely miss Joe Magrane’s excellent analysis during Rays games this year, but I am glad that he will be getting the national exposure that he deeply deserves. Magrane has been partners with Dewayne Staats in the Rays broadcast booth in every year of their existence. Their excellent work together was one of the things that helped to make me such a huge fan of the Rays.
Staats was a Yankees announcer on the MSG Network when I was a kid, and his partner was Tony Kubek. Although it was always fun to listen to Phil Rizzuto on WPIX, the “Scooter” was easily distracted and rarely talked about the game. By watching Kubek and Staats on MSG, I learned a ton about baseball. I was very sad when Kubek and Staats were both replaced after the 1994 season. I think that it might have had something to do with the fact that they weren’t shy about criticizing the Yankees front office, especially George Steinbrenner. The team preferred to have Yankee worshippers like Michael Kay broadcasting their games.
After 1994, Kubek retired and Staats went to work for ESPN until the Devil Rays were born in 1998. I was pleasantly surprised when I became a fan of the team and realized that Staats was one of their announcers. It helped to ease the transition from Yankees fan to Rays fan. I also started to enjoy listening to his new partner, Magrane, who was almost as insightful as Tony Kubek used to be. A highlight was his classic verbal war with Curt Schilling in 2005. It was great to listen to Staats and Magrane in 2008. You could sense the pride in their voices when they finally got to broadcast the games of a winning team.
It’ll be an adjustment to get used to a new voice in the broadcast booth with Dewayne Staats in 2009. Whoever the replacement is will have a tough act to follow. Even though Joe Magrane never played a game for Tampa Bay, he’s as closely associated with the franchise as any former player, and he’s universally loved by Rays fans. I can’t wait for the Rays to have an Old Timers Day sometime down the road – I’ll bet that the cheers for Magrane would be as loud as anyone!
To demonstrate what a devoted and geeky Rays fan I am, I try to acquire all of their stadium giveaways on eBay each year. Here’s my dual talking bobble head of Joe Magrane and Dewayne Staats from the 2006 season:
And here’s my only Joe Magrane autograph card, from 1996 Leaf Signature Series, during his one-year stint with the White Sox. Check out one of the all-time worst signatures that I’ve ever seen: