In this latest edition of “Mic’d Up” at LAKings.com, we hear from Charley Steiner, current radio broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A few minutes with Charley produced the following Q and A:
Q: You grew up a New York Rangers fans. Talk about your most memorable experiences watching them play.
Steiner: Well when I grew up in the early ‘60s in New York – the Dodgers had already moved – so we were down to the Yankees, the Knicks, the Rangers and the Giants. And this new team, the Titans came along, who would then later on become the Jets. In those days baseball was the all-encompassing season, football, hockey and basketball just occupied time until the next baseball season. And the Rangers were the team. So I naturally gravitated toward the Rangers. It was a different game, a different time but that was the team I grew up watching and rooting for – this is at the old Madison Square Garden, not the relatively new one at Penn Station. The old Garden was at 8th Avenue and 50th Street, so I would go there when I was old enough, about 14 or 15 years old and they would play on Saturday afternoons and then the Knicks would play Saturday night. So on a Saturday afternoon I would go to the Garden and I would try and sit as close as I could to the play-by-play announcer, Win Elliot, who was on the second level and then I would scream out when there was moments of silence ‘Go Rangers’ or whatever. Then they would play the tape of the game at night and I could hear myself off in the distance so in some strange way hockey was my first foray into being on television, a background voice well in the distance.
Q: You’ve been in the LA market for a while now Charley, what did you think the Kings Stanley Cup championship meant for the local sports fans out here?
Steiner: Oh it’s a big deal. Anytime you win a championship in any market, but especially one like LA, it’s a very big deal. You guys, in the winter, have to share time and space with the Lakers, but this was your year and it was wonderful to watch and what I found most interesting was how the community came to embrace the Kings as the season went on, and not knowing really what to expect or how it would play itself out. I recall the night the Kings won the Stanley Cup we were at home at Dodger Stadium and once the score went on the scoreboard in left field, Dodger Stadium went crazy and I think it was after somebody had fouled the ball into the stands. We had to explain that it was not anybody making a spectacular catch leaning over the railing but rather that the Kings had won and Mo [Rick Monday] and I went out of our way to congratulate the Kings. It was enormous and the one thing that transcends the Stanley Cup is that once it is won, everybody gets to share it. It was great for the city. There’s no getting around it.
Q: As a broadcaster when the team you’re covering is about to win a championship or a playoff series or even a big game, describe the emotions that were going through your mind when you’re on the air.
Steiner: Well I can only speak about baseball and football….we’ll narrow it to baseball. Our season begins, give or take Valentine’s Day, when pitchers and catchers report. From that day on until the final day of the season, hopefully it is the last day of the year and you end up winning the final game of the season, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of pride, there’s a sense of love, because you are with these people, not just the players but the coaches, the managers, the trainers, the media relations people. It’s this giant trampling circus that has been together for 6 ½ , 7, 7 ½ months. Every single day. And so there is so much invested in that moment, and that is why I’m not sure fans truly really understand and embrace the notion that when a team has just won its championship, in the case of the Kings and the Stanley Cup and the Giants and the World Series, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of relief, the sense of communal, the sense of communal affection for one another that a goal, a nearly impossible goal for so many other teams and people who are also in pursuit…when that goal is accomplished, inevitably they would ask players ‘how do you feel’ and the inevitable answer is, ‘I don’t know.’ I mean even now, thinking back over the years, they don’t know other than it feels better than being on the other side.
Q: From a broadcaster’s perspective, what do you think the biggest difference between announcing a baseball game compared to a hockey game?
Steiner: Well it couldn’t be more different. The only thing where you have things in common is A) they are sports, B) broadcasters are broadcasting to an audience and C) they talk into a microphone. After that, they’re totally different. Hockey, just from an x’s and o’s broadcasting point of view, it’s very regimented, it’s kind of like being an auctioneer, you have to talk quickly, you have to have unbelievable eyesight, brain power and the ability to translate what you see into words so that a fan can listen and understand the picture you’re attempting to paint. In baseball, you are engaged in conversation for three, three-and-a-half, four, five sometimes six hours or more and the conversation is kind of interrupted to some degree by a pitched ball. And then it’s fouled off and you continue your conversation whatever it may be, but at the moment of impact when the ball is in play, you go from conversationalist to hockey announcer just like that. In baseball, that is your livelihood and so the pacing is clearly different. I couldn’t go at the break-neck speed of Bob Miller or Doc Emrick or in the old days a guy like Dan Kelly, who, maybe it’s my taste but maybe the best hockey announcer I ever heard.
Q: You have a reputation of having fun on the air…and many have seen the laughing outtakes at ESPN. Have you ever had a moment similar like that come up when you were doing a Dodger game?
Steiner: One of the great aspects about what I do for a living and any play-by-play announcer does for a living it is a pre-requisite that we must have fun. And if we don’t have fun, our audience is not going to have fun so you come to work every day, check your ego at the door and let’s see what transpires over the next few hours and when you do it for a long period of time to some degree you forget there’s an audience and you’re just talking. In my case, Rick Monday and I are engaged in a nice conversation and then uh-oh if I find something terribly funny, I’ll obviously react accordingly. We had this one moment and to this day, Mo and I, every day when we see each other at the ballpark, first thing when he sees me or I say to him is ‘What up Holmes?” What’s that all about? Well, Roy Oswalt. One day we’re talking about Oswalt when he was still with the Astros and it came up that he was from a little town in Mississippi, I think Weir, Mississippi and went to Holmes Community College and so Mo and I were talking about various players and their backgrounds and where they played in the past and then I just happen to say, ‘Well you know what the fight song is for Holmes Community College -- ‘What up Holmes’ and he found it funny, I found it funny and for about a half a minute, we were trying to regroup. It’s those kinds of things and there have been many others along the way that struck us as funny, but you know as I say we as broadcasters are having fun and we are on the air about 600 to 650 hours a summer. They better have some fun.
Q: Last question Charley, how’s your slap shot?
Steiner: You know, not particularly good. I would probably, if I could stand up and my ankles would not give way and I could skate even just a hair, my guess is I would probably be high on the assist list but slap shots from the blue line are probably not my source of strength.