Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Our Conversation With Charlie Slowes
"Bang!! Zoom!! Go The Fireworks!!" and "Another Curly 'W" Is In The Books!! The Two Signature Phrases which both represent Our Washington Nationals. Both originally presented On Air--by Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes. Since The Inaugural Season Of Major League Baseball's Return to The Nation's Capital--Charlie has broadcast each and every game in Team History. Very funny, very popular and with the ability to raise the level of his voice to the excitement of the game at hand--Mr. Slowes is quite impressive. Since those first days of Our Washington Nationals--Charlie Slowes had The African Queen and I hooked. We always have enjoyed his broadcasts and now with the equally as pleasing Dave Jageler by his side for the third season--few would doubt--they have combined to form one of the best Major League Radio Broadcast Teams in the Game.
We are very fortunate to have them. We really are.
Yesterday, Sohna and I presented Our Conversation With Dave Jageler--Dave Batting Leadoff. Today, Charlie Bats Cleanup.
This is Charlie Slowes second tour of duty in Washington, DC. From 1986 through 1997,11 Seasons, Charlie was the Play-By-Play Voice of The Washington Bullets--including two years of Radio/TV Simulcasts. In 1998, he left The Nation's Capital for the Year-Round Sun of Tampa--to become an Original Voice of The Tampa Bay Devil Rays Baseball Club. A position he held until joining Our Washington Nationals for The Inaugural Season of 2005. A Fordham University in New York Product--Charlie graduated from the very same school as Legendary Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers Great Broadcaster--Vin Scully. Before joining The Bullets, Slowes worked at the famous KMOX in St. Louis, working on a variety of assignments covering Cardinals Baseball, Cardinals Football (before they moved to Arizona), Blues Hockey, and St. Louis University Basketball. He has also called games for The Baltimore Orioles and The New York Mets.
This New York Native now lives in Florida with his wife of 20 years--Christina--and their two boys--ages 13 & 10.
With that, here we go with Our Conversation With Charlie Slowes. He is always interesting to talk to--because you sometimes don't know whether Charlie is being sarcastic or not. He is quite the funny man. Sohna and I talked with Charlie during last Friday Night's Game at New Nationals Park. The evening we visited Charlie and Dave in their broadcast booth.
Just like with Dave Jageler, lets start with your preparation? (SBF)
“My preparation starts even before I leave from home to go to the ballpark. By routine, I keep a Day-By-Day on every player. So, I update it daily—adding all the information from the previous game. During the first game of every series, I spend a lot of time working on making sure we are up to date on players of the other team—especially the first time we play any team during the year. When we play a western team that we only see twice, or American League, only once—we need to be prepared. We just don’t make this stuff up (chuckling.) But, it’s a lot of work, and it must be done. We need to be up to speed on what guys have done lately, what the trends are, read the papers from the other cities and their websites. You want to think you know a lot or as much about that team, as you do your own team.”
How about your scorecard—it’s very detailed. (SBF)
I include all the pertinent information about each player on my scorecard. Batting Average, Hits, HRs, things like that. For Pitchers, Wins, Losses, ERA, etc. And even up here (upper right corner of his scorecard), I place the umpire names and their hometowns, their years umpiring in The Majors. This allows me to glance down at my scorecard at a moment’s notice and pick up the information I want or verify that information before I say it. We need to react quickly, at times, and this allows me to do my job better.”
Also, I notice you have a series of promos in a binder that you are reading from. How do you know when to read them?
“Each is suppose to be read a certain number of times during the game. Jack (Hicks) keeps a count. And if we have not done say, The IHOP ad enough times, he will remind me late in the game to get that one in. So, we do.”
We were chatting with Dave about talking with the out of town team broadcasters. (SBF)
“Oh yeah, everybody will trade information. What’s new with your guys? We might want to ask about a specific player that’s just been called up. A guy that hasn’t played and is hurt—that kind of thing. Everybody’s preparation is different. A lot of things you find out on your own, but a lot of times you can find out—if you don’t know the opposing manager too well for that team—you can go and ask the broadcasters the inside on what has been going on and why certain decisions have been made. So, we all rely on each other. The other teams broadcasters are a great resource for us to get up to speed.”
“But The Big Market Teams are sometimes hard to deal with. Their P.R. (Public Relations) People try to shield their players. Fortunately, in our job, you end up developing so many relationships with the players, you just bypass that (P.R,) Guy and do it yourself.”
Speaking of Big Markets—how different is The New York Media? You are a New York Guy. (SBF)
“Well, it’s different than when I grew up. I asked Joe Torre about this when he was managing The Yankees and I was doing The Tampa Bay Games. When he was managing The Yankees, there were 150 to 200 people standing around him before a game to get his group interview. And understand, his first job as a manager—was as a Player/Manager for The Mets. How big a deal was that—back then!! Or what it should have been to what it is now—as just a manager. Big Difference is what is considered important.”
Listening to you two on the radio—everything seems to come so easily. Where does the camaraderie come from? How was it developed? You seem to like each other? (The African Queen)
“It’s all those rehearsals!! (Chuckling) But, it helps to like each other—which we do. It’s fun when you like each other and you get along. You know that before the punch line comes—you are going to be carried by your partner. We are going to laugh. We truly can finish each other’s sentences—even if we don’t think exactly alike. We can think like the other person and KNOW WHAT HE IS THINKING. That’s important and really what makes us better.”
“I have been in a situation where chemistry was not there and it did not click. So what we have developed here between myself and Dave is special.”
So, when we listen to you guys for road games, is it as much fun as what comes across on the radio? (The African Queen)
“It’s more fun than on the radio, because you guys don’t get to hear the stuff that we are laughing at during the commercial breaks (chuckling). We really care about what we do. We come prepared to do a good job—but we also come to have fun.”
Speaking of preparation, does anything prepare you for a bad season? (SBF)
“Nothing prepares you for a bad season. I have been through them before (with Tampa Bay). People like to remind me of the combined Won/Loss Records of all the teams I have broadcast in The NBA and Major League Baseball. I try not to think about it.’
“Everyday is a new day. We COULD WIN TODAY!! RIGHT? But, seriously, you have got to prepare for this particular game we are doing today as if it was The Game Of The Week. There is no other way to feel about it. Fans are out there listening, and they want to hear about the game. They want to be entertained. That’s our job. No two ways about it.”
Has the team not doing well, hindered your efforts to talk to players and coaches within the team? (The African Queen)
“Well, you pick your spots to talk to them. And when you don’t (shrugging shoulders), you don’t—like after tough losses. There is a time for everyone. You just have to realize when that time comes. But, we have pretty good relationships with the players as they know what we do and we are around them so often, every single day. And we have had a pretty good group of guys to deal with.”
But obviously, the struggles of the team have not taken away from the fun of it all? (SBF)
“No, there is so much about the game to like. The first half of 2005 (Inaugural Season Of Our Washington Nationals) was the most fun I have ever had ANYWHERE in my broadcasting career. The run that team got on during that month of June, when they won 20 Games, 10 in a Row. “The Chief” saved 15 of them. The way they won all those games. And the interest in the club was astronomical. RFK Stadium was crazy every single night. That was one terrific ride.”
“Something really good has going to have to happen to top that—right now (chuckling—maybe they will win their last 40 games of the season-SBF) Yeah, right. But, when they do win here, it will be just as exciting, if not better than 2005. 2005 was the first year of the team (in Washington)—it was different and probably there will never be anything exactly like that again. Everything was so fresh. A very unique situation. I don’t think I will ever forget that year.”
“The nucleus of the fans that come each night, right now, are terrific. There is a fan base. I think they want to see the team win. Our job is easy when they (The Nationals) win. It’s not easy when the games are not good and the pitching staff is struggling. You are trying to keep things interesting, entertaining—that’s why we kind of tease each other and make fun of Jack Hicks (The Jack Of All Things)—or anybody that walks into the booth during a bad game. They become material. If you have a reason to be here (in the booth), good. If you don’t, we are going to use it. (Busting out laughing)”
Does Jack Hicks like being the Star of The Broadcast? (SBF)
“We go places and people ask Jack what he does. He tells them he engineers The Nationals Radio Broadcasts. ‘What’s your name?’ they ask. He says: ‘Jack’. Immediately comes the response—‘Are you The Jack of All Things!!’ He loves it. So, every now and then I will credit him by saying: ‘Wow! He’s famous. He’s Jack Hicks. The Jack of All Things!!’”
Really, how different is it here at Nationals Park than at RFK Stadium? (The African Queen)
“Here comes a height question. The biggest difference is what we call ‘7th Heaven’ (The Upper Press Box is located on the 7th Floor of New Nationals Park). I came up with that on the spot. You have to push the number 7 in the elevator, and the only thing above us is heaven. (Chuckling). Seriously, we have adjusted to it. (It’s pretty high up here—TAQ) It’s the highest spot in The Major Leagues. It’s a different angle; you are definitely not as close. You don’t see movement on the pitches the same way as you do most elsewhere.”
“We have a little bit of help with the monitor. Both Dave and I believe you cannot call a game off the monitor. YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE GAME. Now the monitor can help when, say Dave is doing play-by-play. I can look at the monitor and watch ball movement and things like that. Because when the ball is hit, I don’t have to be the person describing that ball leaving the bat. In that way—we help each other out.”
“We usually can tell what pitcher is warming up, especially when it’s (Jesus) Colome because his delivery is so slow. When (Big Jon) Rauch was here, because he was so tall. Although, on Opening Night, when everyone was bundled up in the parkas and it was cold—Rauch was sitting down and we couldn’t tell if he was even out there. We couldn’t find him—as hard as that may seem to believe. They were huddled under blankets and everything. I needed stronger binoculars to see Jon Rauch. There is something wrong with that.”
“Also, at RFK Stadium, we sat so close to the field, almost as if we were sitting right over top of home plate. That has made this change here (at New Nationals Park) so different.”
“The other big adjustment up here is to make sure we don’t knock anything over the edge, because it will drop like a scud missile going down. If we drop a cup of coffee—the people in The Gallery Level are going to get wet. In the Visiting Broadcast Booth, they have knocked a couple of drinks out. So, we have been very careful here.” (There is a protective ledge outside the booth window—about 12 Inches in width to stop any objects that might fall out)
Dave mentioned that being on the road is tough on his family? (The African Queen)
“Unquestionably, that is the hardest part of this job. Being away with the family living in Florida is difficult. This time of year, the family has gone home because school is starting. I am actually sneaking out on Sunday Night, after the last home game, for one day, before catching up with the team for Tuesday Night’s Game in Philadelphia. Which quite honestly, is something I haven’t done enough of. But, I just had to do it. We have an off day. So, I get to see them (his family) for Sunday Night and Monday—then fly out on Tuesday Morning.”
What do you do during the off-season? (The African Queen)
“I am up with the kids in the morning, getting them off to school. I attend all their programs. The beginning of the off-season starts out with a few days of 100% nothing. Once I get there, I need to go from the bed, to the refrigerator, to the couch, to the pool. And then some sequence like that for about two days. You have to, for nearly 8 months you have basically been going no stop. There are very few off days during any season and I need it just to unwind. The rigors of the schedule, seemingly, have us with most of the days off in April & May. Then in August, when you are dying for a day off, there isn’t one. We’ve got this crazy stretch coming up next week where we play in Philadelphia on a Thursday Night and then Friday Afternoon in Chicago.”
What about some of the other stadiums? Are some of those broadcast booths tough on you because the location or setup is not the best for you? (SBF)
At Wrigley Field (in Chicago), you have a bar in the your back in the booth. You have a railing and the booth is so small—it was designed for one person. The width of the booth (for two people there) is a little bit more than the width of one person here at Nationals Park. You can’t really put any of your stuff out. There is just enough room to fold your scorebook in half and that’s it.”
What is your favorite park—outside of Nationals Park? (The African Queen)
“I do like Wrigley Field because the atmosphere is great, maybe the best in the game. I love SAFCO Field in Seattle—that’s one of the best parks. Dodger Stadium is still phenomenal. I like The Big ‘A’ in Anaheim. Those parks have just been kept up so well and they are so clean.”
Since you have worked in both leagues—is there a Major League Stadium you have not called a game in? (SBF)
(Thinking—for about 15 seconds—counting) “I have done them all!!”
And probably some that do not exist anymore? (SBF)
“Astrodome, Old Busch Stadium, Tiger Stadium—where the foul balls come right into your face. And of course—RFK.”
How about Dave? (SBF)
“Nope, in fact, SAFCO was first for him this year. But, I have been in every park.”
Are you surprised at the popularity of your work here in DC? (SBF)
“I am glad that people like us. If we are popular, I don’t know what the term might mean in number. How people might measure that. But, we come to the park prepared to do our jobs. We enjoy broadcasting the games and we have a good time doing it. If that has made us popular—then we are happy to be recognized.”
With that answer, Charlie Slowes needed to get back to broadcasting that night's ball game. Hopefully, these two interviews with Charlie & Dave have given Our Fans insight into the personalities behind the Voices of Our Radio Broadcasters. We can only wish that Fans of Our Washington Nationals will have both Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler calling games in New Nationals Park for Our Team, for years and years to come. Coming up soon--The Broadcast Gamer--the funny stuff from Our Night Visiting With Charlie and Dave in their Broadcast Booth.