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Jerry Trupiano: Longtime broadcaster sits down with The GM’s Perspective
By Devon Teeple
Jerry Trupiano has been broadcasting big-league games since 1989.
He called balls and strike — and home runs and double plays for the Houston Astros (1985-86), the Montreal Expos (1989-90) and the before the Boston Red Sox with Joe Castiglione since 1993.
A man of many seasons he also worked the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros (1974-78), the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets (1978-80), the National Football League’s Houston Oilers (1980-89), Southwest Conference Football (1978-88) and the World League of American Football (1992).
The GM’s Perspective: You’ve called games for every major sport for 40 years. That is very impressive. What’s the first thing to come to mind when you think about it?
Jerry Trupiano: I started out doing hockey. It’s funny; you get labeled in this business. Early on I was a hockey guy then I started doing games in the NBA, and I was a basketball guy. After, I went to the NFL and became a football guy, then I started doing baseball games and I became a baseball guy. If you had to put a label on me, it would have been a baseball guy. That would be the one I’m most proud of.
GMs: I guess the first question I should ask for people who aren’t familiar with your background is, what got you into the broadcasting?
JT: I knew at nine years old what I wanted to do. I grew up in St. Louis and we had the greatest broadcast crew ever put together. All three are in the broadcast wing of the Hall of Fame: Harry Caray, Jack Buck, and Joe Garagiola. I would play whiffle ball in my backyard and I would hit a home run. As I hit it I’d call it like Harry Caray. The guys enjoyed it, and it sort of put a bug in my mind. I would also sit in my room when games were on TV and I would practice. Later on I got a job at the university radio station while I was at St. Louis University. As a matter of fact, this week in Sports Illustrated (September, 2014), there’s a great article on KMOX Radio. Before there was an ESPN here in the states, you could pick up that station in 44 of the 50 states.
There, Jack Buck took a liking to me, and kinda took me under his wing and used to get me into the ballpark to practice my play-by-play. Dan Kelly (Ottawa, Ont.) , the greatest hockey announcer that ever lived, was another guy who took me under his wing. He would critique my hockey tapes. I had the bug at nine and I was able to turn it into a career. I consider myself very fortunate that had happened. I’ve been very lucky.
GMs: Did your mentors work with you throughout the years?
JT: Jack and Dan would listen to my tapes from time to time and would offer critiques. They liked what they heard. It’s funny, when I applied for my first on-air job; it was rare for both Jack and Dan to be in the building at the same time. When the call came in, I listed them as references and they were both there. Talk about being at the right spot at the right time. It’s all about timing.
GMs: With all these years behind you, you’ve called games for the Houston Aeros, Houston Rockets, Houston Astros, college football, the Houston Oilers, Montreal Expos, World League of American Football, the Boston Red Sox, amongst various other outlets. During this time, you must have developed some relationships with the players. Are you still in contact with the players after all these years?
JT: I probably don’t hear from ex-players all that much, except on occasion on Facebook and things like that. Hockey players, I hear from more often than not. I heard from Mark and Marty Howe within the last few months. Ted Taylor, captain of the Aeros, recently contacted me. I hear from Curt Schilling from time to time via email. On occasion I speak with former NFL player Dan Pastorini. Everyone is so busy and so spread out in different cities, but now, I mostly hear from guys in the front office in various sports.
With today’s players and the money they make, they’re really in a different social economic group. I’ve got people I consider more than acquaintances in the game like great guys such as Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. There in a different place and have their own families, so you don’t hear from them as often.
GMs: I listened to your call of the David Ortiz Game 4 walk-off two-run homer. It brings back some great memories. Is that call on top of your list? Or are there other moments that bring a smile to your face. Heck, you may have too many?
JT: The MLB Network picked it as one of the top 50 calls of all-time. They selected it as #25. If your on a list with Jack Buck, Vin Scully,Harry Caray, Ernie Harwell, and Mel Allen, that’s pretty special and right on the top of my list.
There’s also Gordie Howe’s 800th goal, and a 99-yard touchdown in the old college football Southwest Conference. There was the Division II Men’s Basketball Championship game I did nationally, where the winning team was down 11 points with a minute to go and ended up winning in regulation. The Ortiz home run, for its historic perspective is right at the top.
GMs: Social media has turned the world upside down. News is at your fingertips, constantly giving people access like never before. Has that affected your industry as much as it’s affected the news print business?
JT: Oh yeah. From time to time I’ll do a talk show for MLB or the local CBS sports station. You’re constantly checking twitter and there are people you follow and people you trust. When you see that they’re putting something out, and of course you give them credit for the story, but it turns you on to a story and you go get your contacts and drill down further. Social Media has been a game changer. Look what happened with the Ray Rice situation. TMZ releases the video before anyone else did …
GMs: You have years in the game and you have provided many memories for people. That must be an amazing feeling to know that people can remember specific day, times, and can recall where they were and what they were feeling because of your words?
JT: I learned that really early on. My first baseball job was in Houston, and then I went to Montreal. It really hit me between then eyes when I moved here (Boston). Before my family moved here, I was living in downtown Boston in a place by myself. We had a Friday night game against the Texas Rangers and Jose Canseco hit a tremendous home run at Fenway. It looked like it went over the light tower in left. From our angle we couldn’t tell, so I went down to the writers box and talked to the writers and asked them if they thought it went over the light tower? A writer, by the name of Bill Ballou from the Worcestor Telegram, started trying to explain to me the feeling of black. I came back to the booth and was talking to my broadcast partner, Joe Castiglione, and we were discussing the theory of black. You couldn’t tell because of the background. Theory, smeory! That ball was smoked!
The next day we were playing an afternoon game against the Rangers. After the game I go into this restaurant. This was when you could still smoke in places. I ask for a seat in the non-smoking section, and it’s pretty empty at the time. There was a couple over across the wall, and two tables over from me is another couple. They were talking loud enough that I could hear. He was talking about how this announcer was describing Canseco’s home run from the day before, and I hear “Theory smeory”. It was absolutely wonderful. I paid my bill and gave the waitress a couple extra dollars to take care of their drinks.
You find out that people are listening. We have a mutual acquaintance here that’s a Catholic priest. He says, you have your own following; people are impacted by what you say. People like Harry Caray and Jack Buck turned me on to baseball by listening to them. You hope that somewhere across your time doing this that you get to impact somebody in a positive way.
GMs: For those looking to get into broadcasting, do you have any words of advice for them?
JT: You bring to mind the words of a dear departed friend. Skip Caray, Harry Caray’s son, was one of the funniest guys I ever knew. When he was asked that question he said hit 30 home runs or score 20 touchdowns. They’re going more and more to ex-players. My words have always been, if you want to do it, go for it. Be honest with yourself. If you have the talent, if you want to put in the hard work, if you are dedicated to it, if you are able to get the background, do it. You can’t just walk in and think you know everything. You have to be yourself. If you’re a phony, people are going to see right through it.