Dave Wright

The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

As this column was being written, it was looking more and more likely that there won’t be a Major League Baseball season in town this year. Oh, we’ll still make room for baseball this summer—it just likely won’t be at Target Field. It’s easy to lay the blame at the feet of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, but it takes two to tangle. And the fact is that the players have been just as inconsistent in their stance as Manfred. As they used to say on “The People’s Court,” the two sides are at loggerheads.

In this era of social media, it’s easy to be out of sight, out of mind. However, for Twins’ fans there’s another way to stay connected to their team. For three-plus decades, Dick Bremer has been their television link to the team. Through good years and bad, he’s been the play-by-play announcer, working alongside a dizzying total of 20 colleagues.

Bremer discusses all that and a lot more in a book that recently came out titled, Game Used: My Life In Stitches with the Minnesota Twins.

Bremer comes from an old-school background. He started out on the radio in St. Cloud, worked his way through Iowa and first came to local attention while working at then WTCN-TV (now KARE). “I wrote my own scripts for TV,” he recalled. “I wanted them to be my words.”

With the help of local author Jim Burton, Bremer weaves a narrative in 108 chapters—one for each stitch in a baseball. As with just about every announcer who goes that route, there are great tales of small-town radio and television adventures. They range from sticking a sock over a microphone to block out the noise of the wind during a St. Cloud State football game from the roof of the press box to talking his way out of a ticket for running a red light to get a tape to the Cedar Rapids TV station in time for that night’s sportscast.

Bremer takes us through several twists and turns at Channel 11, which was just starting to make inroads in the Twin Cities television sports market. Cable TV came along in the early ’80s. In those days, over-the-air TV stations usually did 40-50 games. The advent of Spectrum Sports offered the possibility for more telecasts with somebody other than the KMSP pair of Bob Kurtz and Ted Robinson. Bremer paired up with Pat Hughes that first year. When Hughes moved to the Milwaukee Brewers radio booth the next season, Harmon Killebrew was brought in to do the color commentary.

 

house ad

 

“When I started out, there wasn’t as much information available as we have now,” he said. “All you could do was read the boxscores from the night before, talk to some folks around the batting cage, check out the updated stats and look at a couple of pages of notes. If I had a game today, I probably would’ve already spent an hour on the Internet,” said Bremer during our conversation at 10:15 a.m.

Bremer’s tales of the Twins range from the first game he attended as a kid—a 1964 win over Boston—to a night in June 1967 when a storm swept over Met Stadium, nearly flooding the place and damaging the light poles and scoreboard.

Baseball announcers have a different connection with their audience than do other sports announcers. To last as long as Bremer has meant adjusting to how the game is presented.

“When I started out, there wasn’t as much information available as we have now,” he said. “All you could do was read the boxscores from the night before, talk to some folks around the batting cage, check out the updated stats and look at a couple of pages of notes. If I had a game today, I probably would’ve already spent an hour on the Internet,” said Bremer during our conversation at 10:15 a.m.

The modern fan demands a lot more of announcers. “The viewers can see the stats for themselves,” Bremer said. “What they want is the inside stuff. The challenge is using the analytics and then explaining what they mean.”

The lengthy baseball season is such that the audience often forges a bond of sorts with the announcers. After doing games here for so long, one might think the audience knows the announcers well. Bremer’s book often surprises in this regard, not the least of which is the discovery that Bremer’s father was a Lutheran pastor who specialized in working with deaf congregates. “He wasn’t deaf himself,” Bremer said. “That was just who he worked with.”

Like a lot of fans, Bremer was caught off-guard by the sudden halt to the 2020 baseball season. “Each year, we have an annual meeting of the local baseball play-by-play guys,” he said. “A lot of them always say they can’t believe how short the off-season is. I’ve always been the opposite. I can’t believe how long it is. My appreciation for the game grows each year.”

That love for the game—and his craft—is part of what will draw Bremer back to the ballpark whenever MLB restarts. He also looks forward to teaming up with such analysts as Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Justin Morneau and Roy Smalley when he gets back to work.

“They all bring different perspectives,” Bremer said. “It’s a matter of getting your comfort level established. What amazed me is how Justin (who had no prior television experience) adjusted to being on the air.”

Until MLB and the players figure it out, Bremer will be talking about his book. “Tony Oliva said it was the first book he read cover to cover,” Bremer said. “My high school and college English teachers said they liked it, too.”

Until we can once again see games on the field, inside stories about games from the past will have to do.

Highland golf gets back to a type of normal

Two months after Governor Tim Walz declared it was safe to go back to playing golf, the Highland National 18-hole course is rounding into form. Meanwhile, the Highland 9-Hole officially opened for business on June 15. Club pro John Shimpach said golfers have already adjusted to the new normal. “It’s going well,” he said. “We’re continually adjusting, but folks understand.”

The Highland National clubhouse is still not open, but a stationary beverage stand has now been added near the 1st and 10th tees. Gas carts are back on the course and portable bathrooms are being deployed. One thing that players apparently are still adjusting to is how to make reservations online with a credit card.

This is prime time for charity and business golf tournaments, but shotgun starts are still off the table. “They just have to tee off following each other,” Shimpach said.

Assembling in large groups in close quarters still violates the governor’s dictum, but it’s a small price to pay for four hours or so of golf.

Saints to play ball—just not here

The St. Paul Saints will play baseball this summer, though we may not be able to see it in person. The Saints recently announced a 60-game schedule that will run from July 3 through September 10. However, the defending American Association champs will not be at CHS Field. The governor’s edict limiting outdoor gatherings put the kibosh on that.

As a result, the Saints are currently slated to play all of their games in either Sioux Falls, Milwaukee or Fargo. The team does have a plan in place for seating fans with proper social distancing for games at CHS if the restrictions change. But for now, those fans will have to either travel or follow the team on radio.

Dave Wright can be reached at dwright53@msn.com.

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

Leave a Reply