On two occasions recently, Redleg Nation had the pleasure of spending some time talking to Chris Welsh, native Cincinnatian, ex-Reds player, and current Reds television broadcaster.
Chris was very frank with his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the Reds franchise and we appreciate his time.
This interview was done in two sessions, on May 26, 2006 and May 31, 2006.
RN: Redleg Nation
CW: Chris Welsh
RN: Let’s move into the broadcasting booth. Fox Sports News website said this was your 14th year in the broadcasting booth and you’ve been with George Grande since ’93.
RN: Who did you work with before that?
CW: I’ve worked with George the whole time. George also worked with Gordy Coleman. The first year I was hired, I believe, was the first year the Reds had a cable contract and Channel 5 (Cincinnati WLW-T) had decided they were not going to go with Gordy Coleman another season.
So, Sportschannel Ohio (Editor’s note: Sportschannel Ohio is now FSN Ohio.) was going to go with Gordy, so I was hired by Channel 5 to do the over the air games which was about a 50 game package and Gordy did all the cable games. Unfortunately, Gordy passed away over the winter and I ended up with the whole package.
RN: Early on, there were some games that Marty came over and worked some TV?
CW: He came over on those “over the air” games and worked 3 innings apiece.
RN: You and Marty used to go at each other pretty good on the air, there were some fans that felt that the animosity was real, I just felt it was the two of you putting the needle in each other.
CW: . If he likes you, he’d go after you. If he didn’t like you at all, he’d just kind of leave you alone. There was no animosity at all between us; he was just trying to “build the moment”.
I think for a while he got kind of …I don’t want to say bored, but unchallenged during his broadcasts. If the team was out of it and Joe wasn’t offering a lot of energy, he’s look forward to a change in atmosphere going from radio to TV, different audience, different announcers. He just had a lot of fun doing it.
RN: When Joe was forced out in 2004, your name came up as one of the possible replacements. Did you want the job?
CW: The truth, I would have seriously considered taking the job. But the bottom line was, the Reds would have doubled the number of games I had to work and cut my pay. I told John Allen at the time, you pick the phone up and make the call to Debbie (Chris’ wife) because I don’t want to know her reaction.
A couple of things came into play, #1, they didn’t want to pay any money and #2, they were very concerned with getting someone in there, and that’s why I believe they picked somebody from out of town, they didn’t want someone in there that would hop on the negative Marty bandwagon.
If the team was going bad or whatever the problem was, they didn’t want Marty to go off on somebody or the organization or the management and have the other guy in the booth say, “Yeah, we’ve seen this for too many years.” And that was their paranoia.
RN: How did Joe Sundermann (announcer for Xavier basketball and was considered one of the finalist to replace Joe Nuxhall) come into the mix on that? Do you know?
CW: Joe had some connection with Carl Lindner.
RN: Did you give any thoughts to how tough it would have been to replace Joe Nuxhall?
CW: On yeah, absolutely. Nearly impossible.
RN: Do you think Steve Stewart has suffered from that?
CW: I think so. I think no matter who you would have called, with the exception of Thom Brennaman, who would have gotten such overwhelming support. It would have been difficult for anybody else to come in there because you’re trying to replace an icon. And it’s just impossible to do.
RN: Like replacing Wooden at UCLA?
CW: Right. By the time they hire the second or third guy after that, they’ll forget what Wooden was like. And they’ll forget Joe a few broadcasters from Steve. For instance, it’ll be a lot easier to replace Steve if and when that time ever comes than it would be Joe.
RN: How much longer do you want to do this?
CW: I want to do it , huh, in my book, at least until I put my kids through college.
RN: Let’s talk about your actual broadcasting day. Can you take us through a game day for you?
CW: Well, today started at 6:30AM, I had 3 radio shows I do on a weekly basis on Wednesday. But normally, I get to the ballpark around 2:30 in the afternoon, sometimes earlier if it’s an away game and I’m out there throwing early batting practice to some of the guys. But for the most part, I get there about 2:30, mill around a little bit, talk to the other broadcasters, go over into the other clubhouse, talk to some players, some coaches.
At my age, most of the guys I played with are either front office operatives or they’re coaches, so I know a lot of people and have made a lot of friends through the years so, you go in there and try to find some inside scoop on certain things and certain players and trends.
About 3:30 we start to work on whatever parts of our pre-game show we have to do, like if we have an interview to do, if we have a standup to do, like a Chris’ clubhouse or something like that. That’s when I do that.
Then we go up to the media level about 5:00 and have some dinner, which takes about half an hour. Then by about 5:30, you’re back in the booth and it takes about 35 or 40 minutes to prepare my scorecard each night with stats and notes. The second night you have a little less preparation to do because you’ve got some carryover stuff you didn’t use the first night.
Then the producer and director show us what they have in the can as far as graphics, sound bites and other little tidbits of information that they may want to get to during the game. That happens in the half hour prior to the pre-game show. For a 7:00 game, sometime between 6 and 6:30, we’re in the booth and we’re wired up the entire half hour, looking at stuff they have in the truck, talking back and forth and I prepare the scouting reports.
At 6:30, we watch the pre-game show, a lot of times we are called upon to do a “hit” in the pre-game show, which is when they come up to the booth and want to talk to us in what they call a “two box” with Jim Day in one side and George and I or George or I in the other. Then we get ready to do the game. The last hour and a half in the booth before the game goes pretty quickly.
RN: You mention stats and your scorecard and that kind of thing. George Grande is what most of us Internet geek guys would call and “old school baseball guy”. Do you consider yourself a “stats guy”?
CW: Is there a difference between being “old school” and stats?
RN: From a layman’s point of view, it seems that an “old school baseball guy” relies more on his eyes than on numbers. Would you disagree with that?
CW: No, I think that’s a correct perception. George relies on them. George does a lot of stat work. He looks at those stat packs as hard as anybody does. I wouldn’t call myself a “stat guy”.
I prefer stats to prove or disprove a theory or a trend. Some of the regular stats they throw up there don’t mean anything to me. I’m more concerned about a pitcher’s WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings pitched); I don’t use it because it’s not too commonly used.
But I like the peripheral numbers that a player has that substantiate a batting average or a good season. In that respect, I’m interested in stats. But I’m much more an “old school baseball guy” than I am a stats geek, if you want to look at it that way.
RN: Have the numbers that teams look at, from the coaching level up through the front office, changed over the last few years?
CW: No, they’ve always looked at the same numbers. This is what the sabermetric and “Moneyball” people don’t give these baseball people credit for; they’ve always looked at OBP (On base percentage). They haven’t added them together to get OPS or Win Shares or things like that. They haven’t gone through all these formulas because these guys aren’t interested in doing those kind of mathematical gymnastics. But they’ve always looked at peripheral numbers.
If your question is trending towards “Moneyball”, I thought it did a great disservice to a lot of real good baseball people, just because somebody figured out that OBP means you don’t make outs. Duh.
I read it, I was never mentioned in there, wouldn’t think I would have been, but I can see why so many old baseball people took offense to that because the guy didn’t do his homework at all. Period.
RN: Do you know Billy Beane?
CW: I know Billy Beane, one of the most embarrassing things ever happened to me, gave up a double to the guy in spring training.
RN: Have you ever had a problem with a player for something you said on the air?
CW: Couple times. Most recently last year, Rich Aurilia was barking about playing time and didn’t want to be here, we were on a west coast swing and he was popping off and I said on the air that he should just keep his mouth shut. Let the team go on and be a team.
He confronted me in the clubhouse about that, he said, “So why were you doggin’ me?”
I said, “What do you mean “doggin’ you”? And he explained what he meant, I said this is what I said and this is what I believe. “Rich, you’ve been around long enough to know the team doesn’t need it’s guts ripped open from the inside and that’s what happens when guys start going to the paper complaining about playing time” and I’ll stand by what I said. But, it doesn’t happen too often.
RN: Does that stuff usually blow over pretty quickly?
CW: Oh yeah, that went away immediately. He said, “That’s fine.”
Junior had a discussion with me the other day, he said, “Why did you say that I should have caught those balls in Detroit?” I said, “I didn’t say that.” He said, “Yes, you did. “ I said, “No, I didn’t”. I said, “You obviously haven’t seen the tape.”
This was kind of an extension of the “Angry Guys” controversy. I told him, “I did say that one of those balls should have been caught though.” “Which one?”, he asked. “The one closest to you.”. So we kind of went on, but at this point we were kidding and there wasn’t a room full of reporters, just in the clubhouse during BP, only a couple of players sitting there. It was kind of a repartee that happens on a daily basis with people that get on each other.
I learned two things early on in broadcasting that are very important. One I learned from Marty, one I learned from George. I’ve learned a lot from both of them, but these really stick to me.
Number 1, Marty showed me early, you don’t broadcast for the players, but you make yourself available EVERY DAY for players to talk to you, if they’ve got something to say to you. He’s always down at the batting cage, so if the other team gets wind of him ripping somebody or if somebody’s wife says, “You should have heard what Marty said about you” , he’s standing there, you want to talk to him, there he is. So, I think that’s important.
Number 2, which I learned from George Grande, is to make friends with these guys when they’re rookies, on their way up. Because if you wait to talk to Barry Bonds until after he’s hit 700 home runs, he’s not going to talk to you.
That’s part of the effort of getting there early, knowing the bios of these young players, seeing them while they’re on their way up. That’s why we can talk to Albert Pujols now, because we’ve talked to him for the last 4 years.
RN: What’s the best thing about being a broadcaster?
CW: If you like being around baseball, it gives you pretty good seats. It allows you to see a lot of baseball, it’s a fun job, it’s relatively stress free from the standpoint of jobs that I’ve had.
For example, when I got out of baseball, I was living in Florida, this is in the late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s, before I picked up this Reds gig. I was running a company that we put together that was an employee leasing company, which now they call professional employer organizations, but essentially it was a business that did payroll and insurance work for employers, for small businesses.
It was real world stuff, it was a rude awakening to what it’s like to get a business off the ground. I was working 80 hours a week, traveling all over the state of Florida. I was just in a grind. It was stressful. I was hiring people, firing people, with your eyes to the bottom line.
It was a very tough job by comparison. To get back into baseball to do something that I knew and I loved. I love going to work every day. If you like doing that, you can do it a long time.
RN: What’s the most frustrating thing about broadcasting?
CW: Being away from the family.
For instance, the Reds are on their longest road trip of the year, we’re in Chicago and I drove to Chicago so I could go home after the game. I’ll get home about 4:00 in the morning, so have the one off day in ten days to spend at home, instead of playing golf in Houston.
When you’ve got kids and family that you want to be around, it’s tough to miss them. It’s tough to miss the Little League games, now that they’re older and playing, it’s always tough to miss ballet recitals, things like that, but it’s part of the deal. The other part of it that is good though is I get 5 months off in the wintertime, so I don’t go from baseball to hockey or baseball to football. I get to be around the house a lot in the winter, so there is some tradeoff.
End of Part II