MLB Closers | Brantley & Shaw | Ep 29

MLB Closers | “A closer is often considered the best relief pitcher that a club has in its bullpen. Closers are most often deployed for the final inning of a game when a narrow lead — three runs or less — needs to be protected. Closers almost always excel against both right- and left-handed batters and are more often than not capable of striking out batters at high rates.” 

MLB Glossary

So you want to be a closer. We have two award-winning MLB closers today, and they say you better want the job or you’ll never excel at it.

How do you know who wants it? Jeff Brantley and Jeff Shaw have seen those who do and those who don’t – they’ll tell you the difference.

MLB Closers

Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Jeff Brantley celebrates following the final out of game three of the National League divisional playoff against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday night, Oct. 6, 1995, at Riverfront Stadium, in Cincinnati. The Reds won the game 10-1 to sweep the series. (AP Photo/Mark Lyons)

Brantley was the NL relief pitcher of the year in 1996 and Shaw took that crown in 1997.  Brantley was in the Majors for 14 seasons and Shaw for 12. They were both opponents and teammates during that stretch.  

7 Jul 1998: National League member Jeff Shaw #41 of the Los Angeles Dodgers starts his wind up during the All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The American League defeated the National League 13-8. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport

Who did they learn from? How do you maneuver through the middle of a line-up, game on the line, and you need three outs? They’ll describe a unique universe they inhabit when they take to the mound in the 9th inning, a roaring crowd and a game with no room for error.

And all that time spent waiting – a couple of bullpen stories will be shared as well.

Jeff Shaw and Jeff Brantley take you into the world of the closer – then, now and tomorrow.

Enjoy.

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2003 ALCS | Boone vs Walker | Ep 27

2003 ALCS | You dream about it as a kid. Standing in the backyard, bat in hand. You take the swing that launches a ball out of the yard for a game winner. Not just any game winner, but a swing in a major league game in the playoffs of October against THE rival, in the deciding game, in extra innings.  

Aaron Boone and the swing of a lifetime

Aaron Boone, now manager of the Yankees, lived that dream in the 2003 American League Championship Series while playing for the Bronx Bombers.

Boston Red Sox Todd Walker hits a solo home run against the New York Yankees in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Boston, October 13, 2003. REUTERS/Mike Segar JR/GAC

As he headed to second base in his home run celebration, he passed a longtime friend, Todd Walker, who was playing for the opposing Red Sox. Walker had a tremendous series against the Yankees, hitting .370 and leading the Sox in runs scored. Now that series was over and the Yankees were moving on to the World Series.

The 2003 ALCS

Pedro Martinez trows Don Zimmer to the ground during a bench clearing brawl.

This 2003 series was heated. There was Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. There was a lengthy bench-clearing brawl. There were managerial decision questions that will be argued about forever.
Here is the rivalry-the Red Sox and the Yankees-the 2003 ALCS. Here are two players in that series: Aaron Boone and Todd Walker. These are their stories from one of the most anticipated playoff series in baseball history. A series that lived up to all the hype.

The Brawl
Yankees tie it in the 8th
Aaron Boone walk off

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For Love of the Game | Lyons vs Hudler | Ep 25

For the love of the game |The legend of golf, Ben Hogan, once said, “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” 

Our guests today have taken time to smell the roses and their walk down the fairway has been filled with life: a life in sports where each day was to be treasured.

The Major Leaguers

Steve Lyons spent nine seasons in MLB, playing for four teams in an 852-game career. He played every position, doing so once in the same game. He said, “I was never a great athlete or a great hitter. I was never supposed to make it to the big leagues.” He did and made the most of every moment.

Rex Hudler played 14 seasons in the majors for six teams. His 774 games played required the grit and no quit attitude just as was true for Lyons.

For the Love of the Game

There is a sheer joy that radiates from Hudler and Lyons as they relate their experiences as rivals and survivors in the majors. Around the game, one is known as “Psycho” and the other as “Bug Eater.” They earned the monikers and will tell you why.

They were referred to as “utility players.” What did that mean then and now to each of them?

There is much to smile about here, and much to admire.

They would both move on to share their joy of the game as broadcasters, but first they shared that joy with teammates and fans while in uniform. Here is their story.

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1988 NLCS | Dodgers vs Mets | Ep 10 | RE-AIR

1988 NLCS

The 1988 NLCS was a tumultuous series between the LA Dodgers and NY Mets.

It went 7 games in the rain, sleet and hail and featured the likes of KIRK GIBSON, STEVE SAX, DOC GOODEN AND GARY CARTER.

This series also pitted the to be 1988 Cy Young Award winner, NLCS MVP and World Series MVP- Orel Hershiser– against a former NL MVP, two-time World Series Champion and arguably the game’s finest defensive first baseman ever-Keith Hernandez.

They are the guests on this podcast.

We are treated here to an inside look at this series the likes of which you will find nowhere else.

The Players

Hershiser will speak to the adrenaline gained for himself and the Dodgers from public comments made by Mets players during the series.

Hernandez will speak to one of those occasions on comments made by teammate pitcher David Cone and how he and the Mets felt when they read what Cone said.

Both players access what facing one another was like. Hershiser talks about his plan in pitching to one of the games toughest outs. Hernandez reflects on what he sat on as a hitter when facing Hershiser.

Orel and Keith will lead you through the unfolding of this series: the roller coaster ride, the turning points, a game 4 that turned a potential Mets win into an extra inning game on Dodger Mike Scioscia’s 9th inning home run off Gooden and a game winning 12th inning home run by Dodger Kirk Gibson.

Keith will describe what he calls the worst defensive play he ever made that occurred in this series and that he lives with today.

Orel describes what it took to pitch nearly half of the total innings thrown by Dodger pitchers in this series, including sneaking off to the bullpen, without manager Tommy Lasorda knowing, to earn a save.

The story of that series is magic enough, but the insight both of these players provide on what their mind sets were in this series and competing at the Major League level for their careers is beyond words.

The openness and honesty you will hear is so rare as to perhaps be unique. Enjoy.

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1984 College World Series | Ep 23

1984 College World Series | In all of baseball, the College World Series, which began in 1947, is one of the pinnacle events for the sport.  

Only eight Division 1 teams survive a grueling playoff process to make it to Omaha to crown a national champion.

The Players

Jose Mota and Louie Medina made that journey in 1984, among a star-studded cast of players from around the country.  

Mota played for Cal State Fullerton and would leave Omaha as part of a national championship team.

Jose Mota

Louie Medina played for Arizona State, a highly favored team, with the likes of Barry Bonds and Oddibe McDowell as teammates.

1984 College World Series | The Semi Final Match Up

These two players faced each other in a semifinal game that saw Cal State Fullerton eliminate Arizona State 6-1. Fullerton would then go on to beat Texas for the title. 

What was the experience for Mota and Medina in Omaha? How did Cal State Fullerton prepare itself in a tournament where they were not favored to win? There were two different mental states for these teams entering the semifinal game and Mota and Medina lay that out for you.

Both players would go on to play professional baseball and stay involved in the game after their playing days: Mota in the broadcast booth and Medina in the front office of the KC Royals.  Both are forever conscious of the impact that 1984 College World Series had on their lives and they share those feelings here. 

The game may have been played in 1984, but the memories are vivid and emotionally charged. 

1984 College World Series highlights

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HOF Pitchers | Palmer vs Eckersley | Ep 20

Ah, the joy of it all, listening to this conversation between two of MLB’s most renowned HOF pitchers, former rivals and good friends: Jim Palmer and Dennis Eckersley.

These two-faced one another in opposing uniforms between 1975 and 1984. Both would enter Baseball’s Hall of Fame and the competitiveness that got them there can be heard in this edition of the SPORTS RIVALS.

The HOF Pitchers

Palmer pitched for the Orioles, and only the Orioles, from 1965-1984. His extraordinary career includes three Cy Young Awards, six World Series appearances, three World Series rings and a record of 268-152.

To say he was a dominating pitcher would be an understatement. For an amazing eight seasons, he was a 20-game winner, simply unheard of in the modern baseball era.

Jim finished with a 268-152 record, a 2.86 career ERA and entered the Hall of Fame in 1990.

Eckersley spent 24 years pitching in the majors. He began his career as a starter with the Indians, Red Sox and Cubs before becoming a preeminent closer with Oakland. He is the only pitcher in MLB history with 100 complete games and 100 saves.

His final career numbers include 197 wins and 390 saves, averaging 44 saves per season between 1988 and 1992.

As a closer in 1992, he was both the Cy Young Award winner and the league MVP with a 7-1 record, 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA. He was a control master who in the last 10 years of his career walked just 86 in 600+ innings.

Dennis entered the Hall of Fame in 2004.

These are two gregarious masters of pitching. They are friends who love to talk the game, their careers and their relationship.

Here is the story of how they first became aware of one another as opposing pitchers, their memories of head-to-head games on the mound and their appreciation for one another as pitchers and friends.

You get to drop in on this conversation right now.

Enjoy. 

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Public Relations | Horwitz vs Swanson | Ep 15

All sports public relations departments take great pride in their work and are forever comparing their efforts with their counterparts.  That rivalry is supplemented with an understanding that PR departments often need the assistance of one another for information gathering purposes and interview arrangements.  

Our two guests today are as good as it gets in PR work.

Public Relations Rivals

Jay Horwitz

Jay Horwitz has been with the New York Mets since 1980.  He was head of media relations for 39 years before becoming VP for Alumni Relations and Historian for the Mets.  

Few in the business have ever had that kind of longevity with one team.   

Oh, the baseball history he has seen.  Jay has covered double-digit World Series and All-Star Games for MLB as a Public Relations representative.  The Mets’ games he has missed since 1980 can be counted on one hand.    

Some of that history and so many stories are part of his new book, “Mr. Met.”  There is no one better to tell those tales and no better title for the book.  

How much has he meant to Mets’ players?  Well, in 1986 when the Mets won the World Series, the players voted him a full playoff share- $93,000. 

Mike Swanson

Mike Swanson is the VP of Communications and Broadcasting for the Kansas City Royals, a position he has held since 2007.  He held similar jobs with the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Rockies.

Mike also is one of the nation’s best television statisticians, assisting broadcasters in the booth at major sporting events including numerous Super Bowls, Final Fours, the 2007 BCS Title Game, and Bowl Games. In addition, he’s done statistics for countless college basketball and football games, including work for ESPN.

One needs a strong sense of humor in the PR positions our two guests hold, and these two have just that as you will hear when the storytelling begins.    

We begin our podcast with a look at how MLB PR departments think of one another and work to present broadcasters and fans with information about their teams.

What is the relationship with players?  Ownership?  Fans? 

And, oh yes, we have the stories from two who have seen a lot of baseball-on and off the field. 

Smile on.

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Pitchers | Blyleven vs Langston | Ep 14

Shoes on fire!! So begins a romp through pitchers’ territory with two pitching personalities who let it fly.

The Pitchers

Bert Blyleven is a Hall of Fame right-hander who came to the majors at age 19 with a curveball that HOF member Brooks Robinson described as “nasty…enough to make your knees buckle…a dominating pitcher.”

Bert won 287 games, with 3701 strikeouts and a no-hitter. He will tell you that of all the figures that brought him to the HOF, he takes great pride in a couple of other numbers that speak to durability and competitiveness.

Blyleven has a Jose Canseco story that Langston loves. Not many pitchers have followed a hitter out of the batter’s box on the way to first base, but leave that to Blyleven to explain.

A spitter in baseball? Could it be so? Again, Blyleven went to the well to learn about that pitch with a story that involves another HOF member.

Mark Langston had a 16-year MLB career with 179 wins, 7 gold gloves and four All-Star Game selections. Mark was a competitor against Blyleven when he pitched for Seattle and Bert was with the Indians and Twins.

The Rivalry

They only faced each other in three starts with Bert besting Mark in those games 2-1. However, their awareness of each other as opponents went well beyond those games.

These two would end up as teammates for two years-1990 and 1992-with the Angels. That’s when the rivalry really got “hot” as Mark will explain.

Bert gets Mark to tell the story of his first start with the Angels, when they were teammates, and what ended up being a game that became a piece of baseball history.

Neither has a problem remembering who they least wanted to see at the plate when they pitched and they’ll tell you why.

When two players who love the game and the stories that go with it come together to talk baseball, we all have an inside look that delights us as fans. Langston and Blyleven are those two you get to enjoy today.

Keep an eye on your shoes!

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In The Press Box | Nightengale vs Miller | Ep 11

In The Press Box

READ ALL ABOUT IT!!   GET YOUR PAPER HERE!

Ah, exclamations from the days when newspapers were plentiful, many cities had both a morning and an evening paper and all journalists, including sportswriters in the press box, were looking for the big scoop of the day.

From those times came a sports rivalry we may not think much about: sports journalists competing for THE story, hoping to be the one to break the sports headline of the moment.

That rivalry goes on today, but the circumstances are far different from the days of hawking newspapers on the corner, a time when for sports fans it was the written story that kept fans abreast of their teams.

The Sportswriters

Bob Nightengale

Bob Nightengale has covered baseball as a journalist for 35 years.  He has been at USA Today as a columnist for the last 22, after working at the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times.  He has witnessed the evolving world of sportswriting, changes that seem to have come at the speed of light.

Scott Miller

Scott Miller has been a sports journalist for an equal number of years, at CBSSports.com, the Pioneer Press in Minnesota, the Los Angeles Times and now as a national baseball columnist at Bleacher Report.  He is co-author of the book “Ninety Percent Mental” with former pitcher Bob Tewksbury.

Listen as they describe the never-ending rivalry for the sports stories of the day.  

The Rivalry in the Press Box

They tell us how that job has dramatically changed with the advent of social media.   They discuss what “on and off the record” has come to mean in a day of instant publication on the many platforms available to the public.

You may not associate the word “paranoia” with sports journalism, but it is applicable and you’re about to hear why.  

What is the future of sports journalism and the rivalry among writers to get the story?

As fans, are we receiving more or less information that matters and how have the sources for this information changed?

Past, present and future in this discussion between two national sports journalists in a business where the rivalry is 24/7.  Enjoy.

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GM vs Agent | Major League Baseball | Ep 9

GM vs Agent

GM vs Agent | As a sports agent, what is the best deal I can get for my client and exactly what does “best deal” mean?

As a GM negotiating with the agent, what is the best deal I can get for my club and just what does THAT mean?

Rarely do you get to hear those in the position of agent and GM talk openly about what goes on between them. Rarer still is to hear it from two who actually sat across the table from one another and went at it to get deals done.

Prepare yourself-here are those two in a candid and often humorous conversation.

The General Manager

Ned Colletti

Ned Colletti worked up through the baseball ranks, from the PR front office of the Chicago Cubs, to Assistant GM with the Giants to become the GM of the LA Dodgers from 2006-20014. No GM in the NL had a better win percentage in those years.

The Agent

Barry Axelrod is a UCLA law grad who has been a sports agent for 45 years. He has represented top clients such as Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Matt Morris, Mark Harmon and so many more. His practice has made him one of the most respected and acknowledged leaders in the field.

GM vs Agent | The Conversation

Today they will give you a peek inside the business of a GM vs Agent rivalry.

You will hear of the pressures that seem to come from all sides when talks are ongoing. The GM has owners and higher up executives intently watching the progress or lack thereof in multimillion dollar negotiations with some of the biggest names in sports.

The agent has one player looking at what others have signed for and wanting the same or more.

Both parties know what is agreed to today will become starting points for tomorrow and ripple through the industry.

What a treat to hear Barry and Ned discuss specific deals, tense exchanges, the coffee spilled (literally) at the apex of a negotiation. How about when Ned presents exhibit A during a negotiation and Barry sees his own quote being used against him?

Hear Ned say to Barry, “I don’t think I ever told you this,” and we get to listen in.

These are two good people who are experts at their jobs involving the highest level of sport contract negotiations.

Ready. Set. Negotiate.

GM vs Agent.

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