The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have a special page set aside for fans to share their memories of Rattlers Baseball as part of 20th anniversary celebrations. Use this link or click the one over on the right side of the screen to go to that page to submit yours.
I have a column on Mondays and this seemed like a good time to share some of mine. Not all of them. That would be for the book that I will eventually write. But, since I have been on the call of almost 2,000 games on four different radio stations since I first took my seat behind the microphone at the start of the 2000 season for Timber Rattlers games, I thought this would be a good place to share some of my favorites over the years.
To take a slight detour, I counted up the games and due to rainouts and missing games for commitments to announcing Green Bay Gamblers hockey playoff games in 2000 and 2002 I stand at 1,930 through the end of last season. That means I will hit game number 2,000 of my Timber Rattlers career - barring any cancelations early in the season - on the final game of the first half. That's June 15 at Quad Cities.
I haven't missed a game since April 28, 2002, a streak of 1,654 consecutive broadcasts. The Gamblers had a playoff game in Sioux City, Iowa on that day. I left Appleton after the Rattlers day game against Beloit on April 27 and got to Sioux City and called the two games there on the 28th & 29th. Then, I drove all the way to Davenport, Iowa after the Gamblers got knocked out of the playoffs on the 29th for an 11am doubleheader against Quad City on April 30.
I still have no idea how I made it to that broadcast on time because I got in to my hotel room at seven in the morning and closed my eyes. Something woke me up at 8:30 to get me to the park on time. My guardian angel must have been screaming at me pretty loud that morning.
Back to the memories portion of the column.
I still say that the comeback win at Peoria during the 2005 season was one of the most amazing baseball games I have ever seen. The Rattlers were down 11-2 heading into the seventh inning and rallied to win 12-11 in ten innings.
There have been Timber Rattlers no-hitters that I have had a chance to call and each of them is special. JJ Putz was wild and walked five in seven innings during the 2000 season. Derrick Van Dusen's no-hitter at Cedar Rapids is still the only solo nine inning no-no by at Wisconsin pitcher. Then, there were the combined no-hitters by Jake Odorizzi and Adrian Rosario and Chad Thompson and Mark Williams.
Those were pretty cool, but there are two pitching performances that really stand out above the others. On one end of the spectrum, there was Michael Pineda striking out fourteen and walking none while allowing only an infield single to just miss a perfect game.
On the other end, there was Emiliano Fruto's game in 2002 where he struck out eleven, but also gave up eleven hits over 8-1/3 innings. Fortunately, he only walked one batter wound up allowing just one run.
Yes. That game really happened.
There has been some offense over the years, too. Jon Nelson hit some of the longest, hardest home runs I have ever seen at any level. Then, Victor Roache played for the Rattlers last year. Those two home runs he hit in Dayton this year. KKRAAAAAKAKKDOOOOMM, indeed!
I guess the 2012 Midwest League Championship belongs in here.
Aside from the games and plays there are the people, too. I'm not just talking about the players. I have been fortunate to have met some great people over the years. Fans have stopped into the booth and to give me things that they made for me. I found an old window decoration based on Frog Country - station #3 - a fan made for me last weekend and there are a few others, too.
Randy Wehofer and Chris Lake both did simulcasts of their broadcasts on our radio station while I was off doing hockey. Somehow, our fans have been kind enough to not mention the quality of the broadcast kicked up a few notches on those occasions.
I also have my share of Nathan Baliva stories, but I need those for blackmail….I mean, leverage…I mean…Let's just forget this paragraph even exists because he has more than enough on me. It's like Mutually Assured Destruction between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.
Then, there's Mike Lockert.
One of the most enjoyable broadcasts I have ever done was stepping in for a few innings with Mike, the South Bend announcer, on the 2004 Midwest League All-Star Game. John Rodgers, the Cedar Rapids broadcaster and someone on whom I could base several columns. It was two innings of fun on the air and calling the baseball.
The Timber Rattlers lost the 2005 Midwest League Championship Series to South Bend in five games. The Silver Hawks won Game Five and I was wrapping things up in the radio booth after the final broadcast of the year. Mike, who was here in his role as the media relations director, walked into the booth to shake hands. I wanted to be mad at him, but that was impossible with Mike.
That image of him - framed in the doorway with a big smile on his face and his shirt drenched in champagne - is exactly how I picture him when I think of him now.
I can't believe that he's been gone five years.