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Ronald Kidd - October 16, 2020

Stats Out the Wazoo

We were watching an MLB playoff game on TV recently when I realized something. I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed it before. The announcers of that game, and seemingly all games these days, were spewing a constant stream of statistics.

And what have the stats replaced? Stories.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart (Too late!), I recall that baseball announcers of the previous generation told stories between pitches, and as a result you got to know the players. The master was Vin Scully, who for sixty-seven years narrated Dodger games the way Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town, sketching unforgettable word portraits that could make you laugh or cry.

I can’t recall a single story I’ve heard during the past week in the playoffs. This particular game was between the Dodgers and Padres, and the announcers were Joe Davis, John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal—all thoroughly professional, and all with numbers spouting from every bodily orifice.

We were told about launch angles, speed off the bat, and OPS but did not hear one story. Where did Fernando Tatis grow up? How was Manny Machado signed, and what was he like on his previous teams? How do the Dodger pitchers get along with each other? What do the players do in quarantine between games?

Baseball is all about stories. They are its lifeblood. Which makes me think of John Wiebusch.

Years ago, in an early job at Bowmar Publishing, I worked with NFL Properties on a reading program. Once I asked John Wiebusch, their editorial director, if he ever got tired of writing about football.

John said, “No, and I never will, because we don’t write about football; we write about people.”

Vin Scully would have liked that.

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