Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner chatted Tuesday afternoon about the differences in reporting on the East and West Coasts and the impression people have about West Coast fans. The former SportsCenter anchor, who grew up idolizing the Brooklyn Dodgers, also talked about former players, the 2007 team, Dodgertown and Dodger Stadium.
Charley Steiner: Hi folks. Welcome. It's only 24 days until pitchers and catchers report. Let's have at it.
Question: What is your take on the type of team the Dodgers will field this year with the players they have so far?
Steiner: I think, essentially, it is the same kind of team that we saw last year. The difference is the rotation, especially with the acquisition of Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf, is considerably stronger than it was last year. The Dodgers won 88 games last year with primarily pitching and defense. No power hitters, per se. But tough outs, one though eight.
This is a very similar team offensively, in that regard. Juan Pierre is a younger version of Kenny Lofton. Luis Gonzalez is still a doubles machine and a great addition to the clubhouse for his maturity, experience and chemistry. Jeff Kent, who had his most injury plagued season of his career last year, has been working hard this offseason. Russell Martin, in talking with baseball people around the country, can only get better. And so there's an enormous reason for optimism. But let's temper it by saying that it's Jan. 23. But, heading into Spring Training, there is legitimate reason for optimism that it could be another very good year.
Question: Hi Charley, this is Mike from Irvine, Calif. I'm a big fan of yours. What has been your biggest thrill being a broadcaster for the Dodgers?
Steiner: It takes a grand total of a split second to get an answer for that. The bottom half of the ninth inning on September 18 -- the four home runs in a row by Kent, J.D. Drew, Martin and Marlon Anderson and then the two-run walk-off by Nomar Garciaparra in the 10th inning. I've been blessed to have been around this game for a very long time and I've called a lot of big and exciting games but nothing, nothing has come close to those four home runs in a row and the Nomar home run.
Question: What are your favorite Spring Training ballparks?
Steiner: Dodgertown in Vero Beach is a treasure trove of baseball history. Whether it's walking down a street named for Roy Campanella or Sandy Koufax or Vin Scully, and being on the fields where Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker -- all the great Dodgers have played before -- and seeing the young kids who play for the Dodgers now. Visually it's striking, historically it's unparalleled and so there will always been a special place for me at Dodgertown.
Question: Being a New York native who would you root for if the Dodgers met the Yankees in the World Series?
Steiner: The Dodgers. Period. End of story. The first time my father took me to a baseball game was Ebbets Field. The Dodgers played the Cincinnati Reds. I was always a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. I was an employee of the Yankees. But the Dodgers have always been my team. That one was easy to answer.
Question: What's it like to work with Vin Scully?
Steiner: Vin, simply put, is in my opinion the best baseball broadcaster who has ever lived. Now in my third year working in a parallel universe with Vin, I can't tell you how much I have learned both as a broadcaster and how a broadcaster conducts himself in the booth and away. He has an elegance and an ease and a confidence and a rhythm to his broadcast like no one else. And so to be around it and him almost every day of the season has been an absolute joy. One of the highlights that I have on a daily basis, especially at Dodger Stadium, is at about 5:30 in the afternoon before every home game, Vin, Rick Monday, Billy Delury and I have a bite to eat and just talk about life. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
Question: If I were to follow you to freedom, where would that lead?
Steiner: Dodger Stadium, Opening Day, April 9 against the Colorado Rockies. Any other questions, Jonathan?
Question: Do you prefer the older style Spring Training stadiums like Vero Beach or the newer ones like the Braves complex?
Steiner: Again, I think the beauty of Spring Training is that fans can get as close as they can to the players they come to see. And the beauty of Dodgertown, not only Holman Stadium but all the practice fields, affords fans a special opportunity to get as close to their favorite players as they possibly can. So, in another way, admittedly I guess I'm old school.
Question: Who were the broadcasters that influenced you in your career?
Steiner: It sounds crazy, but it's true. The first voice I heard doing a baseball game was Vin's doing a game in 1956 or 1957, so he immediately was the guy. And then I was very lucky to grow up in New York at the time that I did listen to Mel Allen, Red Barber and Lindsey Nelson and a little bit of Russ Hodges before he left New York for San Francisco. Those were the baseball broadcasters that certainly had an influence on me and whose work I most admired.
Question: Do you still live on the East Coast?
Steiner: No. I moved out to Los Angeles about two and a half years ago and I couldn't be happier and I consider it home. Especially when it's 20 degrees and snowing back East. One of the things I've discovered even during the rainy season in L.A. is that you can't shovel rain!
Question: What is it like to work with Rick and "Psycho" on your broadcasts? You do seem to enjoy what you do.
Steiner: I am the first one to admit that I couldn't be more fortunate in a) doing what I do for a living and b) working with both Mo on the radio and Steve Lyons on television. Rick and I genuinely like one another, which makes it real easy, and we implicitly trust one another, so that I know that if I say something that he's going to be there and if he says something, I'm going to be there and we'll always cover one another's backs. Not only that, but we have fun with one another. We do it 100 or 115 times a year, every single day. We eat together, we broadcast together and when we do a game, we're about three feet away from one another. You can't get any closer than that and so my heartfelt sympathies go out to Rick. Steve is a fella that I have known for about 10 years as a broadcaster when he was at FOX and I was at ESPN during the playoffs and the World Series, when we'd always be down on the field doing postgame interviews. For the first two years together for the 40-45 games we do on television, it's the same sense of trust with one another that we can say things and know that each other's best interest will be covered by one another.
Question: Who were your baseball heroes growing up?
Steiner: My first favorite player was the Duke of Flatbush, Duke Snider. That '57 Dodgers team was special to me because those were the guys that I really wanted to be growing up. Earlier, someone asked one of the highlights I've had with the Dodgers and one of them came in 2005 when I was fortunate enough and honored enough to host the luncheon honoring the '55 Dodgers. All of my childhood heroes were there and I told the players who are now elderly that I was as nervous that afternoon as I had been in my whole career because those were the guys I grew up idolizing. After the Dodgers left in '57 when I was 8 years old, my next favorite player became Mickey Mantle. But it was the Dodgers from '55, '56 and '57. Campy, Hodges, Gilliam, Reese, Furillo, Snider and Newk. When I come out to Dodger Stadium, there's Don Newcombe, one of my childhood heroes, there to greet me every day. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
Question: Do you have any plans on working some Spring Training games this year?
Steiner: Absolutely. The first game, Thursday, March 1, the Dodgers vs. the Braves from Orlando and we'll be doing most of the games from Spring Training. Then of course we'll be doing Opening Day, April 2 in Milwaukee against the Brewers. We're a little more than a month away from our first exhibition game.
Question: Do you still keep in touch with your old colleagues at ESPN?
Steiner: Yes. I was at ESPN for 14 years and it was a wonderful time in my life and my career and there are people there with whom I still maintain a close friendship and thankfully, I have an unlimited calling plan. So the answer is yes, absolutely.
Question: How do you feel about the moves Ned Colletti has made this offseason?
Steiner: I think what Ned has done in his first year and a half with the Dodgers has been absolutely spectacular. He inherited a team that had won 71 games that seemed lost and confused and upon his arrival in Los Angeles, he improved the team to one with 88 wins. Not a bad first year, a 17-game turnaround. In this offseason, getting two frontline pitchers, Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf, to go along with Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, the starting rotation is probably the strongest in the National League West, which is a division based on pitching. So the pitching is solid. The heart of the Minor League system remains intact and the master plan of building around these wonderful young players remains intact so that the future with James Loney, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Andy LaRoche, Scott Elbert, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and the rest, there's still a lot of great young talent in the organization that can come through the system in its own time and way without being rushed. And with the likes of Nomar, Kent, Rafael Furcal and Gonzalez, there's a wonderful tapestry of youth, veterans and good character people.
Question: Mr. Steiner, can you describe the differences, if any, of calling games on the West Coast vs. the East Coast? How does media coverage compare? The organizational rivalries? The fans, etc.?
Steiner: That's a good question. At the end of the day, it's still nine innings and 60 feet, six inches and 90 feet between the bags. There is a difference in the way the game is covered in Los Angeles as opposed to the Northeast, not in the broadcast but in the newspapers. There is far more intense scrutiny in the newspapers on the East Coast in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, where baseball is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year activity. Once the season ends here, you have to go looking long and hard into the Los Angeles Times or the Daily News to find any really hard core baseball information. It's just a fact of life. There is, for instance, no USC to compete for space in the papers. The Lakers are a bigger deal in L.A. than the Knicks or Nets are in New York. And so consequently, baseball is a seemingly bigger deal in the print medium back East than it is here.
Question: Having been a baseball broadcaster on both sides of the country, L.A. fans have a bad rap as being laid back and unpassionate about the game. What's your take?
Steiner: I think it's unfair. There was a moment last year and it may have been Marlon Anderson's home run, the fourth of four, and I remember watching the monitor and then having seen the tape over and over again. When the Dodgers hit that fourth home run, there was a fan in the right-field pavilion who was jumping up and down with such unrestrained joy -- that fella I don't think I'll ever forget. Just watching him and how happy he was and that reminded me of the passion that Dodgers fans have for this club. Let us not forget, you can talk about laid back or late-arriving or early-leaving, but 3.7 million people came out to watch Dodgers baseball last year and most of them arrived on time and almost all of them stayed until the end because the games were so darn exciting. So I can't speak to what it was like 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, but in the last two years and especially last year, there was great passion and love for this team.
Question: Besides the smell, why is it better to work at Dodger Stadium than Yankee Stadium?
Steiner: I've been very lucky to broadcast at two great ballparks. Yankee Stadium reeks with history and you can't help but feel it when you walk in and when you walk on the field or the clubhouse. Dodger Stadium, aesthetically, is as beautiful a ballpark as there is in the game. We forget it was built in 1962, 45 years ago. I wish I had aged as gracefully as it has. And it's also hard to believe that the Dodgers have spent more years at Dodger Stadium than they did at Ebbets Field. So it's just a beautiful place to watch a game and I can assure you, to broadcast one.
Steiner: Thanks for coming in, coming on and logging on. Twenty-four days until pitchers and catchers report, Opening Day is April 2, and the home opener is April 9. Let's tee it up and go play. Thank you.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.