Monthly Archives: January 2013

Baseball Writers Association of America Dinner

Great time at the Baseball Writers Association of America awards dinner in Boston.

It was my first time, but my father, Hubert Kelley, had been to it way back, because his cousin, Joe Kelley, was a sports writer for several Boston papers. Dad got several autographs on the program, including Joe Cronin (the retired #4 at Fenway Park) who wrote, “God bless you, Hubert.” Autographs these days are reserved for 18-and-under only, and that’s fine.

I did have a great time talking with Dan Shaughnessy about the new Terry Francona book. Dan told me that he’d been working on since 2008 and Tito read it seven times before approving it. One of the funnier stories is about Manny Ramirez. During Game 4 of the 2004 World Series Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina accused Manny of stealing the Cardinals signs. Francona came out of the dugout to straighten things out with the home plate umpire and said. “There is no way Manny is stealing the Cardinals signs. In fact, he probably doesn’t even know our signs.” Tito then turned to Manny and asked if he knew the Red Sox signs. Manny replied, “No.”

I had a nice chat with Joe Morgan about “Morgan Magic” in 1988, when he took over as manager in July and the team was 10-1/2 game out. Morgan reeled off 12 straight wins and the Red Sox wound up winning the AL East.

I also had a lengthy conversation with Red Sox PR guru Dr. Charles Steinberg and with Larry Lucchino. Both of them were very interested in my World Ballpark tour. I told Larry that I’ve been to games at 39 Major League ballparks. His response surprised me. (If, say, a neighbor said this I would understand.) He asked me how it was possible to see games at 39 Major League ballparks when there are only 30 teams? I pointed out that some of the ballparks are no longer around, like Memorial Stadium in Baltimore that he helped replace with Camden Yards. When he asked me if I’d been to Fenway I responded that I’m a Season Ticket Holder and he gave me a big hug and said, “Thanks – we love you guys.”

How to Sort a Music Test

Music Test 266+This should be simple. Just play the songs in the order in which they tested, right?

That theory might work well in a format like Classic Rock or Classic Hits where you play one type of music from a finite era. Your top ten testing songs should also be your ten most played. Maybe.

Not so fast with AC. An AC station that has market tenure and a strong brand may very well be playing songs from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and the Teens (we finally have a name for this decade). Everyone from Louis Armstrong to Demi Lovato with Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi and Hootie in between. When listeners vote for songs in an auditorium test they’re not asked whether they want to hear a particular song on their favorite AC station, they’re just asked whether they like it a lot, a little or not that much. And if they’ve ever heard it before.

The next step is where science meets art. The successful interpretation of these numbers. Some researchers and consultants use a formula in which you add up the “Like a Lot” and “Like Some” votes and call that “Total Positives.” Then subtract the negative and unfamiliar votes and rank the songs. That’s the science part. Easy.

How often, though, is the easy way the best way? Let’s look at the art part. If you take the process a few steps further and think about what the votes really mean to a listener, you see that the difference between “Like Some” (“Yeah, I guess it’s okay”) and “Dislike Some” (“Meh, not all that much”) is like the difference between 2 and 3 on a scale of 1 to 4. Not a passionate difference. If instead, you ignore the non-passionate votes and just look at the 4’s and 1’s…the “I Love it” and “I hate it” votes…you get a much clearer picture of audience reaction in the PPM era of split-second button pushing. Look at the spread on each song between the 4 votes and the 1 votes. That’s the percentage of listeners who would crank the station up compared to the number who would blow it off if that song were played.

Then there’s another step. The fit. Tastes change from year to year, and artists and songs that you would never have dreamed of playing on an AC even two years ago can have some of the top-testing songs today. The most important factor in the “fit” test is that the person who is making the final decision on what gets played and what doesn’t is not the out-of-town corporate person or consultant, but the person in the market, on-site, who has the sound of the station seared into in his or her brain. That would be the Brand Manager, better known as the Program Director.

Oh Say, Can You Sync? Did Beyonce Sing Live or to Track?

Did Beyonce lip-sync the Star Spangled Banner?

It’s the big buzz the last 24 hours or so. Personally, I have no problem with it if she did. It always bugs me when people mess up the National Anthem. I’m not talking about people who can’t sing – I’m talking about people who can sing very well but feel the need to put their own mark on the anthem and screw it up by changing notes, sometimes changing words and generally over-singing. It happens at baseball games all the time. The worst example I can think of was Patti LaBelle at the World Series game in Philadelphia in 2008. Just unlistenable.

Beyonce did nothing like that. She looked great and sounded great. Really killed it. Okay, she did change a couple of notes, but nothing annoying.

So what about the lip-sync business? It has been revealed that the US Marine Band was a recorded track. They admit that. That’s fine. Band instruments don’t always work correctly in cold weather, so they use tracks to make sure it sounds right for the millions watching around the world. It’s also been revealed that Beyonce had no opportunity to rehearse with the US Marine Band. You just know that the Marines are not about to change any notes or do unnecessary extra flourishes when they play the anthem. They are, after all, Marines.

So what about Beyonce? I think she did lip-sync. She does a great job of it (admittedly, for most of the song her mouth is hidden by the mic, and she’s not on camera the whole time anyway), but if you watch carefully…at the very end she sings “the brave” a second time. Watch her mouth (at 2:20 on the video below) and notice that she opens her mouth a nanosecond too late on “brave.” That can only happen if you’re not doing it live.

Who cares? She did a great job on a song that’s very tough to sing.

Pitching, Defense and the 3-Run Homer

Earl Weaver, long-time manager of the Baltimore Orioles, passed away at the age of 82. Anyone who ever lived the Baltimore or Washington area or followed baseball anytime from the late 60’s well into the 80’s knows about the Duke of Earl, who believe the key to winning was “pitching, defense and the 3-run homer.” He was the first big stats guy. At one point he tracked the Orioles won-loss record when they wore orange shirts (not good) and decided to ban them. He was also famous for going nose-to-nose with umpires and frequently getting tossed.

Here’s today’s writeup from

No one got in

Year one of the ‘Roid era Hall of Fame voting…

And no one got in. There has been much debate about how to handle the likes of Bobby Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. Put them on the same ballot as Jack Morris,

Traffic stops and starts

Why do they say that?

Traffic reports are all over the radio…not just on the 3’s on WBZ…and all over the TV as well. It make sense, because traffic, like weather, affects people directly.

CEO’s who never drive in traffic jams and broadcast consultants who live in another city often don’t get the appeal. One General Manager once told he he was sure that afternoon traffic reports were less important than morning drive traffic reports. I tried to explain that the exact opposite is true.

Suppose you hit an unexpected jam on the way to work and you arrive late. You simply say, “Man, that was a horrible commute this morning!” and someone else will chime in and agree. All you are is late for work, and you’re probably not the only one.

It’s different on the way home. Bad traffic in the way home means you’re late for your kid’s soccer game, late for dinner, late for whatever you do on your own time.

Why can’t they explain it clearly?
Because most traffic reports on radio and TV are generated by Metro Networks, a nationwide service that came into the Boston market in 1982. If you ever wonder why they make some curious or misleading references, here’s why: They have to repeat the same things over and over and come up with rote ways of saying certain things. Example: How many times have you heard someone refer to “the supermarket overpass” on the Pike? (Rick Simonson, the morning traffic anchor on WBZ, has probably said it over 10,000 times.) What’s wrong with that? When they built in Pike extension in the mid-60’s the old Star Market in West Newton was in the path, so Star bought the air rights to build a new supermarket over the highway. Meaning the turnpike passes under the supermarket. So why do reporters call the underpass an overpass? Because someone wrote a format sheet for traffic reports back in 1982 and made a mistake. Years come and go, and new reporters continue to call it an overpass because no one ever updated the format sheet. One other thing…the reason that they sayIt’s back itsay For one thing, the Pike goes under the supermarket in West Newton.

Upon review…

the ruling on the field is overturned.

One of the comments on my last blog about ranking months was that December should be #1. As I’m taking down the lights I threw the red flag and the ranking went under review in the booth.

With all the seasonal lights, the parties, the smiling faces, the decorations and the good will…I’m moving December up to #4. August drops to 7th. April and September stay at #5 and #6.

Unless we’re facing a tough lefty.

My Favorite Months

My friend Robyn Bradley suggested we do a “faveology” list of favorite months. I did this once before on FB but it disappeared. Or I can’t find it. So here it goes again:

#1 July. Love it. Especially on the Cape. The 4th is my favorite day of the year. There is no such thing as a bad 4th of July on Cape Cod. The whole month has the nicest weather of the year. Everyone smiles at you when you say, “hey.”

#2 June. Summer begins, school gets out, weddings happen. Also a great month. Many of the best songs of the year debut in June.

#3 May. How can you not like May? All the leaves are out, there are graduations, the April rain is gone, you sing songs about flowers and Mary.

#4 August. Still summer, still great, but it’s starting to wind down and the lawn and gardens need extra watering.

#5 April. Opening Day, Daylight Saving, buds on trees, croci bloom, you put aluminum sulfate on the hydrangeas so they’ll be a spectacular blue in July. The world wakes up.

#6 September. My birthday. Also my daughter Kara’s. New TV season, new school year, new all sorts of things. The seasonal change gives you a charge.

#7 December. Christmas needs no explanation. I feel like Clark Griswold with the lights but I enjoy it. I also do a decent Santa for the little guys.

#8 October. My wife’s birthday. The World Series is fun (if the Yankees aren’t in it). Foliage looks great, especially in Wellesley. We have a landscape guy come to do the raking.

#9 November. Things start looking stark, but Thanksgiving is always good. It’s a great family time.

#10 February. Cold, but at least it’s short. My daughter Caitlin’s birthday. Also my brother, a couple of nephews, several sisters in law. Just goes to show how good a month May is.

#11 January. You take down all the Christmas stuff and everything looks bleak. Coldest month of the year. It drags on.

#12 March. I’ve never trusted March. Yes, Spring supposedly begins but it really doesn’t. You’re sick of winter but even if it hasn’t snowed yet you can’t be sure. Your car looks like shit all month. There are no holidays. At least not any day-off ones. Yes, Spring Training gets under way, but it’s cold and raw and the snow is filthy.

So there it is. We’re in early #11 right now.