One of the best things about listening to sports games on the radio is what happens after the game ends. And that's the post-game talk show that airs on a team's flagship station. The hosts, for the most part, are knowledgeable about the game and the team they cover. So it has the possibility to make for an informational listening experience.
But the fun comes from the callers. The callers can generally be divided into three categories: the doom-and-gloomer, the all's-well, and the idiot. And it's how the host handles the callers that makes things really fun.
Houston Cougar play-by-play voice Tom Franklin was formerly one such host, handling the Astros post-game show for years. He even goes back to the first such show for the Astros way back in the mid-1980s.
"When I first started doing it, in 1985 -- that was the first year that we ever did a post-game show back when I was working for KTRH back then," Franklin said. "That was the first time we ever put together any kind of baseball post-game ever. Dale Murphy [Atlanta Braves outfielder] was coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, and the Astros were looking for a little something. And a guy calls me one night and says, 'I've got the answer to the Astros problems.' And I say, what's that? 'We can trade Kevin Bass' -- who at about that time was struggling and hitting .220 -- 'for Dale Murphy.' I went, you got the answer right there. Just call up Atlanta and we'll make that deal.
"I think it's dealing with the absurd callers is the hardest part of it all. The guys who are negative, they don't bother me because I can make them see the light of day. And the guys who are positive, I just let them go on and let them be happy fans. I think it's the guys who have no clue of what's going on, those are the ones that are the hardest."
It was fun listening to Franklin handle the Astros post-game, because he really did have to handle a lot of absurd callers. A listener to the Astros post-game show couldn't help but feel that many callers simply didn't understand anything about baseball as they would constantly propose idiotic solution after idiotic solution -- an old favorite was the trade Adam Everett for Alex Rodriguez phone call. (One can't help but wonder if many of these callers were actually Drayton McLane disguising his voice).
Franklin, unfortunately, won't be handling these duties for the Astros this season -- please, someone explain just how it is that Michael Berry still has a job with Clear Channel, much less his own show? And I haven't heard any announcements on who will be fielding the calls this season, though it's doubtful that whoever gets the job will be as good at the job as Franklin. (It would be fun to see them hand the job to Charlie Pallilo as he doesn't suffer idiots and might blast management and the callers a bit more.)
But no matter who gets the job, they're probably not going to have the depth of knowledge about the Astros and the team's history that Franklin possessed. They might bring a shouter who can keep the listeners more upright. They might bring in a bigger cheerleader, who will do a great job to pep up the egos of Drayton and company. But what they won't get is someone who actually the knows the Houston Astros. Here's tip for the people responsible for filling the post-game host position -- Larry Dierker. There is absolutely no one in this city who knows as much about baseball and the Astros as Dierker, and when he compares a current player to a former Astro, he actually knows what he's talking about.
But frankly, no matter who gets the job, it's not going to be the same without Tom Franklin behind the microphone. Franklin may be the one without a job, but the true losers are going to be the listeners who actually want to learn something while listening to the host dismiss the Kaz Matsui for Chase Utley trade talks without laughing.