During the golden age of Kenosha softball, I was usually announcing games at Finney's West when I wasn’t managing the 400 Club. On average, I was in the “booth” for 18 to 24 games a week. All that time up there provided for countless memories. Based on comments made on the Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame facebook page, the gang from the booth has produced a few memories of their own. It must have been our wit.
Over the years, Finney’s West had quite an eclectic cast of characters behind the microphone. To the best of my knowledge, this is the roster of announcers: Bob “Jocko” Harris, Jill Perry, Joe Perry, Paul “PJ” Johnson, Jim Webber, Randy Donais, Jason Crueziger, Leon Rosko and yours truly.
Not everyone in this group was witty. Most were content to keep it close to the vest, not wanting to offend anyone. Oh sure, they would throw out an occasional nickname or two for the players, but nothing too outrageous.
Then there were those who never met a sarcastic remark they didn’t like - primarily me, Leon and Randy. Nothing was off limits as far as we were concerned. No one was safe from our acerbic tongues. No one. Not even each other.
For instance, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to hear, “Attention, attention please! Now heading for the blue rooms down the right field line! Leon Rosko!”
For the uninformed, the blue rooms were the Port-O-Potties, those nasty portable bathrooms. No one really wanted to have the entire ballpark crowd made aware that they were on their way to relieve themself. It was just a service we provided. Even for one another.
Not everything was as mean spirited. Some of the nicer phrases were:
“Nine – Nine – the German game.” This was used when announcing the score at the end of an inning of a 9-9 game. Okay, I didn’t say they were all hilarious.
“Leading off in the top of the turd…” A transitional phrase that could be used at the end of the second inning. A trifle sophomoric, but the younger crowd loved it.
“A tissue paper thin lead.” Used during a tied or one-run game. This announcing tool required the word tissue to be pronounced, “Tiss-ewe” for maximum effect.
“It’s the fifth, that’s right, the fifth” Often imitated, never duplicated, this was easily the most popular tagline used by announcers at Finney’s West. PJ tried “It’s the filth, that’s right, the fifth”, but it failed miserably.
“Laser beam!” or “A leather-seeking missile!” These were used when someone made a sensational grab of an extremely hard hit line drive that robbed the batter of a certain base hit. The racier and seldom used, “Nice snatch” was only used in games played after 8:00 pm and never during a women’s game. Never.
“The fine-fielding catcher…” This sarcastic phrase was no way meant to be complimentary. It was used during player introductions. You see, in slow-pitch softball, the person playing catcher is typically either a great hitter or a relative of the sponsor. They are never known for their fielding prowess. Therein lies the irony.
Earlier I mentioned that players receiving nicknames was commonplace, but they weren’t the only ones. The umpires at Finney’s West were also blessed with clever sobriquets. Those without a personalized nickname simply got, “Behind home plate, balls and strikes are his business, mister…”
Those whose personality merited something more always received a creative nickname. Here are a few of the best:
“With his George Hamilton-like good looks, George Becker”
“The cerebral one, Jerry Herrick”
“Uncle Dan’s favorite nephew, Rob Travanty”
“The dean of umpires at Finney’s West, Dick Cairo”
“The distinguished one, Ernie Pascucci”
“Jeff “No-Nicks” Pascucci” Jeff didn’t like nicknames. At all.
Recently, Doug Hoff reminded of an all-time great phrase that came from the booth. It was first used during the Memorial Day Big Men’s Class E Tournament. This was one of the biggest tournaments at Finney’s West and Busch Beer was the proud sponsor. And I take full credit for creating it.
Or maybe I should say, I take full blame for creating it.
It was Friday and the last game of the evening had just finished. As was the custom, I gave the final score, reminded the teams what time their next games were and wished everyone a good night. That’s when I decided to make this impromptu advertisement for our sponsor.
“Please don't drink and drive, but if you must drink and drive, make sure it’s Busch Beer!”
The roar of laughter inspired me to repeat the ad Saturday night. And Sunday night. And after the championship game on Monday afternoon. And a whole bunch of times in between. And for years to come.
Today that “ad” might be frowned upon and discouraged. It might even be forbidden. But back in the day it was funny and it made people laugh. Just like a lot of stuff that came out of that booth. We were witty.
Until next time…from the booth.