The Screwball: The voice of summer

Late this past season, the charity Autism Speaks offered to baseball fans a phenomenally cool opportunity: Pony up $299, and Vin Scully—yes, the Vin Scully—will record your outgoing voicemail message. This got me thinking: What if other baseball personalities were to leave my message?

Call at the plate

“Hi, this is Brian McCann, big-league catcher and Regional Enforcer of Telephone Etiquette. Per standard procedure I must inform you that Azure Texan, aka AT, cannot take your call. He wants you to know, however, that your call is important to him and that you should leave a message detailing a) the nature of your call and b) the methods by which he might address your concerns. During the course of your call, you should eliminate all background noise and refrain from talking with your mouth full. Also, your message should begin with a short introduction and end with a polite valediction, between which formalities your tone should be pleasant and conversational. Should your call meet the conditions of my telephone protocols, AT will return your call. Should it violate those conditions, I will hunt you down and scream at you. So if you know what’s good for you, leave a message after and not before the tone.”

Freedom rings

“Hi, this is Luke Scott, designated hitter and designated spokesman for Libertarians who are manly enough to sport anachronistic muttonchops while holding to the relatively modern sentiment that the 2nd Amendment makes specific allowances for privately owned AK-47s and semiautomatic handguns with extended magazines. Though AT is capable of answering his phone, he has chosen to honor his constitutionally protected right not to do so—a right, I might add, that Barry Hussein Obama is seeking to rescind by way of Obamacall. What is Obamacall? Here’s what Ted Nugent told me: Obamacall is a taxpayer-funded program by which each citizen is required to answer the phone in a timely fashion and with this standard greeting: ‘All hail Comrade Sheik Obama, who does not throw like a girl.’ Scout’s honor, that’s what Nugent told me. Anyhoo, AT will call you back, provided he’s not been drafted into the Army or forced to pledge allegiance to Allah.”

Phone hustler

“Hi, this is Dustin Pedroia, second baseman and first-team team-first guy. AT can’t answer the phone right now. Why? Because he suffered some pretty serious carpet burns while I was teaching him how to dive headfirst for phone calls. Sure, I advised him to talk hurt, but it’s obvious that he’s no Dustin Pedroia. Then again, I’m a team-first guy. I mean, there’s no “I” in Pedroia. Wait, there’s one “I” in Pedroia, but you know what I mean. Sure, I’ll admit that answering calls is a me-first endeavor. I don’t know of any phone-answering teams—although, if there were a phone-answering team, I would gladly answer the phone first, second, third or even ninth, whatever it takes. Anyway, AT will call you back when he’s finished applying the Mycitracin. Seriously, he looks worse than Ryan Braun looked after that time he skidded to the turf between third and home. Come to think of it, it’s weird that there’s no ‘I’ in Ryan Braun. I mean, there’s a ‘u,’ an ‘r,’ an ‘an,’ an ‘a’ and a hole between ‘Ryan’ and ‘Braun,’ but no, there’s no ‘I.’”

Same old message

Ron Washington here. AT ain’t available right now. He’s busy second-guessing most of my moves from this past season, sometimes with sabermetrics, because that’s what everybody and their grandmother—well, maybe not their grandmother—is using now, but at other times with basic logic. But hey, that’s how fandom go. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure AT likes me. He knows I care about the Texas Rangers, and he even love how I mangle the language while somehow expressing some pretty poetical thoughts. Hell, he even defends me despite the fact I make him throw things at the TV. Sometimes he says he’s never gonna watch another game, no way, but then he watch one more game and we play Texas Rangers baseball because that’s what the Texas Rangers do. That’s the Texas Rangers way. So if you like Texas Rangers baseball, which, according to AT, means bunting into an out when we could just as easily get a guy picked off, please leave a message. Oh, and if you need cash now, go to Ace Cash Express.”

The right call?

“Hi, this is Brandon Moss, left-handed-hitting first baseman for the A’s. Listen. I’m going to begin leaving this message for you, but as soon as you switch the phone to your left ear, I’ll have to bring in my platoon partner, Nate Freiman. In the event that you switch back to your right ear, I won’t be able to return. You might be able to get Daric Barton, but Daric will tell you the same thing I’m telling you: AT isn’t available. As a devoted fan of the Rangers, he’s out commissioning voodoo dolls of me and Billy Beane.”

Calling Cards

“Hi, this is Tim McCarver, recently retired announcer. AT is unavailable right now. What that means, in my view, is that he is doing something other than answering his cell phone, which is also referred to as a ‘Mobile phone’ because it was invented in Mobile, Alabama, which is where David Freese played college baseball. And let me tell you, that young man sure learned how to play the game the right way. And that’s why, in my view, he went to the right organization in the Cardinals. In any case, AT isn’t answering the phone. That reminds me: Back in 1968 I refused to answer the phone just prior to catching a Bob Gibson one-hitter. And let me tell you, Gibby was not only a great pitcher; he was, and is, an even greater man. And that’s why, in my view, Gibby went to the right organization in the Cardinals. As for AT, maybe he turned his phone off. In my view, this is what we all should do: turn off the phone and pay attention to baseball. Speaking of baseball, Mike Matheny is one of the great young managers in the game today. Not only does he have a great baseball mind, he has an ever better ‘life mind.’ And a great life soul. And a great life heart. He is the life heart, life soul and life mind of St. Louis, and therefore the life heart, life soul and life mind of America. AT will call you back, but not until after I’m finished. . . .”

Lost in translation?

“Hello, this is Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees outfielder and poet laureate. First, I hope your call arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of AT’s soul, and that he returns your call with the zeal of a zealot whose zealotry is centered on the zeal for zeal. Then again, AT has about as much soul as Vladimir Putin, so I wouldn’t expect too much. Secondly, I hope you are not calling to invite him to a large Midwestern city. Truth be told, he is not excited about going there. If he ever saw himself saying he’s excited to go there, he’d punch himself in the face. That said, I once saw him kick himself in the groin, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Lastly, if you are a beautiful woman, I hope you aren’t calling to invite him to go bowling. If you are an ugly bowler, even despite your beauty, he will be disappointed. Then again, he once saw Halle Berry kick herself in the groin while playing bocce ball, and he still found her attractive, so you never know. Leave a message.”

Tuff call

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“Hi, this is Tuffy Gosewisch, backup catcher for the D-backs. AT can’t answer the phone right now because, frankly, he’s busy laughing at my name. I guess I don’t blame him. I mean, Gosewisch is bad enough. I think it means ‘goat enchantress’ in Low German. But Tuffy? Sounds like a power tool: ‘The Tuffy Gosewisch Power Sander, now with 30 percent more Tuffy!’ You should know that AT didn’t pay $299 for my services. He paid $2.99, plus a Snapple he’d already chugged from. But hey, when your name is Tuffy Gosewisch, you’ve got to be a bottle-half-full kind of guy. Oh, and that $2.99 doesn’t go to autism research. It goes to the Society for the Prevention of Naming People Tuffy. I’m the treasurer. Leave a message.”

Phone-call town

“Hello, this is Josh Hamilton, No. 32 in your program and Public Enemy No. 1 in Dallas/Fort Worth. AT can’t answer his phone right now, probably because he’s busy composing the newsletter for the Tony Romo Fan Club. He will call you back just as soon as he’s finished praying to Saint Landry.”

Ringing between the ears

“Hi, this is Ned Yost, questionably employed manager. It appears you may have tried to call already but without receiving this message. I take full responsibility. It seems I went against conventional wisdom by speaking directly into a banana, then into a fork, then into a hubcap and then into a rock. In any case, please leave a message and AT will … wait. I’ve got to answer the microwave.”


“Hello, this is Joe Mauer, Minnesota catcher and TV pitchman. You’re probably sitting there saying, ‘It’s 9 p.m. and your hair still looks amazing,’ even though you can’t actually see me. But you’re right. It starts with a healthy scalp. That’s why I use Head & Shoulders For Men. There are four shampoos for game-winning scalp protection and great-looking hair. With seven benefits in every bottle, Head & Shoulders For Men washes out flakes, itch and dryness, and washes in confidence. And yeah, speaking of confidence, Grant Balfour practically bathes in the stuff. Yost uses it too. Unfortunately for the Royals, he pours it over his breakfast cereal.”

Final answer

“Hello, this is Lyle Overbay. I have to be honest. I wasn’t the first choice for this voicemail project. Originally, Mark Teixeira was supposed to leave this message, but he strained his voice while screaming at Derek Jeter to stop staring at his wife. It wasn’t just the staring, really, it was also the fist pump. Then Kevin Youkilis was supposed to replace Teixeira, but Youkilis injured his tongue while telling everyone that his sister is married to Tom Brady. And if I can speak candidly here, AT also considered Travis Hafner, but what do you know, Hafner split his lip while trying to imitate A-Rod kissing himself in the mirror. So here I am, Lyle freakin’ Overbay. Then again, this message will probably start out strong before fading at the. . . ”

Sending a message

“Hello. This is Ryan Braun. First, I want to say thanks to you for calling. I want to say a special thank you to AT and Autism Speaks for allowing me to speak and, more importantly, to keep 20 percent of the $299 payment. I’ve always had tremendous respect for voicemail messages, and part of the reason I’ve kept quiet until now is not only to put the best interests of voicemail messages ahead of the best interests of myself but also because until now I haven’t really needed the money. There were a lot of times when I wanted to come out and leave a voicemail message, something like ‘Ryan Braun always puts the best interests of voicemail messages ahead of the best interests of Ryan Braun, or my name isn’t Ryan Braun,’ but I was too busy eating gold-leafed truffles out of supermodels’ bosoms to do so. But at the end of the day—and by that I mean 4:30 yesterday—I recognized what’s actually best for myself and put that ahead of what’s best for voicemail messages, and, frankly, for autism. Ultimately as I sit here today, the system worked because I am $59.80 richer than I was yesterday. After today I look forward to returning my focus to additional voicemail messages—messages such as ‘Hello? . . . Yes, I can hear you. . . Just kidding! This is a voicemail message! Ha ha!’—and allow myself to get back to some sense of normalcy, where maybe I can eat a Klondike Bar from a two-bit stripper’s butt crack.”

Wrong call

“Hello. This is David Carpenter, set-up reliever for the Atlanta Braves. If this is Fredi Gonzalez, you probably should have called Craig Kimbrel.”

Close call

“Hello, this is Alex Rodriguez. AT can’t answer the phone right now. He’s probably down on Park Avenue, pleading with Selig to let my people go. Well, technically, to let me go. But, yes, I was pleased to see so many people volunteering their time to stand in front of the Commissioner’s office and protest this witch-hunt. For all I know, the people are still there, completely of their own volition and not through an effort orchestrated by my lawyers to make me seem sympathetic and more ‘of the people.’ Are you one of the people? If so, I just want to tell you that I’m one of you. That said, I also want you to know that even though I’m one of you, I’m really not one of you at all, in the sense that I have been linked to a number of starlets. Have you ever been linked to a starlet? I didn’t think so. By the way, if you happen to be a starlet, please hang up and call me on my private cell phone at LUVAROD.”

Closer call

“Hi there, this is Derek Jeter, All-Star shortstop and all-world playboy. You’ve actually reached LUVAROD. A-Rod isn’t in right now, but I sure am.”

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John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.

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