Friday, January 28, 2011
Last year, Pi-Gonzalez served as the lead announcer for the Spanish Beisbol Network's Oakland A's Spanish-language broadcasts. But he's not sure if he will return to the booth for 2011. We recently caught up with Pi-Gonzalez to find out why, and to get his thoughts on other parts of our favorite franchise, the Oakland A's.
Baseball Oakland: Congratulations on being inducted in the Bay Area Broadcasting Hall of Fame. What went through your mind when you first heard about your induction?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: When I first got the call from the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, that I was going to be inducted, I could not believe it. Most of my career I have broadcasted in the Spanish language and the BARHOF is a very prestigious Hall of Fame. To join guys like Hank Greenwald, Jon Miller, Joe Starkey and all those Bay Area legends is truly an honor for me. It is a humbling experience, especially to be recognized by my peers. A good buddy called me the next day (a sports guy) to tell me, "Do you realize you're the only A's broadcaster in the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame?" Well, not that I want to toot my own horn, but jut for the record, I am also in the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame and the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. I have traveled a lot, but the Bay Area has been my home since 1969, right after I left the U.S. Army as a Vietnam veteran.
Baseball Oakland: How long have you been a broadcaster?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Technically, I have been a broadcaster/reporter since 1974 when I was doing regular news -- I interviewed people like UFW leader Cesar Chavez -- and did just about everything you can do at a radio station: traffic, weather, working as a disc jockey at the old KOFY-1050 AM. Now it is The Ticket, I believe, and it is all sports. But doing baseball and other sports play-by-play, it all started in 1977. But I always had an affinity for sports.
Baseball Oakland: When did you first start working with the A's?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: It was in 1977 when I first got started for the A's. I remember I sent a letter to then-owner, Charlie O. Finley, and he told me I could broadcast in "Mexican." It was interesting and funny at the same time, since Mexican is not a language. It's a nationality. It is like if you tell somebody to do a broadcast in Irish, instead of English. He won three World Series with the Athletics in 72-73-74, and although I covered his teams prior to 1977, it was in 1977 when I actually started doing play-by-play in Spanish on the radio. I remember telling Carl Finley, who used to run what they call marketing nowadays, "Please thank Charlie, but please tell him it is in Spanish, not in Mexican, since this is a nationality not a language."
Baseball Oakland: It must have been hard to take an unexpected pay cut during the season last year. Tell us what happened last year with the A's Spanish-language broadcasts.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Yes, it was hard to take an unexpected pay cut in my salary. I also lost my health insurance and such. SBN (Spanish Beisbol Network) had the rights to broadcast all A's games in Spanish. We did all games, home and away, in 2009. Away games were done from our small broadcast booth at the Oakland Coliseum, as we would sit in front of a television monitor (maybe 17 inches) and call the games. Our engineer would have a line set up like in Baltimore, for example, so sounded like we were in Baltimore when the Athletics were playing there. But we did it from the Oakland Coliseum. In 2010, the main guy that runs SBN came to us at the middle of the season and told us that they were losing money and had to "pull the plug." Since mid-July, we only did the home games. They told us that the A's could not help at all. It was very disappointing. I have never had this happen to me in the middle of a season. It is an insult to the fans, to the Hispanic community. As a matter of fact, the Wall Street Journal found out and sent a reporter to interview yours truly. His name was Joel Millman, and he wrote a story about it.
Baseball Oakland: Could the A's owners or front office have done more to help pay your salary, or sell the ads to keep the broadcasts going?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Yes, I think the A's front office could have stepped up and done more in this case. We lost our two radio stations, KDIA-1640 AM and KDYA-1190 AM, and then were only on the Internet during the second half of the season, on www.losatleticos.com. I am still telling the A's they can "save" this upcoming 2011 season if they keep us over on the Internet on that same site, and promote it and do stuff with over 1.8 million Hispanics that live in the Bay Area. But as of today, I have heard nothing from the A's, who are super-occupied still looking for an English radio station, as of this interview. Of course, the A's front office could have done much to keep our broadcast going, to pay my salary and my partner's. Look at the beginning of last season, when the A's signed Ben Sheets for $10.5 million dollars ... look what happened with him. It would have been a fraction of that type of money to keep us on the air, and to serve their Hispanic community.
Baseball Oakland: Ken Pries, the A's VP for broadcasting, said that "building a network of Spanish radio outlets for baseball has always been a challenge." Do you agree with him? And why?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Ken Pries is correct, to help build a network in Spanish has always been a challenge. But, it is a challenge to keep a network in English also, and they are still working on that. But I feel when it comes to Spanish (telecasts), we are "second-class citizens." I have done a lot of work for the Athletics in the community, pro bono, in good faith, because I have always believed in the Hispanic market.
Baseball Oakland: It seems like a team in Northern California, where the Latino community is huge and growing, would be smart to go the extra yard to keep Spanish-language broadcasts for their team.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Of course. A team in the 5th-largest radio and television/media market in the country (some say the 4th-largest) should try to keep their Spanish broadcast. Even the LA Clippers in the NBA are doing Spanish telecasts and radio broadcasts these days. They have been a cellar-dwelling team for over 20 years. The Clippers, with no fans!
Baseball Oakland: How much do you think the A's mean to the Latin community in Oakland?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: If the A's do not have Spanish radio in the 2011 season, they will be the only Major League team in California without Spanish-language coverage. All other teams in California have Spanish radio, even some minor league teams have it. Do you think that looks good in the eyes of the community for the A's? The A's want to increase attendance, they want to move out of Oakland, they want to do many things, but they are not focusing on the people right now, right here in Oakland, Alameda County and the Bay Area.
Baseball Oakland: Why do you think Spanish-language broadcasting is important to not just the A's but to the game of baseball?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Broadcasting in Spanish is very important, especially in California, because we are a bilingual state. Like it or not, those are the facts. Demographics today show that. This is not Omaha, Nebraska. We are a large Hispanic community; as diverse as any other group, from Central America, South America and the Caribbean. We're growing and contributing to this society. Also, Hispanics are almost 30% of all Major League players in today's game. The game is more Hispanic than ever before.
Baseball Oakland: Is it true the A's are not interested in broadcasting games in Spanish anymore?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: My experience regarding this is that the A's would like to keep our broadcast in Spanish, yes,, as long as somebody else puts it on the radio, buys air time, pays the announcers and all the production costs, and also sells the advertising. They will never say, "NO we do not want Spanish," as long as they do not have to pay anything.
Baseball Oakland: Why do you think the A's would be willing to stop doing the Spanish-language broadcasts?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: To do all games over the Internet this upcoming season will cost just a little over $100,000. That includes everything. That is much less than 1/3 of what a Major League rookie makes, and that would be to cover the Hispanic market.
Baseball Oakland: Last autumn, Lew Wolff and John Fisher gave at least $25,000 to the campaign coffers of Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata. Was it disappointing to you that Wolff and Fisher didn't spend roughly that same amount so that you and your announcing colleague wouldn't have to take a pay cut for doing A's game broadcasts last year?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: When I see owners giving money to the campaign coffers of Oakland mayor candidates, I cannot explain why they will not spend money on our broadcast. That makes little sense to me. I understand business, and to make money, you still have to invest. Even Donald Trump will tell you this. You have to cultivate the Hispanic market. You cannot expect from day to night to draw thousands of Hispanics if you do not reach Hispanics in all media, not only radio. The A's also have not signed a Latino superstar in years. I do not know why. Miguel Tejada was the last one. It would help in a city as diverse as Oakland to have some Latino stars on the field. The team across the Bay, who just won the World Series, had like 12 Latino players on the roster, while for the A's these days, to find an exciting Latino superstar is like finding water in the Sahara. I was hoping they'd get Vladimir Guerrero, an exciting and still great designated hitter, for maybe $4 million.
Baseball Oakland: What is your opinion of the A's threats to move out of Oakland?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: The Giants are parading their 2010 World Series trophy all over the place. The Athletics have four World Series trophies inside their executive offices. The Oakland Athletics is one storied franchise that dates back to the start of the last century, one of the most traditional and historical franchises. And in all of California, only the Dodgers have won more trophies than the A's when it comes to pennants and World Series. We have the history and the track record here in Oakland, why not stay here? The A's have the history, the players, but they do little to bring back those players in front-office roles, like other teams with lesser history do.
Baseball Oakland: Will we hear you doing A's games on the radio next year?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: As of today, I doubt I will be doing the games on the radio for 2011.
Baseball Oakland: Have you heard of the Victory Court ballpark site for a waterfront Oakland ballpark? If so, what do you think of the Victory Court site?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: The Victory Court ballpark in Oakland for the A's is a good plan. I think the powers-that-be on the team should take it seriously. However, I am afraid they are just focusing on San Jose. That's my humble opinion, for whatever it is worth. I believe if the current ownership cannot move to San Jose, they will put the team up for sale. That is just my opinion. There should have been a resolution by now from the Commissioner's office on the proposed move to San Jose. The reason the A's do not have an answer from the Commissioner is very simple, MLB is afraid of lawsuits, and they could see themselves hit with a lot of legal problems by the current owners of the San Francisco Giants, who are not kidding when they say San Jose is their territory. The irony here is that it was the Athletics who gave the Giants permission to have San Jose as their territory. But that is the way the ball bounces.
Baseball Oakland: You got to know the late Bill King pretty well over the years while doing A's games. What's your favorite Bill King story and why was he so great?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Bill King was a good friend. I remember back in the 1980s, he once called me to his booth to ask me about a young kid by the name of Jose Canseco, when Jose was still playing in Huntsville. I remember I told Bill, "Just because I am also born in Cuba like Jose, you have called me here?" Bill started laughing like a little kid, but then we got down to business and he was very precise in asking me a lot of questions about Cuban baseball and such. Bill was a treasure. My good friend, Jaime Jarrin, the Spanish radio voice for the L.A. Dodgers for 53 years, was inducted into the Hall of Fame because the L.A. Dodgers developed a tremendous publicity campaign for him in radio, television and newspapers. I believe the Athletics could have done the same for Bill King. I believe Bill King was the best sportscaster the Bay Area has ever had.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
El comenzo como locutor para los Atleticos de Oakland en 1977 cuando el dueno del equipo, Charlie Finley, y el ejecutivo Carl Finley, lo contrataron. El ano pasado, Pi-Gonzalez fue el locutor principal para la Cadena en Espanol de beisbol en las transmisiones de los partidos de los Atleticos. Hoy en dia no esta muy seguro si regesara a la cabina de la radio para la temporada del 2011. Hace unos dias, platicamos con Pi-Gonzalez para averiguar el porque, y tambien para saber su opinion sobre nuestro equipo favorito, los Atleticos de Oakland.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Si, fue dificil la repentina reduccion de salario. Tambien perdi mis beneficios medicos.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Si, creo que la oficina general pudiera hacer algo mas para ayudamos en este caso. Perdimos nuestras estaciones de radio KDIA 1640-AM y KDYA 1190-AM y solamente pudimos transmitir en el internet la ultima parte de la temporada, en www.losatleticos.com. Hasta hoy sigo diciendole a los Atleticos que tienen la oportunidad de "salvar" la temporada que viene del 2011 si mantienen las tranmisiones en el internet y la promueven como debe de ser. Habitan mas de 1.8 millones de Hispanos en el area de la bahia. Pero aun no me han dicho nada. Ahora estan muy ocupados tratando de encontrar una estacion de radio que transmite los partidos en ingles.
Claro que la oficina general hubiera podido ayudamos en mantener nuestras transmisiones al aire al pagar mi salario y la de mi companero. Mira lo que paso al comienzo de la ultima temporada, cuando los Atleticos firmaron contrato con Ben Sheets por $10.5 millones de dolares, lo que paso con el. Nosotros solamente requerimos una fraccion de esa suma para mantenenemos al aire y poder servir a la comunidad Hispana.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Ken Pries tiene razon de que es dificil crear una cadena en espanol. Pero tambien es dificil mantener una cadena en ingles, y aun siguen trabajando con eso. Siento que cuando se trata de transmitir en espanol, nos ven como "ciudadanos secundarios." He trabajado mucho con los Atleticos en la comunidad, pro bono, sin cobro, en buena fe porque yo siempre he creido en nuestro mercado Hispano.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Claro! Un equipo en el quinto mercado mas grande para la television y radio del pais deberia hacer mas por mantener sus transmisiones en espanol al aire. Hasta los Clippers de Los Angeles en el NBA estan transmitiendo en espanol por television y radio. Tienen mas de 20 anos en ser uno de los equipos con menos partidos ganados! Los Clippers sin fanaticos y transmiten en espanol!
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Si, los Atleticos no tienen cobertura en espanol por la radio en la temporada del 2011, seran el unico equipo en California sin eso. Todos los demas equipos en California tienen transmisiones en espanol, inclusive algunos equipos de liga menores. Tu crees que eso se vea bien en los ojos de la comunidad para los Atleticos? Ellos quieren incrementar la cantidad de personas que asistan a los partidos, se quieren salir de Oakland, quieren hacer muchas cosas pero han perdido el enfoque en la gente que estan aqui en Oakland, el condado de Alameda y el area de la bahia.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: El transmitir en espanol es muy importante porque especialmente en California, somos un estado bilique, nos guste o no. La demografia no ensena eso. No estamos en Omaha, Nebraska, somos una comunidad Hispana grandisima y muy diversa que esta creciendo y contribuyendo a esta sociedad. Casi 30% de todos los jugadores de liga mayores son Hispanos. El juego es mas Hispano que nunca.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Mi experiencia con esto es de que a los Atleticos les gustaria mantener las transmisiones en espanol al aire, si, pero que alguien mas pague por hacerio. Que alguien mas se encargue de transmitirlo, de pagarle a los locutores, de pagar el costo de produccion, y tambien de vender los anuncios. Ellos jamas diran NO, no queremos transmitir en espanol, pero no quieren pagar por hacerlo.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Para poder transmitir todos los partidos por el internet en esta temporada costaria arriba de $100,000 dolares, incluyendo todos los gastos. Eso en una tercera parte de lo que un jugador rookie gana, y eso cubriria el mercado Hispano.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Cuano veo que los duenos de los equipos les llenan los baules a los candidatos para alcalde de la ciudad, no me explico porque no tienen dinero para mantener al aire nuestras transmisiones. Eso no tiene sentido para mi. Yo comprendo el negocio y se que para ganar dinero, tienen que invertir. Hasta Donald Trump le podria decir esto. Tienen que cultivar al mercado Hispano, y esto no se puede hacer de un dia para otro. Pero si no hacen el intento por llegar a los hogares hispanos, como pueden esperar que llenen el estadio? Necesitan llegar a ellos no solo con la radio sino a traves de otros medios. Los Atleticos no han contratado a un jugador Latino en anos, no se porque. Miguel Tejada fue el ultimo, y le serviria al equipo de una ciudad tan diversa como lo es Oakland en tener mas jugadores Latinos. El equipo al cruzar la bahia, que acaba de ganar la serie mundial, tiene como 12 jugadores latinos. Como es posible que para los Atleticos el encontrar un buen jugador Latino es como encontrar agua el desierto Sahara? Yo tenia esperanzas de que contrataran a Vladimir Guerrero un jugador muy bueno por quiza $4 millones.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Los Gigantes estan presumiendo su trofeo de la serie mundial del 2010 por todos lados. Los Atleticos tienen cuatro trofeos en sus oficinas ejecutivas, y son una franquicia que comenzo al principios del siglo pasado. Es uno do los mas tradicionales e historicos. En todo California, solamente los Dodgers han ganado mas trofeos que los Atleticos en cuestion de series mundiales. Tenemos historia y records ganados aqui en Oakland, porque no quedarse aqui? Los Atleticos tienen la historia, los jugadores, pero hacen muy poco por poner a los jugadores en frente, como la hacen otros equipos con menos historia.
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: A partir de hoy, dudo mucho que estare transmitiendo partidos en la radio este 2011.
Baseball Oakland: A escuchado sobre la propuesta de hacer un estadio en Victory Court en Oakland? Usted que piensa sobre eso?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Creo que el plan para el estadio en Victory Court en Oakland es muy bueno. Creo que los poderosos del equipo deberian de tomarlo en serio, pero creo que estan muy enfocados en San Jose esa es mi humilde opinion. Yo creo que si los duenos no pueden mover al equipo a San Jose, lo pondran en venta. Esa es mi opinion. Ya hubiera tomado alguna resolucion la oficina del Comisionario sobre la propuesta de mover al equipo a San Jose. La razon que los Atleticos no han sabido nada del Comisionario es muy sencilla. El MLB le teme a las demandas legales, y ellos saben que tendrian muchos problemas legales con los duenos de los Gigantes de San Francisco porque ellos saben que San Jose es su territorio. La ironia aqui es que los Atleticos les cedieron ese territorio. Pero asi bota la pelota.
Baseball Oakland: Usted llego a concer bien al desaparecido Bill King a traves de los anos cuando transmitian los partidos de los Atleticos en la radio. Cual es su recuerdo favorito de el y porque cree usted que era tan genial?
Amaury Pi-Gonzalez: Bill King fue en buen amigo. Recuerdo que en los 80's el me llamo a su cabina para preguntarme sobre un muchacho joven por nombre de Jose Canseco, cuando este aun jugaba en Hunsville. Recuerdo haberle dicho a Bill, que solamente porque habia nacido en Cuba igual que Jose, me preguntas sobre el? El empezo a reirse come un nino, pero cuando comenzamos a hablar en serio fue muy preciso con sus preguntas sobre el beisbol Cubano. Bill era un tesoro. Mi buen amigo Jaime Jarrin, la voz en espanol para la radio de los Dodgers de Los Angeles por 53 anos, fue nombrado a la Sala de Fama porque los Dodgers emprendieron en una campana publicitaria para el en toda la radio, television, y periodicos. Yo pienso que los Atleticos pudieron haber hecho lo mismo por Bill King. Yo creo que el ha sido el mejor comentarista deportivo que el area de la bahia ha tenido.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Beane has contended the Coliseum -- widely regarded as an outdated venue -- drives players away. However, two agents -- who each have represented major leaguers for many years -- said the A's stadium gets overblown as a factor that's kept many free agents away.
"What is frustrating for them is that none of them believe that they can win (with the A's)," said one agent, requesting anonymity.
We'll say it again: We believe the A's need to get a new ballpark. And we're fans of Beane's. But it's great to see a beat writer call out Beane and other A's owners for their never-ending whining. If you want more fans to come out, then stop badmouthing your own product and please, please stop making excuses after giving half-hearted attempts to sign players -- or for failing to re-sign players who you disrespected when you had them (paging Marco Scutaro) -- and then acting surprised when they spurn you.
Also, there are plenty of quality ballplayers who are coming to play ball for Oakland and are happy about it. Take Grant Balfour. According to Susan Sluser in The Drumbeat blog, Balfour said "that the A's remind him of that good, and fun, 2008 Rays team that went to the World Series because of the excellent young pitching staff, the team speed and the strong defense."
Josh Willingham also said he isn't put off by the Coliseum's pitcher-friendly reputation, and that he wants to stay with the A's for a long time. He added that he put up good numbers for both the Marlins and the Nationals, two teams whose stadiums are also considered pitcher-friendly.
Sure, a ballpark always plays some part in a free agent's decision on where to play, but not as much as some people think. Most players, especially in their prime years, want job security; they want multi-year deals but the A's front office almost never is willing to accomodate. That is the mentality of an organization that prefers to view their 25-man roster as a revolving door rather than create a milieu that breeds stability and success. Unfortunately, this will be the ethos around the A's until either Wolff gets his way (even then, no guarantee) or we get new owners who are Oakland-friendly and espouse a product-over-profit business model.
Until then ... Thanks, Joe Stiglich, for printing some facts instead of conventional wisdom. I hope your competition is taking notice.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
After the New Year, a lot's been going on:
Redevelop This: Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to close the state's massive budget gap by shutting down cities' redevelopment agencies, which could be bad news for cities. It might also be terrible for Lew Wolff because he's been saying publicly since 1998 that using a city's redevelopment funds is his preferred way to move the A's to San Jose. City leaders statewide have loudly complained, but like a lot of things about the A's in the Wolff era, no one has the foggiest idea how it will all turn out.
Reason No. 12,368 Why We Love Oakland: It's apparently the only city where the Giants have not taken their World Series trophy this winter. They took it to San Jose and Sacramento, and next week, even New York City.
He Loves L.A. ... or Not: ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney floated the proposal that Wolff, a Los Angeles-based developer would buy the L.A. Dodgers and take them off Frank McCourt's troubled hands. Wolff publicly denied the rumor. So, was Olney -- a respected reporter not prone to printing wild hearsay and rumors -- way off base? Or was that idea fed to Olney by an MLB insider trying to give Wolff a way to gracefully leave the A's while still saving face? We'll see. (Seeing a trend here?)
Quan Believes in the Oakland A's: Newly elected Oakland Mayor Jean Quan opened City Hall to the people on her Jan. 3 inauguration day, where visitors could see a huge Oakland A's banner hanging in her mayoral conference room. Keeping the A's in Oakland is one of her top priorities, folks. Hopefully, soon we'll have an owner who feels the same way.
What Hasn't Been Going On: Still no ruling from Commissioner Bud Selig based on a report from the three-person committee that Selig put together almost two years ago to study the A's ballpark situation.
There are a lot of questions there. Here's to 2011 being the year they get answered.