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This Week in Baseball

Behind the TWIB Notes
Blog by Jeff Scott
MLB Productions Senior Writer


May 2, 2008

Hi there - Jeff Scott here. I'm not the one who usually writes about baseball numbers in this space. That handsome fella on my right shoulder is all about the "raw numbers" of the game and the demure one on my left nestles their historical context close to his bosom, rational romanticist that he is. But today I get to write about numbers because I beat Greg Maddux to 350. Here's how it happened. Greg's first season in the Majors as a full-time starter was 1988. That was also my first year with Major League Baseball Productions - at the time under the umbrella of Phoenix Communications. Greg won 18 games for Chicago that year and I began writing a new show called Major League Baseball Magazine - one of the first out-of-house productions to air on ESPN. Greg proceeded to win at least 15 games a year for 17 straight seasons. Alas, MLB Magazine - a really good show fueled by the brilliance of Warner Fusselle - only lasted through 1991. The very next year Maddux had his first 20 win season -- and in April of that year I began to write This Week In Baseball. The first line of my first TWIB was: "Coming up - a look back at a Twin's killing in a World Series to remember." Nothing special except for the fact that the Twins had won the World Series and that the line was delivered by Mel Allen - who was sitting in the little booth a few feet away from me. And he made it sound like it came from baseball broadcast heaven. Over the next five years I came to know and love Mel both as a friend and a linguist - and I promise to talk more about him in a future column - but first, back to Maddux. His win totals began to pile up -- 100, 200, 300 - and so did the number of TWIB episodes I had the great opportunity to write. Maddux went from Chicago to Atlanta - back to Chicago - then to L.A. and eventually San Diego. I went from an IBM Selectric Typewriter to a Smith Corona Word Processor to this ThinkPad that I have to prop up on my worn out copy of Guth's Words and Ideas to get it at the right angle. Well it all came to a head last week when Greg stood on the cusp of 350 wins and I on the precipice of 350 episodes of TWIB. The pressure was unbearable. It appeared as if Maddux would reach the number first when he left a 1-0 lead in the hands of his bullpen a week ago Wednesday - but Trevor Hoffman blew it in the ninth. So on Saturday, when the show about the Rockies hit the airwaves, I officially beat to 350 the most durable pitcher of my generation. And I'm proud to say that from the moment I first sat in that audio room with Mel Allen in April of 1992 until now, all 350 of them were in a row. Now Greg will undoubtedly get his milestone win very soon -- and may, in fact, even catch Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander for the most wins ever in the National League (373). But in 2008 - in "The Quest for 350" - let it be known that The Mighty Maddux was edged out by The Iron Quill.

To return to the twib main page: twib.mlb.com


April 18, 2008

Hi there - Jeff Scott here. There are themes to television shows that I grew up watching in the '60s that are still rattling around in my head as if I heard them just yesterday. For instance:

There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights, There's a traffic jam in Harlem that's backed up to Jackson Heights, There's a scout troop short a child, Khrushchev's due in Idlewild, Car 54 Where Are You?

I will spare you the lyrics to The Patty Duke Show, Branded, The Addams Family and Green Acres, but they are all still in my brain too. Even instrumental intros like the ones for Combat, The Rifleman, Bonanza and Mission Impossible still resonate loud and clear. Television people put a lot more emphasis on opening and closing theme songs back then. Consider that today, the enduring theme of 24 is five pulsing beats, Law & Order is two clanging beats, and Lost just one lonely beat. Which brings us to TWIB. Despite the fact that the show has undergone myriad changes throughout the years, both the opening and closing music are pretty much exactly as you first heard them in June of 1977. They are iconic -- as much a part of our culture as the (instrumental) opening music to Monday Night Football and the old Wide World of Sports theme. You simply can't imagine TWIB without the "Da Da" at the beginning and the "Dum De De Dum" at the end. The open theme -- originally called "Jet Set" -- was written by Mike Vickers sometime in the early '70s and was put on vinyl for use through Associated Production Music (APM). The vinyl gave it that warm '70s tone. Following some slight variations throughout the years, MLB Productions music maven, Jam Master Jon Nanberg, contacted a London based composer named Bill Bayliss to do a remix of the early '70s version in 2003. He added a few modern components but stayed true to what made the original sound so great. His version is the one you hear leading off our show today. By the way, Mike Piazza does an awesome a cappella rendition of it that we've featured in the show a number of times. The closing theme - also owned by APM - was written in 1974 by John Scott (no relation) and was entitled "Gathering Crowds." This inspiring string composition became so identifiable with TWIB that when APM repackaged the song in a 1994 compilation they renamed it "Major League Baseball (America)." We have heard from many folks who have recorded this song off the air and used it in their weddings. I presume they use it after the ceremony when everyone practically runs back down the aisle and not for the entrance, when the bridal party has to do that "one step -- two step" shuffle while trying desperately not to move too fast. I love the closing theme of TWIB and have made it my goal in life to ensure that the final note always hits precisely when the MLB logo ends. Obviously it doesn't take much to make me happy. Apparently Bill Simmons - aka "The Sports Guy" of ESPN.com fame, agrees. He once made a list of the six top non-movie sports themes from his childhood that still get him fired up and he rated the TWIB closing theme song as his number one favorite of all time. And Mark Bechtel, in his July 6, 2005 Daily Blog for SI.com, rated the TWIB closing music the greatest sports theme song of all time. Said Mark, "There was no way you could listen to that music... and not get fired up for your afternoon Wiffle Ball game or Little League practice." That's TWIB -- all access, motivational music. If you too have an affinity for the TWIB music and have been likewise inspired by it, let us know by sending a TWIB note of your own to twib@mlb.com. Thanks.

To return to the twib main page: twib.mlb.com


Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market, home of MLB Productions and MLB Advanced Media (Jay Burke/MLB.com).

April 4, 2008

Hi there - Jeff Scott here - with a little inside info on This Week In Baseball as we begin our 31st season. It's an all male staff of producers this year - at least so far - and that is certainly more a coincidence than by design. A couple of years ago Meredith Eckert was our lead producer and she was great - but then she had a beautiful baby boy named Kai and she went away. Last year, Allison Potocki co-produced the show with her husband James and she was awesome - but then she had a beautiful baby boy named Alex - and she went away. Many of our best pieces these last few years have been produced by Kristen Snyder - who was wonderful - but then she had a baby boy which, strangely enough, she also named Alex - and she went away. So it's by attrition - rather than decision - that we open the year with a bunch of guys cutting the pieces. The good news is that all of these fabulous females have either returned to work or will by the all-star break - and the TWIB staff always changes as the year goes by anyway -- so this impromptu boys club will soon go away.

My goal here will be to provide you with an inside look at the people and the process behind TWIB - some of which you might even find interesting. For instance, we create the show on the fifth and sixth floors of The Chelsea Market, which is located in the way too trendy Meatpacking District of Manhattan. The building is enormous - stretching from Ninth to Tenth Avenues and from 15th to 16th street. It began as the first Nabisco factory and produced the very first Oreo cookie. Now it is home to myriad businesses, shops and cafes - many law enforcement operations - New York 1 - The Food Network - MLB Advanced Media - and us, Major League Baseball Productions.

The composition of the show is done entirely in this building (other than the field shoots of course). Most producers start cutting their pieces on Monday and we finish the video portion of the show by Thursday night. Friday morning we record our narrator, Buzz Brainard, by ISDN line (he lives in L.A. - more on Buzz and his comfy studio at a later date) - and spend the rest of the day mixing the sound and applying all the finishing touches to the video (fonts, dates, color correction, etc.) By 6 PM the show is beamed up into space and on Saturday it appears on your local Fox affiliate. And then we do it all again.

I'll get a bit more detailed in future weeks but that's the gist of the making of TWIB. So tune in on Saturday and let us know what you think by sending a TWIB note of your own to twib@mlb.com. Thanks.

Jeff Scott is a Senior Writer at MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.