Anecdotes of a minor league baseball broadcaster
Baseball has been played in communities large and small since its inception in the 19th century. Wyoming Public Radio’s Hugh Cook spoke with Tim Hagerty, a minor league baseball broadcaster who once called games in the state. Hagerty recently released a book of his stories and memories called "Tales from the Dugout: 1001 Humorous, Inspirational & Wild Anecdotes from Minor League Baseball."
Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tim Hagerty: I've always loved researching baseball history. When researching something else back in 2012, I came across this story from the 1880s. It was about a Texas League game in Austin. It got delayed when a wild bull ran on the field. I just wanted to know everything about this game, and I found that if I had never heard of the story, the odds are most fans haven't either. So, over the next 10 years, I was mining newspaper archives, interviewing people, going through all kinds of sources to try and find the craziest things that have ever happened in minor league baseball games, both from the present and the past. And a decade later, I had 1001.
Hugh Cook: How long have you been in sports broadcasting?
TH: My first job professionally was [in] 2004. I was the broadcaster in your neck of the woods for the Idaho Falls Chukars. We used to come and play the Casper Rockies, so I have many memories of Mike Lansing Field and Wyoming.
HC: What are some of those memories?
TH: [During] my first ever road trip as a professional baseball broadcaster, we got stranded in Dubois. The team bus was having mechanical issues. After a night game in Casper [on] that nine-hour bus ride back to Idaho Falls, the team bus breaks down and Dubois in the middle of the night. The image I have is these players, who are from Latin America from the Dominican Republic, who had only been to the United States for a couple of weeks at that time and they were all huddled up. They were so cold because even into early June, it can get quite cold if you're on the side of a road in Wyoming at three o'clock in the morning. And understandably it was a pretty rural area. It was hard to get a replacement bus, so the town of Dubois gave us a school bus and the school bus took us from Dubois all the way back to Idaho Falls. You never realize how small those green school bus seats are until you see a six-foot-five professional baseball pitcher sitting in it.
HC: I'm sure it's probably not the most comfortable trip back to Idaho.
TH: No, it wasn't. But looking back, it was a tremendous memory. I grew up in the Northeast, and it was just a surreal moment. I'm on this school bus with a professional baseball team driving through Jackson Hole and the beautiful scenery there [and] I'm thinking, ‘How did this happen?’
HC: There was a game delayed by a snake in Casper and a Cheyenne batter winning a typewriter. Could you elaborate a little more on those stories?
TH: Wyoming has a great connection to my book that I'm really excited to have in there. I had this idea that I wanted a big-name major-league player to contribute the foreword to the book and tell a crazy story from their minor-league experience. I got that in Billy Butler, a former Major League All-Star with the Kansas City Royals. The story Billy tells takes place in Wyoming. He was just picked in the first round by Kansas City [and] he's playing for Idaho Falls at Casper. All of a sudden he puts his hands in the air, which is an unusual thing between pitches for a player to do and the umpires walked over and they're all looking at the grass near third base. And I'm broadcasting this game, not quite sure what the delay is. [Turns out] there was a big snake on the field. So Billy Butler tells us the story in the foreword for the book about the snake delay in Casper, Wyoming. And he told it to me with such enthusiasm years later. Here's a guy who's played in the World Series, played in a Major League All-Star game and he's there smiling about this moment that happened in Wyoming. So that's what I thought was exciting about this book and Wyoming is that there is a lot of baseball history there.
HC: How about the Cheyenne story with the typewriter?
TH: In 1923 there was a team named the Cheyenne Indians and they gave their team MVP a typewriter instead of a trophy or a medal. Despite my efforts, I wasn't able to totally confirm why this typewriter was given to a player as an award. My guess is it was sponsor related and it does go down in the book with some other unusual awards. For example, Miami Beach had a manager in the 1950s, Pepper Martin, talk about a great baseball name, Pepper Martin, and they gave him a bulldozer because he had a ranch in Oklahoma in the offseason. So that's why they gave him a bulldozer. Pacific Coast League players got a gold watch, but the Cheyenne Indians were [a] well-supported team in the 1920s. I read a story about how they went to Denver and won a big series there and the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce when they came back held this banquet for them. It was at an Elks Lodge and 280 people showed up to greet them and celebrate with them at this Elks Lodge. So, I just love the visual of that baseball in the wild west in the 1920s that seems so well supported in Wyoming but with a very bizarre award, being given a typewriter.
HC: Besides your trips to Casper, when you were broadcasting for the team in Idaho, were you ever formally stationed or had a job in Wyoming?
TH: I never have lived in Wyoming, no. I've covered sporting events there. Like I said [covering] the Casper Rockies at Mike Lansing field, so I've probably covered 12 to 15 games in Wyoming. Recently, I broadcasted a basketball game at Utah State. [I] had some time off and drove over to Evanston. What a beautiful place. I was driving on this road. It was snowy and there's this deer in the middle of the road just staring back at me right near that buffalo statue in Evanston. If you can picture where I'm saying. Just a great town, so I'm a huge fan of Wyoming. I've enjoyed every trip I've ever been [on] there. And like I said Wyoming has a lot of baseball history. Another fact I found is in 2001 when Dick Cheney threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Casper Rockies. He was believed to be the first ever sitting Vice President to throw out a first pitch at a minor league baseball game.
HC: So, that's never been done since?
TH: No, that’s never been done since.
HC: When you were going through these different anecdotes and your research for this book, was there anything that you found surprising or interesting that you were not expecting to come across?
TH: Yes, I think the biggest thing was the intensity of players, managers and empires. One hundred years ago, there was a perception that baseball in the late 1800s and the early 1900s was gentlemanly, was polite. It is absolutely not true. This is a wild time full of fights, people punching umpires, people chasing umpires out of stadiums, confrontations at saloons after games between players. Because the demographic of a professional baseball player back then, these were rugged men. If they did not play well and they lost their job, they were off to a mine or a construction site for these grueling jobs. So they really showed up every day, literally ready to fight. And I can tell that it's normal because I would flip through these baseball archives at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and something that was so dramatic would almost be mentioned in a newspaper archive as an aside, they'd say, ‘Cheyenne defeated Laramie, three to two’ and then at the bottom of the article would say, ‘And the pitcher was arrested for throwing a baseball at the umpire.’ It's like well, if that happened in 2023, the lead would be much different because players don't act that way now for the most part.
HC: How long did it take you to write this book?
TH: I worked on it for 10 years. I compiled about 1,100 stories and then I thought, ‘Okay, what am I going to do with this?’ And one day, I walked by my wife's cookbook, and it said, ‘1001 Recipes.’ And I thought that's the number, I like that and was able to get a publishing deal with Cider Mill Press. They do a lot of visual books and the book has a lot of illustrations in it, which is what I really wanted. I wanted some cartoonish illustrations to go with these crazy stories. So, it's a good looking book, too. So, I had to trim down from 1,100. If there were some stories that didn't have a confirmed source on, I removed that. If other stories were similar, I'd merge them together. For example, in 1907, an umpire was arrested for using foul language and [in] the 1930s, a player was arrested for using foul language, and by the way, note not ejected, but arrested by police. So, I merged those two similar stories together to make one story for example.