St. Petersburg, Fla. – Early in a new book by Dewayne Staats, the longtime play-by-play TV announcer for the Tampa Bay Rays, tells how ¬– as a 10-year-old – he became entranced with the voices that brought baseball to life over the radio airwaves, leading him to write a fan letter to his idol, Houston broadcaster Gene Elston.
Elston typed a letter back to Staats later in that summer of 1962, starting a relationship that lasted through high school and college, as Staats quickly worked his way up from minor-league broadcast booths to landing a job as the Houston Astros’ play-by-play TV announcer at just 23, sitting next to future Hall of Fame announcer Elston.
From there, Staats built one of the top broadcasting careers in baseball, a 40-year run that has included sharing the booth with Hall of Famers Harry Caray for Chicago Cubs games and Tony Kubek for New York Yankees games, followed by three years doing national broadcasts for ESPN before joining the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays for their inaugural season in 1998.
In the new book, “Position to Win: A Look at Baseball and Life From the Best Seat in the House,” (Advance Ink Publishing) Staats and co-author Dave Scheiber recount a variety of fascinating and humorous anecdotes from Staats’ career:
• In a chapter about his years with the Cubs from 1985-89, Staats describes the friction that preceded him between Caray and fellow broadcasting giant Milo Hamilton. The tension between the two was palpable, spilling into verbal antics involving, wackily enough, the San Diego Chicken and Bozo the Clown.
• While working with Kubek as a Yankees broadcaster in 1990-94, Staats pranked Yankees manager Buck Showalter by doing a dead-on Harry Caray impression over the phone. (Showalter was not pleased, but later forgave him.)
• At one point, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner tried to get Kubek fired from the MSG Network team, but changed his mind, stressing that he liked “that Staats kid” – even though he hated how Kubek criticized the Boss’ moves.
• When Staats went down to the field to throw out a ceremonial pitch at Tropicana Field in 2005, then-broadcast partner Joe Magrane told viewers it was “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek, and ESPN ran with the story for a full 24 hours.
• The book spans the entire history of the Rays, giving vivid descriptions of their miracle Game 162 in 2011, along with the team’s rags-to-riches 2008 run to the World Series. The reminiscence of the Series includes a riveting section about the terrible Philadelphia weather and the challenges faced by family and friends at Citizens Bank Park.
In calling almost 6,000 Major League games, Staats has witnessed nine no-hitters, including Nolan Ryan’s record-breaking fifth and the inspirational no-hitter thrown by New York’s Jim Abbott. He also saw Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter reach the 3,000-hit mark with home runs, the first two players in major league history ever to achieve that feat.
“Position to Win” includes high praise of Staats from such baseball luminaries as Ryan, Kubek, Caray, Joe Maddon, Don Mattingly and many others, along with an extensive photo gallery.
Throughout, Staats underscores a central message – putting oneself in a “position to win” with persistence, preparation and hard work in order to take advantage of opportunities that arise in life. The book is also a deeply personal story, addressing love, loss, resilience and faith – and a testament to the powerful bonds of family.
A portion of the proceeds from “Position to Win” is being donated to two noteworthy charitable organizations based in the Tampa Bay area:
• Quantum Leap Farm, an Odessa, Fla. facility, is a nationally recognized equine therapy program that helps injured and disabled adults and children – including many combat veterans and first responders dealing with PTSD – achieve therapeutic goals by engaging them with horses.
• The Poynter Institute’s Write Field program in St. Petersburg, Fla., which receives support from the Rays, is designed to improve the academic performance and life skills of selected minority middle school boys in Pinellas County. The Write Field has had a significant positive impact on graduation rates for the boys in the program.
Co-author Dave Scheiber is a veteran Florida-based author and national award-winning journalist. He is also the co-author of two critically acclaimed books, “Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob” and “Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope Into Post-Traumatic Stress.”
“Position to Win” is available on Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1Id3QwS) and other major outlets, including the Rays’ gift shop at Tropicana Field and the team merchandise store in downtown Tampa (400 N. Tampa St.)
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